JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced on Tuesday that he has obtained a consent judgment against a Joplin landlord for alleged price gouging and other violations after the May 22 Joplin tornado.

David Box Jr. rents apartments at Northside Apartments and Classic Townhouses. After the May 22 tornado, Box allegedly notified tenants that their rent was being raised and required that they contact him within three days or their rental unit could be leased to someone else.

Koster's office received complaints from 13 renters who received the notice from Box. In one complaint, a renter was allegedly notified that his rent would go up from $475 per month to $595 per month, a 25 percent increase. Two other renters were allegedly notified their rent would go up from $475 to $550 per month, a 16 percent increase.

"Unfortunately, there are always those who will take advantage of unsuspecting consumers during times of tragedy," Koster said. "I want to continue to assure consumers that this office will be aggressive in going after those who engage in this illegal behavior."

Under terms of the judgment, Box is prohibited from further violations of Missouri's Merchandising Practices Laws, conducting business under any name not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State, employing duress in raising rent, providing tenants with less than 30 days' notice of any rent increase, requiring renters to make a decision on an increase in their rent within less than seven days of the notice, charging an excessive price for a necessity within a disaster area and taking advantage of the renters' hardship by charging substantially above market price.

In addition to the above, Box must provide restitution to those harmed by his actions, send them an apology for using duress in a time of tragedy and pay a $5,000 civil penalty and all court costs. If Box violates any terms of the judgment, he will be assessed an additional $5,000 penalty.

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