Make us your home page
Instagram

Hotels in Hillsborough and Pinellas accused of price gouging during Hurricane Matthew evacuations

Hotels in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties are accused of price gouging during evacuations prompted by Hurricane Matthew. CHRIS URSO | Times


Hotels in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties are accused of price gouging during evacuations prompted by Hurricane Matthew. CHRIS URSO | Times

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed three actions against hoteliers in the Tampa Bay area alleging price gouging during emergency evacuations related to Hurricane Matthew.

Bondi filed action against hotels in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties.

The first action was filed in Hillsborough County against an LLC behind a Days Inn in Tampa and business owner Jamil Kassam. According to the complaint, the Days Inn in Tampa raised room rates 70 to 300 percent as people from other parts of the state were fleeing to the Tampa Bay area for safety. Some guests were charged $150 more than the average nightly rate paid before Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, a news release stated.

A release from Bondi's office said the hotel also forced a number of existing guests, who reserved rooms and checked in before the evacuation days, to leave the property because they couldn't afford the increased rate. Bondi's office also filed a complaint in Pinellas County against Michael Goldstein and the LLC behind a Red Roof Inn in Clearwater related to price gouging. According to the complaint, the Red Roof Inn raised room rates for at least 27 guests by 80 to 200 percent, with some guests being charged $140 more than the average nightly rate before the state of emergency.

"As Hurricane Matthew strengthened into a dangerous Category 4 storm, more than a million Floridians and visitors were urged to evacuate," Bondi said in a statement. "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. I personally visited one of these locations during the state of emergency and was disgusted by the way people seeking shelter were treated."

A Polk County Sleep Inn & Suites and owners Nilayam S. Patel, Suresh B. Patel and Kusum S. Patel were named in a third action for raising rates by 140 to 400 percent, charging some guests $200 more than the average nightly rate.

All three complaints seek civil penalties, disgorgement and restitution.

The alleged price gouging at Tampa Bay area hotels happened in October while Florida was under a state of emergency for two storms, Hurricane Hermine, which became the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and Hurricane Matthew, which caused severe damage to Florida's north Atlantic Coast.

Hotels in Hillsborough and Pinellas accused of price gouging during Hurricane Matthew evacuations 12/22/16 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2016 6:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data

    Business

    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Legal

    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board

    Retail

    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower

    Corporate

    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]