One-third of Americans expected to miss August rent

Renters were most uncertain about making the August payment in the South

Millions of Americans who live in a rental home or apartment are expected to miss their rent in August, the first month since the coronavirus pandemic began that there's no federal freeze on evictions in place.

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About 34% of renters, or roughly 23.7 million Americans, have little to no confidence that they'll be able to pay their August rent, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Renters were most uncertain in the South, with 39% of renters in Texas worried they would not be able to make their August payment. In Oklahoma, about 43% said they were not confident in their ability to pay the rent. The percentage was also high in New York, where 39% thought they may miss the payment.

At least 32% of households still owed money at the beginning of August for rent or mortgage payments from previous months, according to a separate study by Apartment List, an online rental platform. More than 20% owe more than $1,000.

"Missed housing payments are continuing to pile up," the study said. "For the fourth straight month, we found that roughly one-in-three Americans failed to make their full rent or mortgage payment in the first week of the month."

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At the end of July, an eviction moratorium in the CARES Act that protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally backed properties expired, just as the supplemental $600 a week in unemployment aid for out-of-work Americans lapsed.

There are some 110 million Americans living in rental households; up to 23 million renters -- or 20% -- are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

The government extended the protections for single-family properties backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac until Aug. 31 (it had initially been set to expire at the end of June). In 2019, roughly 43% of new mortgages were federally backed.

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Rent and mortgage payments are typically the largest monthly expense for Americans: One in four tenant families pays more than half of its income for rent, a rate that’s even higher in cities like San Francisco and New York, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

For tenants living in privately backed properties, the eviction bans vary by state. You can check the status here.

On Saturday, seeking to bypass Congress as negotiators remained deadlocked over another round of virus aid, President Trump signed four executive orders, including calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed.

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It also directs Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to identify federal funds that could provide temporary financial aid to renters and homeowners who are struggling to make their payments.

Although White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said during an interview with CNN that the executive order would stop evictions -- "all the federally financed, single families and multifamilies will be covered as they have been," he said -- critics questioned whether it went far enough.

"While it has the illusion of saying, ‘We’re going to have a moratorium on evictions,’ it says ‘I’m gonna ask the folks in charge to study if that’s feasible,'" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

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