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Tenants panic amid rent hike at Washougal apartment complex

Residents at the Rockwood Terrace Apartments said rent for many will increase by 40% in December. The apartment is home to many on fixed incomes.

WASHOUGAL, Wash. — Several tenants at a Washougal, Washington apartment complex are facing a steep rent increase, leaving many scrambling for options.

On Friday, residents at the Rockwood Terrace Apartments received a lease renewal offer with close to a $400 per month rent increase. That would bring rent to $1,365 a month.

“This is a major hike and for an apartment complex that's nothing but retired, elderly, disabled and low-income,” said tenant Saree Adams. “There's no place for any of us to go if we have to leave here if we can't make rent.”

According to the notice, tenants have until September 28 to sign the lease agreement, though the rent increase would not kick in until December. The notice said those who don’t sign the lease would pay month-to-month. Tenants fear that going that route would open the door to additional rent hikes.

OTHER STORIES: Oregon renters, landlords react to next year's 14.6% rent increase cap

“If we don't sign a lease, they can up it again every month if they feel like it,” said Adams.

On top of the rent hike, management at Rockwood Terrace Apartments imposes income restrictions on tenants. According to their application packet, a single renter cannot make more than $38,940 and two people in an apartment can’t make more than $44,460.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said tenant Cody Lynn, who added that he had to take a lesser-paying job to qualify for an apartment lease. “It doesn’t make sense how they say it's low-income, then they cut an arm and a leg off and say, 'Hey, you know it's what you've got to do.'”

The nearly 40% rent hike is legal in Washington, which has no rent control. In Oregon, rent hikes are currently capped at 9.9%. That will rise to 14.6% percent in January 2023.

Back in June, the Vancouver Housing Authority told KGW that since Washington lifted its eviction moratorium in February, many property owners in Clark County have increased rent by about 15%. They're also seeing a rise in evictions.

“We have nowhere to turn, there's nowhere to go,” said Adams.

KGW reached out to Rockwood Terrace Apartments management to clarify the reasons for the rent hike. Their rental office was closed Tuesday afternoon and calls were not immediately returned.

According to public records, the apartment complex is owned by Post Rockwood LP, which has a mailing address that appears to be a postal center in West Hollywood, California. 

Adams said she and other tenants are appealing to managers to set up a mediation with the apartments' owner, hoping to negotiate a more affordable rent increase. For tenants like Kathie Marchel, the word “affordable" is relative, since she and many other renters say they’re barely scraping by as it is.

“I can maybe spend $30 a month on food, which isn't very much,” said Marchel. “I'm really fearful right now. I don't know what I'm going to do.”

OTHER STORIES: Portland renters can apply for relocation assistance in 2023 if their rent goes up 10% or more

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