The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)’s Rent Payment Tracker found 80.2 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by May 6 in its survey of 11.4 million units of professionally managed apartment units across the country.
This is a 1.5-percentage point decrease in the share who paid rent through May 6, 2019 and compares to 78.0 percent that had paid by April 6, 2020. These data encompass a wide variety of market-rate rental properties across the United States, which can vary by size, type and average rental price.
“Despite the fact that over twenty million people lost their jobs in April, for the second month in a row, we are seeing evidence that apartment renters who can pay rent are stepping up and doing so,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC President. “We expect May to largely mirror April, when the payment rate increased throughout the month as financial assistance worked its way to people’s bank accounts.”
“However, we are in uncharted waters and will be watching this closely over the course of the month as millions of households will not be able to access unemployment benefits, and those who have may find that they are not enough to cover rent plus all the other financial pressures caused by this crisis,” said Bibby. “Those benefits will also likely fall short in high-cost areas. That’s why we are calling on Congress to include $100 billion in direct renter assistance in the next pandemic relief package.”
“When millions of renters found themselves sheltering in place at their apartment home, apartment firms made it a priority to help them retain their housing,” said David Schwartz, NMHC Chair, and CEO and Chairman of Chicago-based Waterton. “NMHC called on apartment firms to halt evictions for residents impacted by COVID-19, waive late fees and create payment plans for them and also avoid rent increases for 90 days to help residents weather the crisis. Many took up that call, and others went even further to help their residents. However, we can’t do it alone. We need Congress to help.”
“The cascading effect of any rent gap is meaningful,” said Bibby. “Apartment owners have $1.6 trillion in outstanding mortgage debt. If they can’t cover their debt, we might see a wave of multifamily foreclosures that could rival the single-family foreclosures that occurred during the Great Recession. In addition, apartment owners pay $58 billion in property taxes that help support essential services such as schools, emergency services and other important local needs.”
The NMHC Rent Payment Tracker metric provides insight into changes in resident rent payment behavior over the course of each month, and, as the dataset ages, between months. While the tracker is intended to serve as an indicator of resident financial challenges, it is also intended to track the recovery as well, including the effectiveness of government stimulus and subsidies. However, noteworthy technical issues may make historical comparisons imprecise. For example, factors such as varying days of the week on which data are collected; individual companies’ differing payment collection policies; shelter-in-place orders’ effects on residents’ ability to deliver payments in person or by mail; the closure of leasing offices, which may delay operators’ payment processing; and other factors can affect how and when rent data is processed and recorded.
Total unit counts may change as units are leased or vacated and survey methodology is refined.