SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — All California counties remain in a state of emergency as a result of the high fire danger.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared the emergency last month, and now that order could have some unintended consequences. The declaration may create a loophole that could help keep renters from being forced from their homes.

Amid wildland fires, strong winds and power outages, Governor Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Oct. 27 and that emergency order remains in effect.

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Now some say the declaration could help people who are facing evictions and steep rent increases. A Bay Area renters rights group says any rent increase above 10% would violate California’s anti-price gouging law. 

Law professor John Myers says the statue offers victims protection during a disaster. He explains the anti-price gouging law: “The idea is when there is a disaster or shortage of some kind, some unscrupulous merchant will take advantage of that and jack up the prices.” The law applies to gas, emergency supplies and groceries, but it also covers rent increases and evictions.

Housing advocates say there has been a dramatic rise in landlords serving no-fault evictions ahead of a new state law that takes effect January 1, limiting rental rate increases.

So, will the governor’s emergency declaration offer these renters an unintended pardon?

“My initial reaction is one of skepticism because traditionally these anti-gouging laws are designed to protect people in the immediate vicinity of a disaster,” Myers said.

The legal loophole could meet strong resistance from property owners. Ultimately, it could be up to the courts to decide if it applies.

“The question will be, did the legislature have in mind protecting people who aren’t affected by the disaster? It’s a fair question, I think that’s one that a judge will soon be looking at,” Myers said.

Anyone convicted of violating California’s price gouging law faces jail time and a $10,000 fine.

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