Dec 6, 2018
by Will Carruthers
The Sonoma County District Attorney and Santa Rosa City Attorneys will continue to prosecute price gouging cases referred to them after outgoing Governor Jerry Brown extended a price gouging ban on eight counties impacted by recent fires until May 31, 2019.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said Thursday that her office will continue to prosecute price gouging cases defined under Brown's Nov. 28 extension.
"I will continue to vigorously enforce the state anti-price gouging law," Ravitch said.
Santa Rosa City Attorney Sue Gallagher incorrectly stated at a Santa Rosa City Council meeting last week that the District Attorney lacked resources to continue enforcing the state law.
After the 2017 fires, Ravitch instructed her staff to take on the role of investigating price gouging complaints because local law enforcement agencies were busy responding to other fire-related cases at the time.
Because the law enforcement agencies are less busy with fire-related work this year, Ravitch's office will no longer conduct the initial investigations but will continue to prosecute cases, Ravitch said.
Ravitch also noted her role in helping Assemblymember Jim Wood write legislation to strengthen state price gouging laws.
In October, Ravitch announced that a Novato-based property management company had agreed to pay $50,000 in fines, $10,000 in legal fees and restitutions for 12 tenants.
The Santa Rosa City Council extended its own local rent gouging protections at a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, for as long as the city's declaration of emergency remains in effect.
Santa Rosa's rent gouging protections cover a wider array of rental homes than the state protections, according to City Attorney Gallagher.
Santa Rosa’s rent gouging ordinance will be reviewed on the second anniversary of the city's emergency declaration, Oct. 9, 2019. If the City Council ends the emergency declaration before that time, a discussion of the rent gouging ordinance will be added to the council's next meeting agenda.
Gallagher said the city will prosecute price gouging cases through the City Attorney's office or the city's code enforcement agencies.
Residents are encouraged to report cases of suspected price gouging to the District Attorney’s Office online or at (707) 565-5317.
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