Sam Zell’s Equity Residential halts evictions, rent hikes on 80K-unit portfolio

The REIT’s move follows similar local and national efforts to protect tenants and landlords during the coronavirus crisis

Mar.March 25, 2020 02:30 PM
Sam Zell (Credit: John Lamparski/Getty Images)
Sam Zell (Credit: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Sam Zell’s Equity Residential said it will halt evictions and rent increases for 90 days on its thousands of apartments across the country in response to the coronavirus emergency.

The move, first reported by Crain’s, comes after several states like California, New York, and Illinois have called for or have suspended eviction proceedings and rent hikes.

The real estate investment trust, which owns 80,000 units nationwide, will allow current tenants to renew leases at existing amounts and will create payment plans for struggling tenants, Crain’s reported.

Zell, a billionaire, has amassed his fortune buying distressed assets, including real estate, during economic uncertainty and upheaval. Some industry experts said they view the coronavirus outbreak as a potential money-making opportunity for him. During a conference call with investors in October, Zell said he thought rent control was having a “chilling effect” on capital going into development.

Equity Residential’s new policy also follows a recent proposal from the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group that has called for a moratorium on evictions, plus legal protection against foreclosures and disaster housing assistance.

Other organizations and federal agencies are also taking steps to help tenants and landlords through the crisis.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing landlords with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans to fall behind on mortgage payments if they halt evictions.

Equity Residential is the country’s second-largest apartment owner. It is based in Chicago, but doesn’t own any apartments there. The REIT has over 36,000 apartments in California and nearly 10,000 in New York. As Equity Residential’s shares have fallen nearly 36 percent this year, its market capitalization has dropped to $19 billion, according to Crain’s. [Crain’s]Brianna Kelly

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