WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Decreasing vacancy rates have San Fernando Valley apartment-building owners breathing easier these days, as the demand for apartments continues to improve, said Steve Bristol, senior vice president of the Encino-based Sperry VanNess Real Estate. The Valley’s vacancy rate for apartments in August was 5.1 percent or 10,626 vacant units compared to 5.4 percent the previous month and 9.3 percent a year earlier, according to the city of Los Angeles Housing Department. “Apartments are filling up fast and selling fast, and this is more prominent in the better areas like the north Valley,” Bristol said. Two or three years ago, when apartments were not filling up so fast, there were many instances in which an investor bought a foreclosed apartment building and then offered below-market rental rates to attract tenants, Bristol said. Tenants from adjacent buildings would often flock to the cheaper units, making it impossible for the owners of their previous buildings to make mortgage payments and in turn leading to more foreclosures. That has largely stopped, he said, evidenced by the reduction in real estate-owned buildings on the market. Now, tenants are much easier to find and apartment-building owners are experiencing better times. “For the first time in years, apartment-building owners are able to raise rents,” Bristol said.