Attorney General Phil Weiser urges online real estate companies to combat price gouging in wake of Marshall fire
Jan. 20, 2022 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser is urging major online real estate marketplace companies to address the risk of illegal price gouging of rental properties on their platforms in the wake of the Marshall fire that destroyed hundreds of homes in Boulder County.
In letters sent this week to AirBnB, Zillow, Vrbo, and REColorado, the attorney general expresses concern over reports that some landlords excessively raised their prices after so many Coloradans were displaced from their homes after the fire.
“The potential for thousands of Coloradans who suffered great loss to be then faced with excessively and unjustifiably high housing costs is not just a legal problem, but also a moral one,” Weiser said. “Coloradans are protected under the law from illegal price gouging, and online rental companies need to understand this risk and do what they can to stop businesses and individuals from preying on our neighbors during such challenging times.”
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Dec. 30, 2021, when nearly 35,000 Coloradans were forced to evacuate due to the fire. Coloradans who lost their homes or were displaced are now in need of safe and affordable housing as they begin to rebuild their lives.
Colorado law prohibits charging excessive prices for certain essential products, goods, or services during a disaster period and makes clear that such price gouging is a deceptive trade practice under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (§ 6-1-730, C.R.S.). Under the law, this state of emergency, or disaster period, will last for 180 days from the date of the declared disaster.
The letters ask the companies to take the necessary steps to ensure unscrupulous actors are not using their platforms to take advantage of vulnerable Coloradans during a disaster period and request a response by the close of business on Jan. 25, 2022. Although the letters were addressed to certain companies, Colorado’s price gouging law applies to any landlord or rental property, including those who do not use the platforms.
Coloradans who witness price gouging or who think they might be a victim of price gouging should file a report with the Attorney General’s Office at 800-222-4444 or StopFraudColorado.gov.