Apartment Guide survey finds more renters are worried about finances than health during coronavirus

Coronavirus has many people around the world worried and renters are no different. While there's not a huge immediate impact with just 18.9 percent of renters reporting they had trouble paying their April rent, there's a bigger concern as time goes on.

That concern becomes clear when 41.5 percent of renters say while they're OK now, they worry about their ability to pay rent in a few months. This isn't really surprising since 26.7 percent of renters report being furloughed or laid off because of coronavirus. Additional sources of stress may also be a roommate, partner or spouse getting laid off.

In this report:

Immediate concerns about paying rent

Renters who are full-time employees laid off due to coronavirus are having the toughest time when it comes to paying rent. More than half of those renters (53.5 percent) said making rent in April was difficult.

Also, renters with roommates or children were slightly more likely to feel stress making that rent payment compared to renters living alone or with other family members.

which renters were most concerned with April rent payments graphic

Some good news is that most renters (84 percent) were able to make their April rent payments on time, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) Rent Tracker. However, on-time payments were down a bit compared to month-over-month and year-over-year.

On-time rent payments graphic

Renter concerns about their financial situations

The people who are most worried about the next few months are those who have been temporarily furloughed. More than half of those renters (52.9 percent) worry about paying rent in the coming months.

Compared to solo renters, those with roommates and those who are living with their parents or other family members are a bit more worried about covering rent over the next few months.

More renters in the Pacific region of the U.S. (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) are concerned with 45.1 percent saying they're worried about paying rent over the next few months.

Renters in the East North Central U.S. (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) are also more concerned than other areas of the country with 44.4 percent indicating worry about paying rent over the next few months.

Women are slightly more worried than men about paying rent in the coming months. The difference isn't much, though — 43.1 percent of women worry about it compared to 39.7 percent of men.

renters most worried about paying rent over the next few months graphic

Renter sentiments on their communities' responses

Renters do seem to see room for improvement in keeping things safe and clean, as well as getting communication from apartment communities and landlords. While 64 percent of renters say they feel safe in their community (strongly agree or agree), less than half (49 percent) say their property manager or landlord is doing everything they can to keep their community safe and clean.

renters feel safe yet want more graphic

Staying safe during coronavirus

Renters in apartments aren't reporting any more concern than renters in homes about their safety, though, so having common areas doesn't seem to be a big factor. Apartment renters actually report a slightly higher rate of feeling safe in their community (41.7 percent) compared to renters in houses (39.7 percent).

house renters vs apartment renters graphic

Less than half of renters (49 percent) say they aren't concerned about deliveries, though, including groceries, take out, Amazon and other items being dropped off. So, many renters surveyed either are neutral or have some worries about getting deliveries.

do renters think deliveries are safe graphic

Renters are trying to flatten the curve

One factor potentially contributing to feeling safe in their communities is that people do say they're practicing social distancing — 93 percent of renters surveyed are and 63 percent confirm their neighbors are as well.

Also, overall, renters are holding up well emotionally and mentally as 69 percent of renters say they and their families are handling isolation because of coronavirus well (strongly agree or agree).

Renters adjusting their work lives

For the many renters who find themselves needing to and being able to work from home, it does require some adjustments. Most renters (70 percent) say they had no difficulty finding a place in their home to work and that internet speeds are sufficient for work, calls and video conferencing.

However, productivity is suffering for many as almost half (46 percent) feel like they aren't as productive while working at home as they are at the office. Also, only a little more than half of renters (55 percent) say they're able to complete their work without distractions from children, family, pets, roommates or neighbors.

Many renters are navigating major changes in their daily work routines as only about one-third (31 percent) say they're currently following the same work routine as when they were in the office (attire, appearance, availability, breaks, etc.).

renters navigating changes working from home graphic

Addressing renters' concerns about communication

Several renters told us that they felt like they'd like more or better communication from their property management or landlords, including:

  • More communication from their property management on if anyone in their building/community has coronavirus
  • Communication on payments or being evicted (though there are protections in place to protect renters from this currently, which we mention more of a bit later in this article)
  • Maintenance information like what to do if there are maintenance issues during this time and how service requests are currently handled

Maintenance requests during coronavirus

Some renters indicated they're confused about what to do if there are emergencies or repairs needed during this current landscape of sheltering in place and social distancing. There are specific things to know about submitting a maintenance request during coronavirus.

“As of now, our maintenance procedures have changed slightly. We are only completing emergency work orders for the safety of our employees and our residents. We are also only having our maintenance working on vacant units and exterior repairs, and they are all working alone to respect social distancing." – Justin Becker, owner of Brookfield Management.

Many property management companies have also put a halt to the usual maintenance procedures, as well, and many renters are self-selecting not to have issues addressed that aren't urgent.

Using and paying for amenities

For renters with various amenities in their communities, these are mostly closed. Greystar, the largest property management company in the U.S., notes on its website apartment communities are “temporarily closing amenities, such as fitness centers, pools, business centers, and other common areas to reduce the risk of exposure and promote social distancing."

