By Karen Morfitt

(CBS4) – Some of the thousands of Marshall Fire victims left without permanent housing after the Dec. 30 wildfire in Boulder County are currently trying to decipher between already sky-high rental rates in Colorado and price gouging. They’re finding it’s not all that easy to do.

(credit: CBS)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says they’ll be watching the market closely.

“What we are going to look for is someone acting outside of the norm of other actors because they can because someone said I need a place right now,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Colorado passed a new law to prevent price gouging. It’s designed to protect consumers during an emergency and applies to essential goods. In 2020, things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper were among those protected items.

“Today we are talking about housing in Boulder County because it is an essential service, where vulnerable people could face price gouging if those who have listings let them,” Weiser said.

Homes burn in the Centennial Heights neighborhood in Louisville. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

CBS4 did a quick search, and Zillow, AirBNB and other major rental sites show steep increases, many shortly after the fire. Now, Weiser is making sure that Colorado law is front and center for those running those platforms.

“We want them to understand that law. We want them to be on the lookout if someone is doing something way out of step with the market that could be price gouging,” he said.

According to Weiser, in the nearly 2 years since the law was enacted they have not had to litigate a price gouging case.

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.

Karen Morfitt