Few found much relief or clarity from executive orders signed last weekend by President Trump.
Who benefits, when and how, if at all was the response by most in the apartment industry, as well as residents and those receiving unemployment benefits.
Communication breakdowns between owners and residents have complicated the situation, particularly those facing eviction or who are struggling to pay their rent on time.
One Arizona resident reportedly asked for a two-month rent refund “because they were not aware of the moratoria and wouldn’t have paid had they known,” one owner said.
Deadlines mean a lot to apartment residents required to paying the rent. But apparently, they don’t mean that much to Congress.
The House and Senate failed to agree on extending expiring economic stimulus, unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium that ended before the first of this month. This week, Congress adjourned, perhaps not returning to Capitol Hill until after Labor Day.
“They are exhausted, they got so much done,” CNBC’s Joe Kernan, a government cynic, quipped this morning on Squawk Box upon hearing the recess news.
More Bewilderment than Benefit
Apartment residents and owners are left with more bewilderment than benefit after last weekend’s announcement from the White House, which attempted to comfort the millions of Americans facing economic challenges through executive orders.
In that address, Trump gave a spirited rebuke of Congress’ inability to compromise while seemingly suggesting that help was on the way. But a closer look at the orders Trump signed reveal little immediate support for the apartment industry and its residents.
The $600 added to many collecting weekly unemployment insurance payment instituted 26 weeks ago enabled many residents to pay rent on time. But unless Congress acts soon or the White House properly generates the $400 of weekly unemployment benefits – or at least clarifies who will receive how much and from whom – the looming Sept. 1 rent due date will become a challenge for many.
The $400 (with $300 of which to be provided by the Feds and $100 from the states) is expected by many, although such a move has been challenged by Democrats to be unconstitutional. “The President cannot spend the country’s money by fiat, and an attempt to do so could lead to court challenges and slow the delivery of what little actual aid exists in his four directives,” writes mortgage industry publication MPAMag.com, among others.
Others in the industry wonder: If and when the relief is put into play, will it be granted for more than four or five weeks?
Owners Extend Ongoing Compassion
Leading apartment management companies such as Camden, which has offered compassion throughout these difficult months, continues to be “actively engaged with customers with late balances, and we are not hearing any difference in their stated plans to pay (or not) based on the executive order,” Tom Sloan, its Senior Vice President of Operations, said. “Many residents have taken advantage of our relief programs like rent deferral of up to 60 days and Camden’s $10.3 million resident relief fund that distributed up to $2,000 grants to our Camden residents with financial disruption from COVID-19.”
Trump's executive orders do not extend The CARES Act's eviction moratorium, which only covered renters who participate in federal housing assistance programs or who live in a property with a federally backed mortgage.
That leaves at least half of renters with no federal protection against eviction, says Chanin Ballance, Advisor and Co-Founder, Roost, a mission-driven tech company working to make the renter experience simpler and more transparent. “While some were covered by state or local moratoriums, many of those are expiring. Policies continue to evolve, creating assorted restrictions that can differ widely by jurisdiction.”
Residents at Class C buildings paid 54 percent of total rents due in June by the middle of the month, according to a by . In July, even with emergency unemployment still flowing, the figure slipped to 37 percent. NMHC’s monthly rent tracker reported
The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)’s Rent Payment Tracker found 79.3 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by August 6 in its survey of 11.4 million units of professionally managed apartment units across the country.
This is a 1.9-percentage point, or 223,000-household decrease from the share who paid rent through August 6, 2019 and compares to 77.4 percent that had paid by July 6, 2020. These data encompass a wide variety of market-rate rental properties across the United States, which can vary by size, type and average rental price.
State Moratoriums a Fluid Situation
National Apartment Association on July 15 summarized the eviction moratorium situation in many states. Its information was provided independent of any statements made last weekend by the White House or Congress.
“Despite efforts in all 50 states to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and allow phased reopening measures, many state and local governments are electing to extend eviction moratoria. In California, over 172 jurisdictions temporarily suspended evictions. Nationwide, 22 states and at least 198 localities currently have special eviction restrictions in place. Of those 22 states, 14 protect residents only in nonpayment of rent cases, five limit protections to cases of nonpayment for residents who can show economic hardship due to COVID-19 and 10 prohibit housing providers from filing notices to vacate.”
One NMHC Top 50 apartment manager – not wishing to be identified – said it has offered payment plans and waived credit card and late fees and has reached out to all residents who have not paid. The company said some do not respond and do not pay. As a result, and despite anything described in the executive orders, it will be moving forward with evictions when the moratorium is lifted.
A Recession of ‘Historic Proportions’ Looming
Speaking of the overall economy, which has been devastated by COVID-19, and has shown inconsistent signs of recovery the past month, “A recession of ‘historic proportions’ could take another turn for the worse if a stalemated Congress fails to provide more financial aid to beleaguered workers and businesses hammered by the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Thomas Barkin, President of the Richmond Federal Reserve warned during a digital town hall Aug. 11.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Aug. 12 announced $472 million in CARES Act funding to help low-income families during the coronavirus pandemic. This funding can be used by Public Housing Authorities to help families assisted by Housing Choice Vouchers and Mainstream vouchers prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.
The funding, made available by the CARES Act legislation Trump signed into law on March 27, 2020, will be awarded to Public Housing Authorities across the country.