Opportunistic Landlord Nearly Doubles Rent After North Bay Fires

Monday, April 16, 2018
Ida Mojadad
S.F. Weekly

Though rent increases happen often enough, especially in the Bay Area, it’s illegal amid a state of emergency like the North Bay wildfires.

But a real estate agent is accused of raising the monthly rent on a property in Novato amid the devastating blazes. On Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed three misdemeanor charges for alleged price gouging against Melissa Echeverria.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on October 9, which made raising rent by more than 10 percent illegal. Three days later, Echeverria allegedly raised the rent up to $9,000 from $5,000.

“There are some unscrupulous individuals who engage in price gouging, taking advantage of those who are already suffering,” says Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement. “It’s wrong, it’s unconscionable, and it’s illegal.”

At least six landlords also face charges by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office for alleged price gouging. In December, the office announced it was investigating 40 more cases.

Echeverria faces one year in jail or a fine up to $10,000. She is also subject to penalties up to $5,000 per violation.

Price gouging has been pronounced enough for California to make a YouTube PSA, emphasizing that it can go from unethical to illegal under certain circumstances.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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