The federal eviction moratorium lapsed on July 31, 2021, and what we thought would be the start of a recovery for landlords and renters instead has evolved into yet another obstacle in our economic rebound. On August 3, the Biden administration issued a new order temporarily extending the moratorium for 60 days. This time around, the moratorium only targets certain counties nationwide, ones that are experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. Renters also have to have a certain number of qualifications in order to be exempt from paying rent.
I understand the need to prioritize renters' access to affordable housing right now. However, delaying the end of the eviction moratorium will hinder financial recovery for renters and landlords, as they both continue to accrue debt. The longer we delay the end of the eviction moratorium entirely, the more likely a “wave of evictions” could be for renters as thousands of landlords face more pressure to pay their own bills.
It’s been a time of uncertainty for both renters and landlords. Much of the media is focusing on the 14% of U.S. renters behind on rent payments with limited access to the nation’s inefficient rental assistance programs. It makes sense that the news cycle is devoted to renters. 6.5 million American households are behind on their rent obligations and the average debt is in excess of $3,000. And just 12% of the first $25 billion in funds have reached people in need due to loss of income from the pandemic.
At the same time, financially-burdened landlords are less likely to be a part of the current media narrative despite being on the receiving end of this funding crisis.
The general public has just one impression of landlords. They are assumed to be large corporations, entities, or persons that hold all of the power in the landlord-renter relationship, and based on this assumption, that they will readily abuse this power. Little has been done to challenge this persistent stereotype. The Department of Housing and Urban Development claims that “there is very little research on landlords” and this has created a “policy blind spot.”
The truth is, most landlords are people, not corporations or entities, but individual owners. Individuals who need to pay mortgages, property taxes, and handle upkeep for their rental properties. These “mom-and-pop” landlords are more negatively impacted by the moratorium extensions than other property owners. Here’s the complete picture:
Individual investors own almost half of all rental units nationwide, which amounts to 22.7 million rental units in 16.7 million properties.
Many of these property owners rely heavily on rent as their primary source of income. 58% of small landlords said “they did not have access to any lines of credit that might help them in an emergency.”
Small landlords are also likely to be the ones owning, operating, and managing the property directly, meaning they have a small number or no employees.
Rhino partners with 2,851 small landlords, or landlords that own 500 rental units or less. These 2,851 landlords may own a couple of buildings or just one building.
How will this most recent extension impact these small landlords, the landlords most affected by the pandemic?
As I told Multi-Housing News, the pandemic forced 12% of small landlords out of business. Profit margins are tight for SMB landlords, and as of June, 2021, American property owners owe their lenders $27.5 billion of unpaid rent. Compare that to the fact that the average mom-and-pop landlord only makes only $67,000 per year.
Renters are behind on rent, and property owners are behind on the mortgage. What renters really need right now is aid. What landlords really need right now is cash flow, in the form of paid rent or rental assistance. While some cite issues with rent relief programs as a reason to extend the moratorium for renters and landlords, it will not fix rent relief programs themselves. These rent relief programs have been charged to deliver more funding by the end of September, but they’re not expected to disperse the funding in time.
Extending the moratorium blocks the money from flowing between renters and landlords entirely, with each individual accruing more and more debt in the meantime. It’s not one against the other, but a group of people dealing with extraordinarily tough circumstances.
Instead of extending the moratorium, the government should focus on actionable ways to help both landlords and renters. Despite $46 billion in rental relief being available, renters nationwide have only received $3 billion. Poorly managed state and local programs make it difficult for renters to access or qualify for assistance, and makes it difficult for landlords to do their part in applying for relief as well. Let’s start addressing these issues, rather than using the moratorium as a band-aid solution that prolongs recovery for renters and landlords.