Los Angeles Times

For Californina tenants on the edge, paying the rent often takes more than half their income

LOS ANGELES - Even before their latest rent increase, Barbie Thompson and her husband, Juan, could barely afford the Rancho Santa Margarita apartment where they raised two children.

The company that paid her around $13 an hour to distribute samples at Costco often kept her on a part-time schedule, Thompson said. Her husband earned even less as a busboy. So to make ends meet, at times the couple used a food pantry, let auto bills lapse and turned their $1,845 rent in late - a budgeting tool that cost $50 in late fees.

"Sometimes we were down to the last couple of dollars," said Thompson, who estimated she and her husband spent at least 57 percent of

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