As pandemic eviction moratoriums expire and rent payment relief programs end across the U.S., a rental crisis is beginning to crest.
About 8.5 million people are behind on rent as of the end of August, according to Census Bureau data. Of those renters, around 3.8 million say they are somewhat or very likely to be evicted over the next two months.
Meanwhile, rents continue to tick up and topped $2,000 a month in June for the first time on record. Before the pandemic, rents have increased by almost 25% and 15% in just the past year, according to Zillow.
Evictions are spiking in major cities across the country as well. In Tampa, Florida, evictions were 52% above average in August, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In Houston, they were 90% above average, and in Minneapolis-St. Paul they were 94% above average.
With eviction moratoriums ending, many delinquent tenants are finding themselves in a tight spot. Still, some landlords are breathing a sigh of relief after months of housing people who stopped paying long ago.
In Southern California, landlords have described the nightmare situations they found themselves in when eviction moratoriums allowed their tenants to stay and not pay, sometimes for years.
One Pasadena couple said they were unable for months to collect rent from a tenant who leased a new car and allegedly frequently buys new clothes and gets food delivered. Another couple purchased a house last summer in nearby Carson. Months later, they still could not move in as a tenant from the previous owner refused to leave. Yet another couple in Riverside, California, was unable to move into their new house when the sellers became squatters and continued to live in the home for more than a year.
In New York, one woman lived rent-free in the trendy West Village in Manhattan for more than three years, making life hell for her landlord, who was also her roommate. She was finally evicted this week.
In some places like Los Angeles County, the local government also has been sluggish in disbursing emergency funds to landlords who lost money when tenants stopped paying.
The median income for renters across the country hovers around $42,500, quite a bit less than the national median household income of $67,500, according to Zillow.
Despite having incomes on the lower side, nearly half of renters have had their rent raised in the last year. That’s about 30 million people attempting to pay often hundreds of dollars more a month.
Nearly 20% of renters are being charged at least $100 more a month, while 4% are trying to pay as much as $500 a month more every month, MoneyWise reported.
This has led to some high-risk situations, like renters resorting to using credit cards for rent, dipping into their savings, or even slashing their retirement accounts.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, one judge said he sees upwards of 75 eviction cases daily.
“I think this is going to be one of the busiest years for the Justice Courts,” said Justice of the Peace Donald Watts.
Watts said that usually, landlords want to work with tenants.
“They’re in the business of renting,” Watts said. “They’re not in the business of doing evictions. So they want to be able to keep those folks in the units and they’re holding off as long as they possibly can.”