Market-rate rent payments sink to lowest level since start of pandemic

About 76% of multifamily tenants nationwide have made a payment in September, latest survey shows

(Source: National Multifamily Housing Council/Tableau)

September rent payments for market-rate apartments nationwide fell, the largest drop since the pandemic began in March.

A survey of 11.4 million market-rate units found 76.4 percent of those households made a rent payment in the first week of September. It marked a 4.8 percent-point drop from the same time last year, representing 552,796 fewer households sending a rent payment. It was also a 2.9 percentage-point dip from August collections.

The survey was conducted by the National Multifamily Housing Council, which lobbies on behalf of large multifamily firms and has released the tally each month since the virus took hold.

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The decline in rent payments comes over a month after federal unemployment benefits expired, benefits that had provided individuals with up to an extra $600 a week. In response to the ongoing health crisis, the CDC announced a ban on evictions for nonpayment for households making less than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint tax filers.

For landlords, the eviction ban heightened concerns that, without further federal assistance, tenants will stop paying rent.

“Falling rent payments mean that apartment owners and operators will increasingly have difficulty meeting their mortgages, paying their taxes and utilities and meeting payroll,” said Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council. “The enactment of a nationwide eviction moratorium last week did nothing to help renters or alleviate the financial distress they are facing.”

The apartments included in the latest rent payment survey are not rent-regulated, subsidized affordable housing, student housing or single-family rentals. Tenants tend to be higher earners, so the decrease could be particularly troubling.

Residents of below-market rate apartments, which typically cater to lower-income renters, were hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Lower-income households were also much more likely to have an employment disruption, according to the Federal Reserve.