By Jamie Goldberg | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Despite the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, the vast majority of renters in the Portland area and across the country managed to pay their April rent, data from housing groups show.

The National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade organization representing apartment owners, surveyed 11.5 million apartment units in the United States and found that 84% of apartment households made a full or partial rental payment by April 12. That number is down from 91% in March and 90% in April of last year. It is unclear what percentage of renters only paid a portion of their rent.

The Portland area had a higher rate of payment than the national average. According to data compiled by RealPage, a company that provides property management software, 89.3% of renters in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area had paid their rent by April 12, down about 3 percentage points from this time last year.

Only 69% of apartment households nationwide and 79.5% of renters in the Portland area had paid their rent by April 5, according to the two organizations. But a large percentage of renters that failed to pay their housing bills in the first week of the month appear to have met their obligations in the second week. Most renters have a grace period, generally five business days, after the first of the month to pay their rent.

“These are good numbers compared to last week,” said Adam Couch, a market analyst for RealPage. “It is somewhat relieving as renters are doing well to take care of their obligations. There are still some challenges, as I mentioned, but they do appear to at least be a little bit more manageable compared to what we saw in the last data.”

There was fear that a larger percentage of tenants would be unable to make their April payments as non-essential businesses were forced to close and unemployment claims skyrocketed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide eviction moratorium on March 22 that prevents law enforcement officers from acting on any order or notice to evict residential tenants from their homes for not paying rent. The order will be in effect at least until the end of June.

Multnomah County and Portland announced a joint eviction moratorium on March 17 as well. The moratorium requires renters to notify their landlords on or before the day rent is due that they won’t be able to pay due to budget impacts related to the coronavirus outbreak.

While the majority of tenants were able to pay their rent, Couch said that lower-income residents had more difficulty. About 5% fewer residents in Class C apartments, units generally occupied by low-to-moderate income residents, paid their rent as compared to renters in higher-end apartment buildings.

Home Forward, the housing authority of Multnomah County and the state’s largest provider of low-income housing, had 112 unsubsidized households defer April rent and agree to repayment plans, according to spokesperson Monica Foucher.

The agency operates more than 6,000 apartments, about a third of which are public housing units, and offers nearly 9,400 Section 8 rent assistance vouchers. Home Forward has instituted its own suspension of evicting COVID-19 impacted renters until at least May 31 and offering repayment plans of up to a year for accrued unpaid rent.

Foucher said the agency is also still reviewing temporarily lowering rent for 130 renters in their subsidized housing and Section 8 voucher program.

Several local housing officials and rental agency executives said they wouldn’t have statistics about the number of renters who couldn’t pay rent in April until the end of the month or May.

Martha Calhoon, a Portland Housing Bureau spokesperson, said the department doesn’t have any statistics on people who’ve deferred rent.

Deborah Imse, executive director of statewide rental industry group Multifamily NW, said her group is still analyzing data received by the landlords and property managers they represent. The group’s members manage more than 200,000 units in the state.

With the economy continuing to spiral downward during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s possible rent payments might fall off in May. Couch said there is some optimism that the majority of renters will once again be able to pay their housing bills in May as unemployment benefits kick in and stimulus checks from the government, slated to be $1,200 for most individuals, start arriving.

But he remains concerned that a greater portion of tenants will be forced to defer their rent in the coming months if shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus continue.

“That remains the big challenge and the big question and it’s very difficult to forecast how that will all kind of unravel,” Couch said. “If we’re in the same situation a month-and-a-half or two months from now, there’s going to be an increase of concern there.”


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