Governor Newsom Extends Anti-Price Gouging Through the End of 2020 for Several California Counties
In the spirit of Christmas, Governor Newsom has extended restrictions on rent increases for another year. On December 23, 2019 Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-22-19 extending price gouging protections in the following counties through December 31, 2020: Butte, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Ventura. Price gouging restrictions affect both rent increases and vendor charges to a landlord after a natural disaster. Neither can exceed a 10% increase unless the seller can prove that the increased price is directly attributable to increases in the cost of labor or materials needed to provide the good or service.
When a state of emergency is declared, and if the state of emergency results from an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, or natural or manmade disaster, California Penal Code §396 generally prohibits price gouging (e.g., price increases of more than 10%) for rental housing and consumer food items or goods, goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, transportation, freight, and storage services, or gasoline or other motor fuels for 30 days after the emergency is declared. The price gouging restrictions may be extended for additional time periods by state or local officials, boards or other governing bodies authorized to extend the restrictions as is the case by the Governor’s recent order.
Retaliation Against a Tenant is Illegal
Under California law, it is illegal for any landlord to retaliate against a tenant for a period of 180 days after a tenant complaint. It is also illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant because the tenant has lawfully organized or participated in a tenants’ association or an organization that advocates for tenants’ rights or has lawfully and peaceably exercised any rights under the law.
Retaliation can be in the form of evicting a tenant, increasing rent, decreasing services, or threatening to do any of these things. If a landlord is thinking of increasing rent, decreasing services, or terminating a tenancy (i) within 180 days of receiving a tenant’s complaint about the condition of the premises, or (ii) after a tenant has organized or participated in a tenant’s organization, the landlord should be prepared to prove a good faith nonretaliatory motive and include that in the notice of termination or notice of change of terms of tenancy.
Translation of Lease Documents May Be Required When Negotiations Are Conducted in Another Language
When a California residential lease is primarily negotiated in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean, a translated copy of the lease must be provided in that language before the lease is signed.
This translation requirement applies to both oral and written negotiations. The tenant’s signature is not legally required on the foreign translation copy; however, it is advisable to obtain the tenant’s signature on both versions of the lease document. The English copy can be used in court proceedings and the signature on the translation copy proves that the translation copy was provided. A translation copy is also required when making substantial changes in any of the rights and responsibilities of the parties of a lease (such as a lease amendment).
This translation requirement applies to residential leases for periods of greater than a month and certain other consumer contracts. Translation copies are not required either for residential leases that are month to month or for shorter term rentals, nor for commercial leases. Translation is also not required for “matters ordinarily incorporated by reference” in the lease like rules and regulations, nor when the tenant provides an interpreter during the lease negotiation that is fluent in both English and the foreign language, is over 18 years old, and is not an employee of the landlord.