NMHC Reports 90.8% of Apartment Households Paid Rent by May 20

The National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker, which draws from rent collection activity in 11.4 million units of professionally managed market-rate housing, has found that 90.8% of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by May 20.

This marks both a 2.2-percentage point drop in the share of Americans who had paid rent through May 20, 2019, and a slight rise over the 89.2% of households who had paid rent by April 20, 2020. Last week, 87.7% of American households had paid their rent by May 13.

While this data only covers professionally managed apartments, Caitlin Walter, vice president of research at NMHC, notes that a new metric from the Census Bureau sheds more light on the overall rental market.

According to the Bureau’s household pulse data survey, 80.3% of all renter households had made their rent payments on time in April, while 17.2% had not and 2.5% had their rent deferred. Of the respondents, one-third had no confidence, or only slight confidence, that they could pay rent the next month.

In the latest NMHC Rent Payment Tracker webinar, Elizabeth Francisco, president of ResMan, notes that management companies are being “flexible” with their renters, absorbing credit card fees and offering deferral or repayment plans. However, she warns that this translates into a loss of revenue for the operator. She anticipates a “wave” of economic uncertainty and reduced cash flow for the sector, which could “come to shore” in the third quarter.

Caroline Vary, partner and managing director of asset management at Jonathan Rose Cos., notes that the company’s highest-performing assets are its higher-end market-rate properties and Section 8 housing. The Section 8 residents, largely low-income seniors, are able to pay their subsidized rent on time thanks to Social Security, which provides them with a steady income. Low-income housing tax credit properties are “trailing” more, she notes, as they are unsubsidized rental properties occupied by working families hit hardest by the pandemic.

“Each week we see new evidence that Americans are prioritizing rent and that the work apartment firms did to create flexible payment plans is paying dividends,” says Doug Bibby, NMHC president. “However, the hardships caused by the outbreak are not ending anytime soon. Accordingly, it is critical that lawmakers come together to support America’s 43 million renter households with a national rental assistance fund as was included in the House-passed HEROES Act, and to protect our housing providers with expanded mortgage forbearance.”

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