Days following Hurricane Ian, governors in the Southeast United States have declared a state of emergency, activating price-gouging laws that could impose limitations on self-storage rental rates. The affected states are Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia, according to an Oct. 3 newsletter distributed by the national Self Storage Association (SSA) to its members.
All 50 states have pricing requirements that go into effect during a state of the emergency, but not all are clearly applicable to self-storage operations. In addition, some contain exemptions. Facility operators should confer with their legal counsel prior to making any rate changes at this time, the SSA advises.
The price-gouging laws are designed to protect consumers from scams or businesses attempting to take advantage of people during a crisis. In general, companies can’t sell at prices higher than before the declaration. State officials have set up hotlines and websites where residents can file a complaint.
In Florida, the statutes are in effect for all 67 counties. Violators are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per incident and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple offenses, according to the Florida state attorney general’s (AG) office.
Georgia businesses can’t sell at prices higher unless hikes “accurately reflect an increase in the cost of new stock or the cost to transport it, plus the retailer’s average markup percentage applied during the 10 days immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency,” according to the office of Georgia AG Chris Carr.
North Carolina's price-gouging law was activated on Sept. 28. The AG’s office reports it has already received complaints. Its law states that prices charged can’t exceed the average amount in the preceding 60 days before the state of the emergency.
In South Carolina, the statute will remain in effect for the duration, while Virginia’s 2004 Anti-Price Gouging Act bans suppliers from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” 30 days following a declared state of emergency.
MarketWatch, Hurricane Ian Spurs Florida to Activate Price Gouging Hotline as Biden, Desantis Declare State of Emergency
SSA Magazine Weekly 10/3/22
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hurricane Ian: Georgia AG Warns Against Price Gouging, Scams
ABC 13 News, NC AG's Office Has Already Received 'Handful' of Price Gouging Complaints
13 News Now, Virginia Price Gouging Protections in Place Ahead of Severe Weather From Ian's Remnants