A Windsor couple is the latest to face price-gouging charges after raising the rent on their Santa Rosa house by 60 percent in the wake of the October wildfires, a Sonoma County prosecutor said Tuesday.
Thomas Alan Nardi, 63, and Cindy Joy Nardi, 59, leased their house for $3,600 Dec. 1 after previously renting it for $2,250, taking advantage of tenants during a declared emergency, Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar said.
Under such conditions, any increase of more than 10 percent on lodging, food, medical products and building supplies is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and up to a year in jail, Jamar said.
“We take these offenses very seriously,” said Jamar, head of the county’s anti-price-gouging task force.
A lawyer for the Nardis denied the allegations. Attorney Steve Gallenson said the couple was planning to sell the three-bedroom Proctor Terrace neighborhood house when they were approached by an insurance company offering to rent it for a client for $3,500 to $4,000.
“The Nardis did not set the price,” Gallenson said. “The insurance company did.”
The case was among 163 reports of price gouging investigated by the task force after deadly fires starting Oct. 8 burned 137 squares miles, destroyed more than 5,100 homes and killed 23 people.
Of the initial reports, 134 were deemed unfounded or lacking sufficient evidence and 19 remain under investigation.
Prosecutors charged eight people in four separate cases including the most recent one.
So far, none has been set for trial.
Among the most egregious cases is alleged against San Francisco residents Marianne Laruffa, 61, and Robert Gardner Howard, 68, who prosecutors said invited renters to their Santa Rosa property and asked people to bid against each other, starting at $3,400 a month.
Other defendants are accused of jacking up rents by at least 30 percent.
Jamar said price gouging effectively inflates the cost of housing, which is already at a premium. The protections ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown continue through April 18.
“The governor and Legislature have made it very clear that people should not profit from a statewide emergency like this,” Jamar said.
Anyone with a report of price gouging is asked to call the task force’s 24-hour hotline at 707-565-5317.