A Whole Lot of You Didn't Pay Your Rent This Month

All the coronavirus-related layoffs, business closures, and “shelter-in-place” orders contributed to a steep dropoff from March.
All the layoffs, business closures, and “shelter-in-place” orders contributed to a steep dropoff from March.

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The number of Americans able to make their April rent dropped way off from March, according to data released Wednesday from the National Multifamily Housing Council, a landlord trade organization.

With widespread layoffs, business closures, and “shelter-in-place” orders hitting renters across the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic, only 69% of tenants had the cash to pay even a portion of their rent during the first week of April. This time last year, approximately 82% of apartment renters made their payments, even if partially. (Last month, 81% of tenants paid rent.) While the dropoff isn’t as staggering as it could’ve been, it may show what’s to come for nervous tenants across America. Since Wednesday’s data represents 13.4 million units nationwide, that means at least 4 million Americans failed to make rent this month.


“It is important to note that a large number of residents met their obligations despite unparalleled circumstances, and we will see that figure increase over the coming weeks. That is a testament to the quick, proactive actions taken by NMHC members who put forward bold solutions,” said Doug Bibby, president of NMHC, as his organization previously recommended stalling evictions and offering tenants payment plans. The organization noted that data may be affected by management companies’ differing methods for collecting data, delays in payment processing, and the closure of leasing offices.

Some apartment landlords have even earned brief, viral fame for entirely wiping their tenants’ rental payments. Others have gone viral for demanding tenants pay rent regardless of their situation, and try to apply for jobs at Amazon or pizza restaurants to ensure they pay in full.

The data, which will be updated regularly, doesn’t include single-family homes, which make up more than half of the nation’s housing stock, and housing that’s subsidized by the government. Already, it outlines a housing crisis for many that’s quietly unfurling in the center of a public health disaster.

While most of those Americans were protected from evictions during the month of April — there are widespread moratoriums and legal orders blocking the process necessary to kick someone out — that missed rent will have to be paid eventually, unless legal action is taken to protect tenants or more cash is provided by the government to keep people afloat.

For that reason, some tenants are engaging in rent strikes because they want to see rent entirely canceled, rather than postponed, recognizing that their economic fallout is likely to extend long after the pandemic. In New York City, where two-thirds of residents rent their homes, legislators have warned that there could be a “tidal wave” of evictions as soon as the moratoriums end, since months of back-rent will be expected of tenants who are likely unemployed. For the most part, though, property owners in New York reported their tenants were able to make rent in April, according to Politico.

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Cover: 08 September 2019, US, New York: A street corner in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York. The area consists mainly of a mixture of apartment blocks and converted warehouses (lofts). Photo by: Alexandra Schuler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images