By Dave 'Orchid' Kauke: But the Property Management Companies have figured a way around the reduced rents with ridiculous fees.

It was recently reported that rents are dropping in Southern Oregon due to our economy (see Jan. 24 Tidings "Rents fall in Ashland"). To some extent this is true. But the property management companies have figured a way around the reduced rents with ridiculous fees. The final straw for me was the one in Ashland that has a $100 carpet fee. Oregon state tenant laws state that a tenant cannot be charged for normal wear and tear on carpets. This PMC is covering their butts by charging it in advance of you damaging their carpeting while you live there. Is this legal?

Another fee I find outrageous and to be a rip-off is the "move-in" fee that PMCs charge, anywhere from $60 to $100. I'd like someone to explain why you need my money to move into the home I rented from you. You've already got up to twice the rent or more than $1,000 in deposits that by law are for covering damage to the house. It's no sweat off your back for someone to move their belongings into their new home. Don't tell me it's for the paperwork; you are already making enough for the percentage you get from the rent for managing the property.

Pet deposits are my next pet peeve — no pun intended. I know there are a lot of irresponsible pet owners out there who allow their pets to trash a place, but there has got to be a way to allow pet owners who are responsible for their pets' "messes" and have well-trained animals to move in without having to spend hundreds of dollars in deposits. My two cats have references from past landlords who had no complaints at all about my pets during my rental term or after cleaning the home upon me moving out. I used to have a wolfhound, and I never got complaints from landlords about my dog. Yet in order for me to find affordable housing in this area I need to have well over $1,000 in money I can afford to have tied up and possibly lose no matter how clean I leave a place, just because I have two well-behaved companion cats.

Now a little about myself for those of you who tend to jump to conclusions. I am a 50-year-old disabled single man, and I live on a very fixed income of less than $700 a month from S.S.I. as well as around $170 a month in food stamps. That is it ... my whole income. I have to be able to make that money stretch to pay for rent, utilities and the food and supplies that my food stamps don't cover. I also need money for copays for my doctor visits and medications I need. There is no room for me to save anything for deposits and I have very few belongings worth enough to anyone to sell to make deposit money. But I must find a new home and soon. I will not become homeless ... I refuse!

I have called Ashland and Talent home for more than 25 years and have always rented homes. I have never been evicted and have excellent references. I have no bad credit but by choice have never played the credit card game, so I have no positive credit as well. This should not count against me, yet often it has.

I do not own a car due to the expense, so being near bus lines is a must. I have had landlords refuse to rent to me because I did not own a car. I have had prospective landlords and houseshare situations discriminate against me because I am home more often than not, and they have threatened to raise the rent or utilities because I'm disabled and unable to work or be gone 8 to 5 every day.

So I ask you PMCs and landlords, where can I live that I can afford to get in the door? I feel as though I am being forced to look for a home elsewhere when this is the community I choose to call home. To our elected officials: What are you going to to do to help low-income people be able to afford to move into a place without ridiculous fees and sky-high deposits? I always hear about the community wanting to have affordable housing for its citizens that choose to call this home. This subject is part of the problem that needs resolving.

Since writing this piece, David "Orchid" Kauke has found an affordable home with no outrageous fees or deposits. Kauke, who has lived in the Ashland/Talent area since 1983, has a lifelong passion for orchids and other exotic plants as well as digital art. Currently recovering from a bloodclot in his leg, he spends his time writing and creating art at his new home in south Talent.