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North Bay wildfires: 6 landlords charged with price gouging

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Property owners allegedly asked fire victims to bid against each other

Structures Destroyed By California Wine Country Wildfires Rises To 8400
A sign posted in front of a Coffey Park home destroyed by the Tubbs Fire.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A few says after fires erupted in Sonoma County on the night of October 8, at least six landlords allegedly increased the price of their rentals in order to make money off of displacement of fire victims.

Per Press Democrat, the charges are as follows:

  • Marjie Moulana and Fourouzan Moulana reportedly increased the price on their Rohnert Park rental 32 percent from $2,650 a month to $3,500 a month.
  • Dennis George Alvarado and Arabella Alvarado allegedly increased the rental price of their Santa Rosa property by 33 percent from $2,400 to $3,200 during the week of the fatal firestorm.
  • Marianne Laruffa and Robert Gardner Howard are reported to have “one of the more egregious examples of price gouging.” Marianne and Robert allegedly asked people to bid against each other with a starting price set at $3,400.

According to Press Democrat, “As a misdemeanor offense, the maximum penalty for price gouging is up to a year in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.” The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office received around 120 complaints of nefarious price increasing since the fires began.

The California Penal Code, Section 396, bars raising the price of most consumer goods and services (including housing) by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared. Incidents of price gouging, rampant since the Northern California wildfires, should be reported if suspected.

The Northern California wildfires burned through 210,000 acres of land while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. At least 44 people were killed during the October blaze.