Renters Hard Hit by Coronavirus Pandemic

Renters Hard Hit by Coronavirus Pandemic

More than a third of renters surveyed lost at least 50% of their income in April
A young woman checks her mail while wearing a mask

As the coronavirus outbreak weighs on the housing market, renters are experiencing especially difficult challenges, ranging from cash-flow shortages to distractions while working from home, a new survey shows.

SatisFacts, a market research firm that focuses on the multifamily housing industry, surveyed renters to learn how the pandemic has affected them. Not only has COVID-19 created serious financial concerns among many renters, the findings show, but it’s also disrupted the way they live their day-to-day lives.

Assessing the financial impact

For some workers, job security was nonexistent during the early days of the pandemic. The stay-at-home orders and closings of businesses led to wide-scale layoffs and reductions in working hours. More than a third of respondents to the SatisFacts survey (38.2%) said they lost half (or more) of their income in April because of the COVID-19 crisis — and of that group, 16.7% reported losing all of their earnings.

Younger renters experienced the most adverse effect, with nearly a quarter (24%) of those aged 18 to 24 saying their entire income disappeared in April. By comparison, renters 65 and older were most likely to experience no change to their income, with 68.8% reporting financial stability during that time.

The survey also found that renters who were already financially vulnerable were now suffering the hardest from the pandemic. Specifically, those paying less than $1,000 a month in rent were most likely to report a total loss of income in April, with 19.1% falling into this category. On the other hand, those who pay more than $1,750 per month in rent saw the least change in income, with more than half (52.5%) seeing no change.

Help for distressed renters seems limited, with the survey finding that only 34.1% of respondents said their building’s management company had announced some type of payment plan for May’s rent.

At the same time, almost two out of three of those surveyed (65.5%) said they weren’t aware of any local, state or federal programs that could help them with their rent — this is despite the fact that some states have implemented eviction moratoriums.

Renters’ face remote working challenges

Even those renters who were able to maintain their income by working from home experienced some form of difficulty due to telework challenges.

Approximately 42.5% of respondents had changed to working from home during the month of April, and two-thirds (66.3%) said they had no idea how long they would have to continue to do so.

A top working-from-home challenge was maintaining a normal work schedule — an obstacle that can impact workers no matter their living situation. Having no dedicated workspace was also cited as a common problem — with those renting apartments possibly having less extra living space for use as an office.

Similarly, other telework challenges named in the survey could be more difficult for those in multifamily housing, such as distractions from surrounding neighbors.

Methodology: SatisFacts surveyed more than 100,000 U.S. renters during April 1 through April 30, via ApartmentRatings.com and the SatisFacts survey platform.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.