When Riverside County landlord Eloise Figueroa learned that her tenant was about to move out of her four-bedroom home in Perris and into a lower-priced rental house, she sprang into action, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"I said, 'Where are you going? What are you paying? OK. That's your new rent,' " said Figueroa, who agreed to cut her renter's $3,000 monthly lease by $150 to keep him.

After years of substantial increases, landlords throughout Southern California are finding it's getting harder to increase rents at the same torrid rate. On average, rents are still rising, but more slowly than they have been.

No place is the phenomenon more pronounced than in the Inland Empire, where the slumping housing market is creating new competition in the form of vacant and unsold homes.

What's more, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have experienced a boom in new apartment construction that dumped nearly 5,000 units on the market in the last 12 months.

"There has been more new supply in the past year than in the past five years," said Delores Conway, a USC economist. "With this much supply, the demand has not been as strong."

The occupancy rate in the Inland Empire fell to 93% in the second quarter from 94.9% a year ago, according to data being released today by RealFacts, a Novato, Calif.-based research firm. Experts say occupancy of 95% or better is necessary for a building to be considered fully occupied.

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