Photo by Alex Gudino on Unsplash

May was expected to be an abysmal month for renters and landlords alike, but the results of a new survey by The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) suggest that 80.2 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by May 6th. NMHC’s Rent Payment Tracker analyzed 11.4 million units of professionally managed apartment units across the United States.

This figure represents a 1.5 percent decrease over the same period last year and is a slight improvement from the 78.0 percent of tenants who paid the rent by the same time last month. The data encompasses a wide range of market-rate apartments and is supplied by five leading property management software companies.

“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.

As of Friday, the IRS said it had distributed 130 million stimulus checks amounting to $200 billion. An estimated 20 million Americans are still waiting for their payments to arrive. Overwhelmed state employment offices have caused further delays for those seeking unemployment insurance, which individuals must be approved for in order to receive the additional $600 per week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit from the federal government.

“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.”

The piece of legislation Bibby is referring to is the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act, which was formally introduced on Friday by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Washington Congressman Denny Heck and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. The bill would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund for “struggling renters” and “mom and pop landlords.” 

While the May data from NMHC turned out to be more promising than analysts initially expected, the next two months will show the full effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country’s rental housing market.

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