April 18, 2018
“State and county prosecutors continue to be on the lookout for landlords who raise rents more than 10 percent in violation of laws designed to protect tenants from price gouging after the October wildfires.
Melissa “Missy’ Echeverria, 54, is charged with raising the rent on her home from $5,000 to $9,000 — an increase of 80 percent — in the days following the start of the North Bay fires, according to the court filing. Reached Wednesday by phone, Echeverria declined to comment.
The charges are the result of a monthslong investigation by a task force created by Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch to combat unlawful rent increases after the fires. It is believed to be the first time the Attorney General’s Office has prosecuted a price-gouging case under the statute.
In the wake of the fires, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has fielded 224 complaints of illegal price hikes, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar, who heads up the special investigation unit. The office has prosecuted eight landlords in four cases — two based in Santa Rosa and two in Rohnert Park.
‘That’s such an outrageous, outrageous hike,’ said Ronit Rubinoff, executive director of Legal Aid of Sonoma County, which helps at-risk populations with housing issues. ‘We’ve heard about others before, but in many instances people don’t come forward, partly because there are no protections from evictions.'”
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of Sonoma County