LOS ANGELES – Roughly one in five tenants in Los Angeles County have paid their rent late or skipped at least one payment during the pandemic, putting them at risk of losing their homes when the state’s eviction moratorium expires, according to a joint UCLA-USC study released Monday.
“Twenty-two percent of Los Angeles County tenants paid rent late at least once from April to July, while between May and July, about 7% did not pay any rent at least once,” according to researchers at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
Among households in the county that did not pay rent, either in full or partially, about 98,000 tenants have been threatened with an eviction, while an additional 40,000 report that their landlord has begun eviction proceedings, according to the report detailing hardships faced by tenants during the COVID- 19 pandemic, including lost wages as a result of the economic shutdown.
“I think everyone understood, early on, that renters might be in trouble as a result of COVID-19 and its economic fallout,” said lead author Michael Manville, an associate professor of urban planning at UCLA.
Highlights of the study’s findings include:
— about 16% of tenants report paying rent late each month from April through July;
— about 10% did not pay rent in full for at least one month between May and July; and
— about 2% of renters are three full months behind on rent, representing almost 40,000 households.
“Nonpayment occurs disproportionately among the lowest-income renter households, so repaying back rent could be a tremendous burden for them,” noted the report’s co-author Michael Lens of UCLA.
And although the majority of tenants are paying their rent despite the pandemic, researchers said it’s important to note that many are relying on unconventional and potentially unsustainable funding sources. One-third of households with problems paying rent relied on credit card debt and about 40% used emergency payday loans, according to the report.
Renters who struggle to pay their bills are suffering disproportionately from anxiety, depression and food scarcity, and they are relying more on credit cards, family and friends, and payday loans to cover their expenses, researchers found.
The prevalence of job losses and nonconventional forms of payment suggest the importance of direct income assistance to renter households, researchers said, noting that tenants collecting unemployment insurance were 39% less likely to miss rent payments.
“One of the main concerns among landlords at the beginning of the pandemic was that tenants weren’t going to pay their rent if they knew they weren’t going to be evicted,” said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center. “Not only have we not seen any evidence of this, but getting money in renters’ hands through unemployment insurance or rental assistance helps a lot.”
California’s moratorium on evictions is scheduled to end Sept. 1, but lawmakers are considering a bill that would extend certain protections through Jan. 31, 2021.
Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy for UCLA, said the research shows that helping renters now “will not only stave off looming evictions next month but also prevent cumulative money problems that are no less serious, such as renters struggling to pay back credit card debt, struggling to manage a repayment plan or emerging from the pandemic with little savings left.”
To read the full report, go to www.lewis.ucla.edu/research/covid19-and-renter-distress/.