Almost half of the renters surveyed noted their gym and gathering rooms like entertainment spaces or clubhouses are temporarily closed (43.2 percent and 40.9 percent, respectively). Many pools (38.1 percent), playgrounds (30 percent) and leasing offices (25.8 percent) are also currently closed.

renters missing out on amenities

These closures do bring up the matter of paying for amenities that they're not able to use. One apartment renter, Erin from Atlanta, says, “I'd like to know if rent would be lower since we cannot use all the amenities we pay for like our gym, sports room, pool room, and pool." We couldn't find information indicating that any communities are offering discounts on rent because of these temporary closures.

One assistant property manager we spoke with, Sarah from Atlanta, also shared some insights, “We have closed all of our common area amenities. However, we are not offering any reimbursement because the lease agreements pertain only to the unit they lease."

Quelling concerns about paying rent

Prominent rental industry organizations are working to encourage help for renters. For example, the NMHC recently put out some guidance for property managers and leasing companies to help with some concerns renters are feeling.

These recommendations to help during this challenging time include avoiding rent increases for 90 days, creating payment plans for residents who are unable to pay their rent and waiving late fees for those residents.

Making it easy to pay by waiving online fees

Often, renters have to pay fees to pay rent online, but because many property management offices are closed due to state and social distancing guidelines, they're waiving fees, which means more people are paying rent online.

Entrata also recently looked at early industry coronavirus trends focused on multifamily communities in its COVID-19 Rental Housing Trends report. The data for the findings in the report consists of the available information through the first week of April.

This report shows that one of the factors contributing to strong April online payment numbers is likely because many properties are absorbing convenience fees for residents choosing to pay rent online via ACH or credit card.

Entrata's study notes that “residents with a free online payment option took advantage of it to submit a rent payment, on average, seven percent more than residents whose properties did not absorb transaction fees. Across the country, payments via credit card increased more than seven percent, and ACH payments were up four percent from April 2019…An increased number of late fees were also waived this month. In the first week of April 2020, $290,000 in late fees were waived compared to $128,000 in April 2019 and $160,000 in March of 2020."

late fees waived map

Protecting renters from eviction

While many renters worry about what paying rent looks like in the coming months, there's support out there for them. One section of the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 25, includes some restrictions on evicting renters and charging late fees.

The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) notes in its March 28 summary that certain entities leasing a property can't file a new eviction action for non-payment of rent or charge fees, penalties or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent. The federal moratorium also indicates a tenant must first get 30 days' notice before the eviction — which may not be given until after the moratorium period. Some cities and states across the country also are issuing additional moratoriums in order to protect renters as well.

It's important to know that there are some restrictions on who this covers based on the type of rental, so check out the details on the NHLP website. Additionally, if you're worried about being able to make rent payments because of impacts from coronavirus, it's a good idea to contact your property management, landlord or leasing company immediately to talk to them about options as soon as possible.

Justin Becker, the owner of Brookfield Management, explains, “We encourage our residents to get in contact with us ASAP if they are not able to pay their rent on time. We are willing to work with our residents on payment plans."

Options for renters who are struggling financially

If you're a renter who finds yourself struggling financially, you do have some resources available courtesy of the CARES Act.

Economic impact payments

The economic impact payment, also known as stimulus payments, means that anyone making $75,000 or less (or married couples filing jointly making $150,000 or less) annually qualifies for the $1,200 stimulus payment. You may also get more if you have children.

These payments have reportedly started going out recently via direct deposit and you can get details on the IRS website to track your payment or input your information if you don't normally file a tax return.

Filing for unemployment

Just more than one-quarter of renters (26.7 percent) surveyed report being furloughed or laid off because of coronavirus, so many people are finding themselves looking for financial support in the coming months to pay bills.

laid off or furlough graphic

The New York Times also reports that an estimated 4 million Americans have lost their jobs since March 28, which realistically puts unemployment rates around 12.5 percent currently.

If you're one of the many who has lost their job, check with your individual state's unemployment office to confirm what assistance you qualify for as there are special circumstances surrounding coronavirus and the state of emergency most states are under.

There are also special programs for freelancers, gig workers and small business owners via Small Business Association (SBA) programs and coronavirus-specific programs through state unemployment.

The bottom line

Renters see these as challenging times, with many worrying about what's to come if these current conditions continue for a few months longer. Uncertainty in being able to pay rent and bills, along with safety concerns can weigh on renters, but the good news is that there are options and resources to tap into for support, both with communicating to property managers and landlords for extensions and leveraging federal and state programs for financial support.

It's also good to know that renters are reporting they're handling isolation well overall since the exact timeline for how long coronavirus will have a major impact remains unclear.

Survey methodology

The Apartment Guide survey included collected responses in April 2020 from 1,016 respondents from current renters ages 18 and up. Of these respondents, 53.6 percent were female and 46.4 percent were male. Most were ages 18-60, with 94 percent of respondents falling in this age range. More than 90 percent of respondents were from renters with less than $100,000 in annual household income, with 62.7 percent reporting a household income of below $50,000.

Survey results were self-reported and are, therefore, subject to response biases, such as but not limited to social desirability and acquiescence biases.

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