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Koster’s office has filed suit in the Jasper County Circuit Court against a Joplin landlord for price gouging and other violations.
He says they received complaints from 13 renters at Northside Apartments and Classic Townhomes owned by David Box, Jr....
"One renter told us that his rent would go from $475 per month to $590 a month--a 25% increase as a result of the tornado. Two other renters were notified that their rent would go from $475 a month to $550 a month--a 16% increase."
The lawsuit also accuses Box of taking advantage of renters by giving them only three days to either pay the difference or be evicted...
"The primary reason that we're here today has to do with significant price increases that appear to us by all indications to have no bearing in his cost structure and are completely related to the storm, and, as long as the governor has the city of Joplin under an emergency declaration, that is considered price gouging by the legislature and by the governor's office."
The lawsuit also alleges that the names under which the defendant conducted business were not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State as required by law.
Koster says his office will remain on alert for any other price gouging while Joplin is under an emergency declaration.
He says his office has had about 260 complains overall in various areas. They’re currently investigating a possible charity scam. And he expects more complaints to come in from the home repair arena as Joplin residents start to rebuild and repair their homes and businesses.
Koster says they’re addressing any complaints on a case by case basis...
"What the law says is that, if your underlying price structure has been changed because of the tornado, let's say you had substantial physical damage to your facility--a roof blew off or something like that. Those are facts that will be incorporated into your ultimate price. But, if you are a company that had no changes in your underlying price structure and the only element that is creating a fluctuation is the fact that a natural disaster or storm has come through, those are the companies that the price gouging statute addresses directly."
Koster has obtained temporary restraining orders against two towing companies that conducted business in Joplin following the tornado—Northland Tow Service, LLC and Independence Tow & Recovery, Inc. He’s also seeking restitution for consumers and civil penalties in both cases.
Anyone with a concern or complaint should call the attorney general’s consumer complaint hotline at 1-800-392-8222.