Nearly two-thirds of renters have suffered COVID-19-related income losses and four out of 10 intend to move in the next six months, posing a singular challenge for property managers as the U.S. economy contracts. The newly released results of a survey of 25,000 renters across the country also suggest that maintaining high service delivery, including a focus on safety and sanitization, is more important than ever during a time of virus fears and financial hardship.
The survey, conducted by research and consulting firm Kingsley Associates in partnership with rental site Apartments.com between April 10 and April 16, found that only 52 percent of all renters were confident they would be able to pay their May rent in full, compared to 69 percent who said they paid April’s rent in full. Another 15 percent said they could pay of the May rent.
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The report points out that April rent collections exceeded expectations, likely because of payment plans and other tactics established by managers, and that dynamic may recur in May.
“It was really good news that the majority of Americans do intend on paying rent—67 percent for May,” Dru Armstrong, CEO of Grace Hill, told Multi-Housing News. “Despite the confusion and lack of awareness, it was really positive that 60 percent of those expecting to receive stimulus expected to spend it on rent.”
The survey found that less than one-quarter of renters are aware of the CARES Act, the federal economic bailout package passed in March, which essentially bans evictions without penalties for 120 days. The new rules only apply to about half of multifamily properties, primarily those with federally backed mortgages, but are joined by a patchwork of eviction moratoriums across more than 30 states and dozens of cities.
Opinions varied sharply on the quality of property management. Fewer than 45 percent of survey respondents rated management performance as good or excellent in key categories. Moreover, 39 percent of those who planned to move in the next half-year cited their experience in the apartment community during the pandemic as the driver of the decision.
On the other hand, 61 percent of residents said they felt extremely safe or somewhat safe on site. “I think that’s a testament to the work that property management companies have been doing diligently to pivot policies and training around safety, and to do it in real time as the information around the crisis has emerged,” said Armstrong.
She commented that the industry overall did well in April in terms of putting payment plans in place, proactively communicating with residents and prioritizing safety.
“My advice to our industry is that we shouldn’t lose sight of really understanding resident satisfaction levels during the crisis, and as much as possible working on those, which are communication levels, cleanliness and sanitization, maintenance requests,” Armstrong added. “These are common drivers for satisfaction.”