Evictions across the United States are exploding, as government protections expire and tenants are struggling to deal with surging inflation.
For most of 2022, inflation in the U.S. has been at a 40-year high. As of August, 20 million households across the country have fallen behind on their utility bills, which represents one out of every six U.S. households. In total, these families owe roughly $16 billion in energy costs, which is double what families owed at the end of 2019, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.
By the beginning of September, year-over-year inflation showed a massive increase, with gasoline up 25.6 percent, natural gas up 33 percent, electricity up 15.8 percent, eggs up 39.8 percent and the overall food index climbing 11.4 percent.
Increasingly, Americans are faced with the grim prospect of choosing between which bills to pay. For some, that means deciding between paying their rent or covering other expenses, like food or electricity.
Mary Kline is the co-owner of Arizona Elite Properties, a Phoenix-based property management company. Her company handles the management and sale of homes across the entire state.
She told Timcast that her company has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of tenants who are requesting rental assistance because they are unable to make their payment amid high inflation and other costs like medical bills.
“What I’m doing is promissory notes with [tenants], so they pay me their rent during the course of the month,” Kline said in an interview.
“They don’t have the money at the beginning of the month. So what we do is we try to spread it out, so that every pay period they come in with some,” she explained. “It seems to be working out.”
While Kline is opting to provide assistance for tenants in the properties owned by her company, she acknowledged the national crisis and thousands of other individuals across the country who aren’t as lucky.
National Eviction Crisis
Since March 2020, there have been more than 1.1 million evictions in six states tracked by Eviction Lab, a nationwide eviction database.
Data provided by Eviction Lab shows an uptick in renters who are being ousted from their homes across the U.S.
New York City has the most evictions in the country, with 1,329 filings for the week ending Sept 11, 2022. For comparison, the same time period last year, the city only had 224 evictions filed.
The increase is partially attributable to the expiration of government measures that aim to prevent landlords from taking tenants to court during the pandemic.
In addition to federal legislation to prevent evictions in 2020, New York implemented eviction moratoriums, which allowed tenants to avoid court cases by declaring COVID hardships.
However, in August 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the eviction moratorium, allowing landlords to begin the process of removing tenants unable or unwilling to pay rent.
Even with the moratoriums in place, New York has had 152,498 eviction filings since March 2020.
Over the last 18 months, the cities with the highest numbers of evictions are:
- Houston, TX – 115,0404
- Phoenix, AZ – 108,319
- Las Vegas, NV – 82,953
- Dallas, TX – 63,887
- Ft. Worth, TX – 60,222
- Indianapolis, IN – 45,944
- Memphis, TN – 41,805
- Columbus, OH – 38,169
- Tampa, FL – 33,738
Graphical data from multiple cities and states across the country show a hike in eviction moratoriums over the past year.
The Crisis is Affecting Landlords, Not Just Tenants
“You see it from both sides. You see it from the landlord side, and you see it from the tenant side,” Brent Daniels, Franchise Owner of property management company Joe Homebuyer, told Timcast in an interview. “If the tenants don’t have the opportunity to pay for their rent, because everything else is costing so much, and they have to feed their families and they have to pay their electricity bills and utilities, they think that, ‘Well, the last thing that I need to pay is the rent and I can push that out, or I can work out some payments with the investor,’ and if anything unfortunate happens — like they lose their job or they just don’t have enough at the end of the month — then that’s usually the one that gets pushed back is the rent.”
Daniels says that the crisis is having an impact on landlords, who often feel stressed because they are forced to dip into their savings when tenants are unable to make their rent payment.
“Most landlords have a mortgage payment for their properties,” he said. “So if the tenant isn’t paying it, they have to pay that payment whether or not they’re getting rent coming in.”
At the end of 2020, reports showed landlords were struggling with an estimated 9.2 million renters who lost income during the pandemic and were behind on rent.
In June 2021, more than six million renters were still behind, with one landlord being owed $7,000 from his tenants, at the time.
What Can Struggling Tenants Do?
One of the best things a tenant who is struggling with their rent payments can do is keep an open line of communication with their landlord, according to Daniels. He says that many landlords will be open to modifying the terms of the rental agreement to avoid the eviction process.
“Over-communicate with the landlord,” he says.
“Don’t just not tell them what’s going on and then not pay what you’re obligated to pay, based on your lease agreement.,” he explained. “I think most landlords will work with people. They don’t want to go through the process of having to get the property cleaned up, and vacant, and re-rented.
Daniels added that many are willing to provide assistance, because the longer a tenant is in the property taking care of it, the better.
Struggling renters may also reach out to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for additional information and assistance.