Florida and Georgia Operators Reminded of Pricing Requirements During States of Emergency
With Hurricane Dorian projected to hit the southeastern U.S. coast soon, it is important for self storage operators in the potentially affected areas to be aware of their state’s laws related to price increases during a state of emergency. Although few businesses would intentionally raise their rates because of a natural disaster, the laws may affect your ability to implement even standard rate increases during a state of emergency. Read below for more details on the laws in Florida and Georgia. At the time of this writing, South Carolina has not declared a state of emergency.
On August 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency covering the entire state. Florida’s law against price gouging states that, “it is unlawful . . . for any person to impose unconscionable prices for the rental or lease of any . . . self-storage facility during a period of declared state of emergency.” Unlike some states, Florida’s law against price gouging does not provide a specific amount or percentage increase that is deemed unconscionable. A price may be considered unconscionable if there is a “gross disparity” between the price during the state of emergency and the average price during the 30 days immediately prior to the declaration of the state of emergency. The law provides an exception for a price increase that is “attributable to additional costs incurred in connection with the . . . rental or lease of any . . . self-storage facility, or regional, national, or international market trends[.]”
The state of emergency in Florida may last up to 60 days but may be amended, lifted, or extended at any time.
On August 29, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in the following counties: Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, and Wayne. The Governor’s executive order invokes the state’s law against price gouging for “goods and services necessary to support . . . preparation, response, and recovery activities.” Although self storage is not expressly mentioned, it is advisable for self storage operators to ensure compliance with the state’s law against price gouging.
Generally, the law prohibits businesses from selling or offering to sell goods or services “at a price higher than the price at which such goods were sold or offered for sale immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency.” However, the law allows for price increases “only in an amount which accurately reflects an increase in cost of the goods or services to the person selling the goods or services.” Moreover, the price of goods or services may be increased during a state of emergency “if the price charged for those goods or services is no greater than the cost to the retailer of those goods or services, plus the retailer’s average markup percentage applied during the ten days immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency.”
The state of emergency in Georgia is currently in effect through September 9, 2019 but may be amended, lifted, or extended at any time.
Please email Joe Doherty with any questions.