After receiving reports that some landlords excessively raised their prices after so many Coloradans lost their homes in the Marshall Fire, Attorney General Phil Weiser urged major online real estate marketplace companies to address the risk of illegal price gouging.
Weiser sent letters this week to Airbnb, Zillow, Vrbo, and REColorado, according to a news release from the attorney general.
The letters ask the companies to take the necessary steps to make certain that “unscrupulous actors” are not using their platforms to take advantage of vulnerable Coloradans during a disaster period, according to the release. The letters request a response by the close of business on Monday.
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, the release said.
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, according to the release. Under the law, this state of emergency, or disaster period, will last for 180 days from the date of the declared disaster.
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Dec. 30, when the Marshall Fire sparked. Driven by high winds and dry conditions, the fire spread rapidly across more than 6,000 acres in eastern Boulder County. The flames destroyed more than 1,000 homes, leaving many in need of safe, affordable housing.
“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 in the release. “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.”
The release said 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.
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