In response to reports of a spike in rent prices in Malibu after the Woolsey Fire, the Malibu City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday, Feb. 11 to increase protections against price gouging in the city.
Malibu first prohibited price gouging on Dec. 4, 2018 when the council adopted an urgency ordinance that extends state law protections against price gouging to the city. According to state law, businesses cannot increase the price of critical goods and services, including hotel rooms and rental units, by more than 10 percent within 30 days of a declared emergency.
The amendments approved by the council on Feb. 11 were meant to strengthen this existing urgency ordinance by including a definition of “rental price” that clarifies the baseline price used to evaluate price increases and capture new properties on the market.
The ordinance limits the rental prices for these properties to 160 percent of the fair market rent established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The ordinance also clarifies that Malibu’s protections against price gouging extends to all types of rental housing, regardless of the length of a property’s lease term.
These amendments to strengthen price gouging protections come after the city received multiple reports of alleged price gouging activities after the council adopted its original ordinance, Deputy City Attorney Kathy Shin said at the Feb. 11 meeting.
These reports are being investigated by the city with the County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and the District Attorney’s office.
Councilman Skylar Peak emphasized at the Feb. 11 meeting that city officials do not want to “meddle in the market, but [they] very much so want to protect the residents that live here, and we don’t want price gouging to occur.”
The council urged residents to contact the City or District Attorney’s office if they suspect price gouging in the community.
Follow Kayiu Wong on Twitter: @kayiu_wong
Follow Araceli Crescencio on Twitter: @aratells