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Colorado AG confirms investigation into complaints about housing prices following Marshall Fire

Investigation examines price gouging vs. supply and demand
boulder county housing
Posted at 11:10 PM, Jan 13, 2022

DENVER — While authorities continue to investigate the cause of the Marshall Fire, hundreds impacted by the fire are looking for a new place to call home until they rebuild or purchase a new property.

The process has been easier for some than others.

Lena Quilantang and her family lost their Rock Creek home in the fire, but are hoping to stay in the community where they work and where two loved ones attend school.

The prices of some of the rental home options were absurd, she says.

"My sister and my brother-in-law have been trying to find places, and then people are price gouging their prices," Quilantang said.

According to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, several similar complaints have landed on his desk.

"We have had some complaints come in about price gouging and unfair treatment that potentially could run afoul of our laws that say, 'during an emergency, it's not OK to take vulnerable people's time, money and effort by engaging in what would be unreasonable and unfair pricing,'" Weiser said.

The AG confirmed his office is investigating these claims.

A browse through Zillow will turn up several properties in parts of Boulder County, Superior, Louisville and Broomfield that have raised their prices more than 20% following the Marshall Fire. Some properties raised rates even higher.

The price of a 792 square foot condo in Broomfield listed on Zillow raised nearly 50% at one point. In January 2021, the condo was listed at $2,600. On Dec. 31, the day after the fire, it was listed at $3,800. Five days later on Jan. 4, it was listed at $4,200.

But, as Weiser points out, the increases may not necessarily be price gouging.

"The work that we have to figure out is whether the way sellers are acting is unreasonable at the state of the time, or is it a function of supply and demand that we know that housing is expensive in Colorado, and so that's why it's a case-by-case decision," Weiser said.

To submit complaints about suspected price gouging, click here.

On Thursday, the City of Boulder also issued an emergency order to allow the availability of additional housing units to help the people impacted by the fires. The order will temporarily allow modifications to the city’s rental licensing requirements to help alleviate the shortage of available housing for displaced people.

It will exempt new rental properties used to house those impacted by the disaster situation from some rental licensing requirements that have applied between Jan. 13 and Feb. 28. The exemption will be in effect through March 15, 2025.

The city says the order is necessary to prevent displacement or possible homelessness due to the disaster.