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Raised tenants’ rents after Joplin tornado

law booksA landlord in Joplin, Missouri has agreed to settle a case brought against him for price gouging and other violations in the aftermath of a devastating tornado that struck the town on May 22.

Following the tornado, the landlord notified tenants that their rent was being raised and required that they contact him within three days or their rental unit could be leased to someone else.

The State Attorney General said his office received complaints from 13 renters who received the notice. In one instance, a renter was notified his rent would go from $475 per month to $595 per month, a 25-percent increase. Two other renters were notified their rent would go from $475 to $550 per month, a 16-percent increase.

Under the judgment, the landlord is prohibited from:

Further violations of Missouris Merchandising Practices Law;
Conducting business under any name not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State;
Employing duress in raising rent;
Providing tenants with less than 30 days notice of any rent increase;
Requiring renters to make a decision on an increase in their rent within less than 7 days of the notice;
Charging an excessive price for a necessity within a disaster area; and
Taking advantage of the renters hardship by charging substantially above market price.

In addition, a judge ordered that the landlord provide restitution to those harmed by his actions and send them letters of apology for using duress in a time of tragedy, and to pay a $5,000 civil penalty and all court costs. Should he violate any terms of the judgment, he will be assessed an additional $5,000 penalty.

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