BEND, Ore. - "Oh, I love it here!" said Shirley Ely-Carnagey, a recent widow who lives in Bend, said Wednesday of her home. "Yeahm I love it. This is where my husband has planned for me to stay."
But a letter in the mail changed her plans dramatically. Within 30 days, her rent would jump almost $300 a month -- a 33 percent increase that she cannot afford.
"That is really overwhelming, especially when I had no idea that it was coming," Ely-Carnagey said.
Now she is looking for a new home in a tight market -- and she isn't alone. Within a block of her house,14 of her neighbors have moved out after their rents went up as well.
"It feels uncomfortable, very uncomfortable that it can disrupt people's lives so quickly and so abruptly," Ely-Carnagey said.
According to the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association, rental prices have increased 25 to 30 percent since 2010.
Experts say that's partially due to the recession.
"When the housing bubble burst, we had a community full of homeowners," Kevin Restine, president at the rental owners group. "And when they lost those homes and they lost the ability to finance for the foreseeable future, they became tenants."
More tenants flooding the already tight rental market in Central Oregon.
"We've hit numbers that I've never seen, certainly before the recession, since or during," Restine said.
The numbers mean finding something affordable rent is hard work.
"We've been trying desperately since January," said Bend resident Don "Coach" Knowles. "We are on the Internet every day, talking to real estate people, talking to friends."
In this tight rental market, speed is key.
"The vast majority of property is rented out before it's even vacated," Restine said.
If you see a place you like, make an offer immediately.
"We would call up the management company or real estate agent and they would say, 'Sorry, it just leased yesterday,'" Knowles said.
Here is what you can do to improve your chances on the rental market:
* Have your credit worthiness in order.
* Check for rental often and early.
* Think before getting a pet - many apartments do not allow pets.
Although many don't want to leave their home, higher rents mean many have to move on.
"Well yes, there's a lot of memories here," Ely-Camagey said. "And he (her late husband) planted me here, and we've had a good life here for the last few years. But I have to look at what makes economic sense."
It's also important to know your rights as renters, and OSPIRG has a handy guide online.