U.S. renters 'not confident' about making future payments

by Kasi Johnston12 Jun 2020

Almost 4 out of 10 renters reported they will need rent relief at some point during the next 90 days, according to a new report by Assurant, a provider of lifestyle and housing solutions including renter’s insurance. The Multifamily Housing Renter Perspective Study also found that almost half (42%) of renters are unsure about their rental stability going forward.

These results match well with the findings from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey. 31% of renters that responded to the survey were not confident they could make their next payment on time and 17% already could not cover their last lease payment.

Bloomberg reported that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the central bank is encouraging lenders to offer customers facing hardships forbearance on their debt payments.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of forbearance on the part of the banks,” Powell said during a virtual press conference. “But those are not decisions that we hold any legal authority to make, and by the way, we have encouraged those decisions.”

As COVID-19 continues to have effects in all aspects of life, including severe job losses and a rapidly increasing unemployment rate, more renters are seeking some sort of relief.

“The impacts of the pandemic have been far reaching and this study has shown that along with the financial concerns, COVID-19 will impact how and what renters will look for in their next home,” said Ryan Lumsden, president of multifamily housing at Assurant.

Renter priorities are also beginning to shift, as some are reporting seeking lower density communities for their future homes. About 70% of renters surveyed are being drawn to amenities like increased outdoor space, larger living spaces and homes in lower-density communities. A more affordable ranked number one for importance during their search, while lower move-in costs ranked number two.

“The experience for many renters of working from home has them thinking about more space, access to outdoor space and of course, lower costs,” added Lumsden.

The report also found that more than three-quarters of surveyed renters would like the option of surety bonds as an alternative to a security deposit. As we get more comfortable in a socially distanced world, 60% would consider doing virtual walkthroughs, interviews and contracting without seeing the property in person.

As for federal government relief, the Democrat-led house passed a $3.5 trillion stimulus bill in May, but it is expected to face opposition from the Republican-led Senate.

For renters who were ready to take the step into homeownership, the Assurant survey also found two out of three respondents have decided to delay their purchase until after the pandemic has subsided.