Rent-at-Risk Eases as Rent Payments Still Lag

Tenant confidence in paying next month’s rent improves, but 15% remain behind on payments.

As August came to a close, tenants across the US became more comfortable with their ability to pay next month’s rent. About 32% of respondents to the US Census Bureau’s Pulse survey had concerns about making September rent – a 6 percentage point reduction in Rent-at-Risk from the late July reading for August rents.

The improvement was broad across the country. Sixteen states saw reductions in concerns about ability to pay next month’s rent of more than 10 percentage points from July. Only Maine the District of Columbia saw more than 10 percentage point increases in concerns about ability to pay rent among tenants.

Metro areas saw a similar broad improvement, with six of the 15 largest metro areas seeing reductions of 10 percentage points compared to July. Only Seattle registered an increase of more than 10 percentage points in concerns about ability to pay next month’s rent.

Lagging Rent Payments

The damage from earlier this year lingers, however. Pulse indicates 15% of US tenants are behind on rent payments nationwide. In five states, the percentage of tenants in arrears exceeds 20%: Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, Florida, and Illinois.

That national average is being driven by eight of the fifteen largest metro areas that all have more than 15% of their tenants in arrears – including New York and Los Angeles. More than 25% of tenants are behind on rent in Riverside, California and Miami. Dallas leads all metro areas with less than six percent of tenants still owing previous rent.

Census Reboots Pulse

The Census Bureau receives more than 100,000 responses nationwide to its Pulse survey. Initially begun as an experimental weekly survey, Pulse Phase 1 ran for 90 days until expiring in late July. It is the first US leading indicator of ability to pay rent. 

Funding was approved to re-start the survey through the end of October. The first Phase 2 data covers responses from August 19-31. Going forward, the data will be available on a bi-weekly basis.

GeoPhy incorporates this US Census Bureau data in Evra – our platform for assessing value and value drivers for commercial real estate properties and locations. Sign up for a trial of Evra to try it for yourself.

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September 1, 2020 | by Chris Sandlund

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