For more than two months, enormous amounts of gas have been leaking out of a well at the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage facility in the San Fernando Valley, and a fix is, at best, months away. Meanwhile, thousands of residents of nearby Porter Ranch have been relocated elsewhere rather than stick around and face the short-term health effects (nosebleeds, headaches) from the fumes. But they might be facing more headaches trying to find a temporary residence close by, as KPCC finds reports of price-gouging among some landlords and even a few home-sellers who have taken their houses off the market to temporarily list them on short-term rental sites.
In a neighborhood where a house might rent for $3,000 or $4,000 a month, "now landlords are asking six, seven, eight, nine thousand dollars— double, triple the rent of what it should be," the president of a local real estate firm tells KPCC. He goes on to say that some houses listed for sale have been taken off the market and popped on short-term rental sites like Airbnb instead; his neighbor was one of the home-sellers who hopped on that bandwagon.
Apartments in the area, it seems, are still relatively affordable, with one- and two-bedrooms still going for under about $2,000. But houses are in high demand because many in Porter Ranch "have children and are used to the larger homes." Few things make a bad situation worse than having to weather it crammed in tight quarters.
If there's any silver lining to this, it's that most of the relocated renters aren't paying the majority of these jacked-up rents; the gas company is doling out "thousands of dollars" to each family that's had to move. But regardless of who's footing the bill, price-gouging in times of disasters is illegal. (Governor Jerry Brown officially declared the leak an emergency yesterday, and now rents are prohibited from rising by more than 10 percent.) Though the Attorney General's office couldn't confirm to KPCC whether or not there had been reports of gouging, they did say anyone who feels like they're being seriously ripped off could file a complaint on their website.
· Reports of price-gouging, as Porter Ranch families look for temporary homes [SCPR]
· Disastrously Leaking Gas Well in Porter Ranch Hasn't Had a Safety Valve Since 1979 [Curbed LA]
· An Insane Amount of Natural Gas is Leaking Into the Valley's Porter Ranch Neighborhood [Curbed LA]