We got lucky. After posting on the Facebook group MV Long-Term Housing Rentals last fall, my roommate and I received an offer to rent a summer home for the winter. A property that fetched $3,500 a week in July and August would be ours for $1,950 a month. And though the rental was only for the winter, that didn’t matter because the house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen replete with marble countertops. My roommate and I both knew we wouldn’t find a better housing opportunity. So we signed the lease, paid one and a half month’s rent, and eagerly awaited move-in.

But now that winter has come to an end, the need to find another place to live looms large. Naturally, we returned to what had worked for us before, and crafted another post for MV Long-Term Housing Rentals nearly identical to the one we had written in the fall. We described ourselves as reliable tenants with impeccable Island references who live here year-round and have a clear need for housing. The post deployed all three tools of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. But it received a paltry response. Suddenly, the bi-annual search for housing that had proved so fortuitous for us several months ago was proving to be futile. Whereas in late August property owners were willing to negotiate and make concessions in order to fill their soon-to-be vacant summer homes, the well of charitable dealings and housing opportunities had run dry.

This came as no surprise, however. It is of course much easier to find housing on the Vineyard in the winter than in the summer. What did come as a surprise were the extremes to which landlords and tenants are willing to go in order to secure a rental property amid a backdrop of intense demand. Sometimes the tactics are not only unethical, but illegal.

For example, Massachusetts law prohibits a landlord from requiring a tenant or prospective tenant to pay more than first and last month’s rent, a security deposit (which cannot exceed first month’s rent), and the price for a new lock and key. The law applies to all rental agreements that exceed 100 days and all rental agreements for less than 100 days that are not for vacation or recreational purposes. Yet, it is openly disregarded by landlords who sometimes require enormous down payments to reserve their rental property, and also by prospective tenants who openly express a willingness to waive their rights in order to get a deal done before anyone else swoops in to secure the rental.

When it became clear to my roommate and me that we would have to search more diligently to find a place to live this summer, we immediately began to encounter these unsavory practices. One post we found on Facebook advertised a one-bedroom guest house on Chappy. The price was reasonable: $6,500 from May to October, or $1,300 per month. We contacted the owner the same day the post went up and asked if the property could accommodate two people. The answer was yes, but it currently only had a double bed, so we would have to bring a separate mattress ourselves. The owner made a final clarification before ending the call: the rent was $6,500 for the season. That meant we would have to pay five months rent up front before we moved in. While the $1,300 monthly rate was within our budget, we did not have the ability to pony up $6,500 ahead of time. Before we had the opportunity to see the house and attempt to negotiate, the property had been rented. Someone had agreed to front the entire $6,500 sum.

The above was not the only instance in which we were asked to pay well over the legally allowed amount in order to secure a rental. In an email exchanged between my roommate and a property owner, we learned about a required $15,000 down payment to rent a place from May 15 to Oct. 1, along with an electric utility/security deposit of $1,200 plus a departure cleaning fee of $240. The amounts were due in several payments, with final payment by April 17, a month before arrival. The total required to move-in came to $16,440, which was $8,000 over the legally allowed amount.

Thankfully, we have since found housing. But our experiences proved not only how difficult it is to navigate within the Vineyard rental market as a year-round resident, but how it is even more challenging to distinguish between difficulties that are simply inherent to a seasonal market, and difficulties that are outright illegal.

It appears there is no particular group — landlords or tenants — to blame. Landlords should stop requiring down payments that are outside the scope of the law. Tenants should stop treating their rights as a bargaining tool. Both are victims of a broken system.

Garri Saganenko lives in Vineyard Haven.