As Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine approached this fall, three motel operators in Tampa, Clearwater and Lakeland violated price gouging laws by charging customers as much as 400 percent above normal rates during the state of emergency that was declared, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has alleged in lawsuits filed against the owners.
The brands involved are Days Inn, Red Roof Inn and Sleep Inn & Suites. Rates were raised by 70 percent to more than 400 percent, the complaints filed by Bondi’s office state.
“As Hurricane Matthew strengthened into a dangerous category four storm, more than a million Floridians and visitors were urged to evacuate,” Bondi said Thursday.
“Many of these people turned to these businesses for safe shelter but could not afford a room. During any emergency, it is extremely important that we come together as Floridians to ensure our citizens and visitors are safe,” Bondi said. ” I personally visited one of these locations during the State of Emergency and was disgusted by the way people seeking shelter were treated.”
In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County, the Attorney General’s Office alleges Mitch & Murray Hotels, Inc., doing business as Days Inn/MPR LLC, a business located in Tampa and owner Jamil Kassam, engaged in unconscionable pricing practices during the State of Emergency.
As many Floridians sought refuge in the Tampa Bay area, this Days Inn raised room rates for at least 23 guests by a minimum of 70 percent and up to 300 percent, charging some guests $150 more than the average nightly rate paid prior to the State of Emergency, the complaint alleges.
Additionally, the hotel allegedly forced a number of existing guests who reserved rooms and checked in prior to the evacuation days, to vacate because they could not afford the grossly increased nightly rate.
Bondi’s Office also filed a complaint in Pinellas County against Shanti CC Clearwater, LLC, doing business as Red Roof Inn Clearwater, Shanti CC Holding, Packard Hospitality Management, LLC, and Michael Goldstein for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the State of Emergency.
Red Roof, located in Clearwater, raised room rates for at least 27 guests by 80 percent and up to 200 percent, with some guests being charged $140 more than the average nightly rate paid prior to the State of Emergency, the complaint alleges.
A case was filed in Polk County against SKAN, LLC, a Florida Corporation doing business as Sleep Inn & Suites, and Nilayam S. Patel, Suresh B. Patel and Kusum S. Patel for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the State of Emergency.
Sleep Inn & Suites, located in Lakeland, raised room rates for at least 25 guests by 140 percent to more than 400 percent, charging some guests $200 more than the average nightly rate paid prior to the State of Emergency, the complaint alleges.
All three of these complaints seek civil penalties, disgorgement, injunctive relief, restitution and other statutory relief against the defendants for violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and Section 501.160, Florida Statutes.