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Jennifer McBride, Forum Communications Co., Published June 14 2012

Sign of the times: Tenants forced out after rent increase in Dickinson

DICKINSON, N.D. – A sign that reads, “Raised rent from $750 to $2,000” on one side and “Greed – one of the seven deadly sins” staked in front of a small house here caught the attention of passers-by Thursday.

Pam Lynch and Jimmy Serna could be seen moving furnishings and goods from the small white house with blue trim to a truck and camper.

With rental rates on the rise due to increased oil activity in southwest North Dakota, many people are finding new places to live.

Lynch and Serna said it was a surprise that their landlords decided to jack up the rent. Now, after 11 years, they will be moving to a trailer.

“To them, it is a house,” Lynch said. “To us, it is a home.”

At age 75, landlord Joe Miller said he and his wife, Marie, are ready to get out of the rental business. They said they gave the couple a chance to purchase the property, but he said they couldn’t meet the conditions.

“We have decided to sell the property, and that’s our intent,” Joe Miller said. “We gave them a notice a month ago telling them that the rent was going up.”

Lynch said they have no problem with the increase in rent, but having to come up with an additional $1,250 on top of their already $750 rent in 28 days is just too much.

“I’m not mad at them, but I am disappointed,” she said. “I understand. I would want a piece of that pie.”

“A little loyalty,” Serna added, is all they asked.

Badlands Board of Realtors President Susie Lefor said there has been a steady increase in renters purchasing homes in the area over the past year.

“Your house payment is going to be lower than your rent payment,” she said.

When it comes to landlords selling, besides some who are retiring, Lefor said it’s “predominantly no.”

She has seen more multi-level units being sold rather than individual ones such as homes. “There are some jumping at the opportunity because it is a sellers’ market,” she added.

Miller said he and his wife sold their other two rental properties last year and this will be the last before they are out of the rental business.

“We’ve treated them fairly,” he said, adding that they could have asked for much more rent over the years.

The yard sign will likely be uprooted today as Lynch and Serna pull up their stakes and work to turn a new location into a home.

Jennifer McBride writes for the Dickinson Press