Despite the lapse in federal unemployment benefits in August, 68 percent of renters made an on-time rent payment during the first week of September.

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to impact renters significantly over the past few months, with many struggling to pay rent. However, new data from a survey conducted by Apartment List hints at slight improvements to how renters are faring.

Despite the lapse in federal unemployment benefits during August, 68 percent of renters made an on-time rent payment during the first week of September, meaning 32 percent were in “rent debt.” That marks the second consecutive month in which rent payments have improved, and represents the highest rate of on-time payments since June.

However, the positive data could also potentially be a sign that the data set has simply changed, due to individuals having to move out of rentals and into shared homes with loved ones, according to Apartment List.

“It may be the case that some renters who are continuing to struggle have moved back in with family or friends and are simply no longer appearing in our sample,” Apartment List’s report states.

Still, if trends from recent months continue, the online rental marketplace platform anticipates nine in 10 renters to pay their rent in full by the end of September.

On the whole, about half of renters with unpaid rent owe less than $1,000, while only 5 percent owe more than $2,000. These levels have remained relatively stable month over month, indicating that renters are finding ways to not fall too far behind on payments.

However, landlords have also been more willing to compromise with renters during this time. Two out of three renters who owe unpaid rent have inquired about renegotiating their lease or setting up a payment plan, and out of those who inquired, three out of four renters have either come to an agreement with their landlord or are currently negotiating with them. Only one in four renters have been flat out denied such requests, suggesting the landlords have been relatively amenable to concessions.

Data broken down by race continues to show how disproportionately the economic impacts of the pandemic continue to impact minorities. Just 24 percent of white renters had unpaid back rent going into September, while 48 percent of Hispanic and 41 percent of Black renters had unpaid back rent at that time. Members of these minority households are more likely to work in service and high-contact occupations where layoffs and furloughs have been the greatest.

In an effort to keep up rent payments, many renters have taken to extreme measures. Thirty-six percent of renters have drawn money from their personal savings since the beginning of the pandemic, and about 25 percent have acquired new debt either on a credit card or by borrowing money from family and friends. Furthermore, one in 10 have withdrawn money from a retirement account, and 58 percent have cut their spending since the pandemic began.

Black survey respondents, however, were most likely out of all demographics to borrow money from family and friends at 28 percent, compared to the overall rate of 18 percent. Meanwhile, Hispanic respondents were most likely to have sold assets at 23 percent, compared to the overall rate of 16 percent. These two demographics were also least likely to have cut their spending since the start of the pandemic, suggesting that they had less disposable income to draw from in the first place.

Email Lillian Dickerson

coronavirus | rentals
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