Despite slight improvements across a number of metrics in Apartment List’s rent payment survey data for this month, 29% of Americans failed to pay their housing costs—rent or mortgage—in full during the first week of September, and 8% had not completed their August payments by the end of the month.
The share of renters who made a full, on-time rent payment improved slightly on a month-over month basis, up to 68% in the first week of September. This marks the second straight month of improvements and the highest on-time rent payment rate since June. While Igor Popov, Rob Warnock, and Chris Salviati of Apartment List note that this improvement could come as a surprise, given the recent expiration of unemployment benefits, they also surmise that some struggling renters could have moved back in with family and friends and are no longer appearing in the sample.
The majority of renters who do not pay their rent in full during the first week of the month are able to make up the missed payments by the end of the month. By the end of the first week of September, 10% of renters had not yet paid their full August rent—a trend expected to continue through September. (At the same time, 73% of homeowners were able to make an on-time payment in the first week of September, up from 68% in August, and only 7% had yet to make a full August mortgage payment.)
Of roughly one in three renters struggling under unpaid rent from previous months, close to half owe their landlords less than $1,000. Only 5% of all renters owe more than $2,000. Relative levels of rent debt remain stable, indicating that renters are not generally falling further behind. Two in three renters with unpaid rent have talked about renegotiating their leases or setting up payment plans, and of that number three-fourths have reached an agreement or are in the process of negotiating, while one-fourth have been denied.
The share of renters with unpaid rent—31%—varies widely when segmented by race. The share of white renters with unpaid rent stands below the overall rate at 24%, while 48% of Hispanic renters, 41% of Black renters, and 35% of Asian renters owe unpaid rent. As of the first week of September, 25% of white survey respondents had not yet made a full on-time rent or mortgage payment, compared with 43% of Black and Hispanic respondents and 30% of Asian respondents.
Well over half of the survey’s respondents reported that they had made financial sacrifices in order to make their rent payments. Fifty-eight percent said they have cut their spending since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 36% have taken money from personal savings, 25% have borrowed money, and 10% have withdrawn money from a retirement account in order to pay rent.
Hispanic and Black residents were less likely than white respondents to say that they had cut spending. Black respondents were the most likely to say they had borrowed money from family or friends, while Hispanic respondents were the most likely to have sold assets.