By Dillon Thomas

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — Many residents of the more than 1,000 households lost in the Marshall Fire have raised concerns after noticing some local landlords are spiking rent amid the sudden increased demand for housing. Renters, real estate professionals, and even Boulder County officials have noticed some landlords appear to be price gouging as a way to take advantage of the already-thin housing market.

While many are maintaining their prices from pre-fire demand, others have apparently dramatically increased their rent.

A search on the popular housing website “Zillow” showed several landlords in and around the Louisville and Superior communities increasing rent anywhere from 10% to more than 100% in recent weeks.

(credit: CBS)

One home CBS4 found listed for rent saw an increase of 100.03% since it was previously listed. The previous listing price was made shortly before the Marshall Fire devastated more than 6,000 acres and more than 1,000 homes.

Licensed REALTOR® Jill Lester, who also works for the University of Colorado, said she noticed some landlords were price gauging in recent weeks.

She teamed up with one of her friends to try and make sure at least one displaced family wouldn’t fall victim to increased rent schemes.

“Morally I don’t believe in that, I am sad for the people doing that. I really believe in community,” said Diane Starnick, a landlord in Boulder. “I’m a little shocked by that. In the community, I think we all need to help each other.”

In hopes of helping someone who is displaced she decided not to increase rent, but to rather cut it in half.

“I felt like why get more? I’m hoping I can help somebody through the fire,” Starnick told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “I am trying to make it easy on somebody. They don’t have anything.”

(credit: CBS)

Starnick encouraged those with available housing to consider placing their homes up for rent and doing so at a cheaper rate. She said she lowered her rent to the point that it would cover her base costs for the property.

She also listed her home as fully furnished with supplies ready for move-in so those displaced can easily adjust.

“My kitchen is stocked with spices, oils, really great knives,” Starnick said.

(credit: CBS)

While in many cases landlords can set their prices as they wish, the county did say they are working to make sure criminal price gouging is avoided.

“The Boulder County District Attorney’s Community Protection Division is committed to ensuring that all residents, including low-wage earners, are not victimized during this incredibly difficult time. Community members can contact the Community Protection Division to request an investigation if they believe that they are a victim of criminal rent gouging and/or file a claim with the Attorney General’s office,” the County wrote to CBS4.

Boulder County is also offering free information for mediation resources between landlords and renters.

“I am a strong believer in we can do together what we couldn’t do alone. This was huge. This was over 1,000 homes. It was a tight market before, so if we can help,” said Starnick.

Get assistance finding a rental home. Anyone interested in the property can email Diane at Diane@culinaryhearts.net

Dillon Thomas