Sonoma County landlords pleaded not guilty to price gouging during emergency

A home destroyed in Santa Rosa. Oct. 10, 2017

Two people pleaded not guilty in Sonoma County Superior Court this morning to raising the price of their rental housing more than 10 percent after a declaration of emergency from the wildfires in October.

Dennis George Alvarado, 62, and Arabella Alvarado, 61, did not appear in court this morning. The pleas were entered by their attorneys. A settlement conference is scheduled for Jan. 12.

The penalty for a misdemeanor charge of increasing the price of lodging, food, gas, medical supplies and other goods and services more than 10 percent for 30 days after a declared emergency is up to a year in jail and, or a fine up to $10,000.

Brown declared a state of emergency on Oct. 9, a day after the wildfires began in Sonoma and Napa counties, and he extended it to April 18, 2018 in the fire-ravaged counties.

The Alvarados were offering their rental residence for $2,400 a month before Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency on Oct. 9, according to the complaint.

The Alvarados also offered to rent the property for $3,200 on Oct. 11 and they entered into an agreement on Oct. 22 to lease the property for 12 months for $3,200, according to the complaint.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office has filed three alleged misdemeanor price-gouging complaints that involve six landlords. Court hearings on the other two cases also are scheduled in January.