SANTA MONICA—On Friday, February 5, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office announced they have filed a criminal complaint charging the owners of a multi-unit apartment building in Santa Monica with three counts of price gouging. The landlords, WS Communities, LLC and 1433 Euclid Street, LLC, are being charged with unlawfully raising a tenant’s rent by more than 10 percent during a declared emergency.

California law prohibits businesses and owners from charging a rental price for housing by more than 10 percent upon a proclamation of a state of emergency, or during a period the proclamation is extended.

In 2017, former California Governor Brown declared an emergency in various counties due to wildfires that required residents to evacuate. That emergency has been extended several times, including in December 2019 when Governor Newsom issued an order extending price-gouging protections related to the wildfire emergency to December 31, 2020.

The complaint alleges that a tenant at 1433 Euclid Street was paying monthly rent in the amount of $865 until the defendants increased her rent to $2,336 in February 2020 and $3,000 in March 2020.

A violation of California’s price gouging law is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on March 24, 2021, in Los Angeles Superior Court.