Some renters near the Pierce County site of golf’s U.S. Open have been told to vacate their homes so the properties can be rented, at high prices, to people attending the golf event.
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Pierce County — Embarrassment, then anger.
That‘s what Dawn Brundage felt last week when she came home to find an eviction notice stuck with blue masking tape to the front door of the house she has rented for about eight years.
Be out of the house by 5 p.m. April 30, the notice said.
“I wondered what somebody seeing it might think,” said Brundage, a Washington State Patrol dispatcher. She worried people might suspect she had failed to pay rent, or had some illegal activity going on inside.
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But Brundage knew she hadn’t done anything wrong.
Her problem is that she lives in one of many Pierce County homes that owners are offering to rent at high prices to players, sponsors, officials and fans coming to the U.S. Open June 18-21.
The five-bedroom house Brundage has been renting for just under $2,000 a month is offered online for $38,500 — just for the week of the golf tournament.
The same amount is asked for the house next door, where renter Mirian Chipana and her family have lived for eight months.
Both houses are owned by Aziz Karim, of University Place, who has other houses up for short-term rent, and are managed by BCI Properties of Tacoma.
“We haven’t done anything illegal,” said BCI Properties owner Don Leske. “They had a lease and the lease is over.”
The houses rented by Brundage and Chipana are mere steps away from the main entrance to Chambers Bay Golf Course, which is preparing to host the Northwest’s first U.S. Open.
The scarcity of hotel rooms near the course, coupled with the fact that 30,000 people a day are expected to attend, have added incentive for property owners to test the short-term rental market.
“I know why they’d do it,” said Brundage. “I’m not against people making money, but not by taking advantage of someone else.”
Most of the homes being offered are owner-occupied, with owners willing to vacate for tournament week if a renter meets their price. But in some cases, the homes are rentals that are either vacant or occupied by renters who would need to leave — temporarily or permanently — for the tournament.
Brundage said she has been on a series of one-year leases since the family first moved in. She said last year she filled out what she thought was a one-year extension online that would go into this summer, but said she doesn’t have a copy of it.
She said Karim told her several times she would not need to leave, and was surprised to learn she was now on month-by-month terms. “I would never rent month-by-month. There’s too much uncertainty,” she said.
Chipana said her family was told when they moved in that the lease would expire in April, but believed they would have a chance to renew.
They wouldn’t have moved in, she said, had they known they would have to move again this spring. But shortly after they moved in, a woman with BCI told them the lease would end so that the house would be available as a golf rental.
Both Brundage and Chipana say they were offered the chance to move back in at then end of June, but Brundage said she was told the rent would be higher, because of planned improvements.
She’s been a single parent for the past year and can’t afford a rent increase. She still has two daughters at home and recently put down a deposit on a smaller house.
Chipana said it wasn’t practical for her family to relocate for two months and then move back in.
Leske said some families being relocated during the tournament have been offered free use of a rental truck for the move.
“We’re just the messenger,” he said, adding the decision-making is in the hands of the owner, and that Karim is reluctant to talk with the news media. Leske said he’s been in the rental business 30 years and has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau.
“This is a tough business at times,” he said. “Sometimes we have to do things people don’t like.”