For nearly two years, Portland’s property managers have struggled with the financial strain of COVID-19 with little government aid. While landlords have worked hard to help their tenants make ends meet through programs like the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP), the slow pace of financial aid has stretched owners thin. The program promised to pay landlords for 100 percent of their tenants’ missed rent up to a total of $150 million. That’s an increase from the 80 percent promised during the early days of the fund. But as of the latest accounting in August, over half of that money had yet to reach landlords. With the snail’s pace of aid, many landlords are facing hard financial choices in the upcoming months.
COVID-19 Impacted Renters and Landlords Alike
The pandemic hit the economy hard, especially for those working in service or hospitality industries. Businesses that were booming one week ground to a standstill when lockdown began. People who relied on that income to continue making rent suddenly found themselves with no income and no guarantee of when they’d be able to work. An astonishing 15 percent of American adults say they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Even worse, over half of that number remained unemployed six months after the pandemic began.
Landlords have also felt the pandemic’s hardships. While extensive polls and research show the effects of the pandemic on renters, the impact on landlords–especially small mom and pop landlords–has not drawn as much attention. Rent collection dropped dramatically during the pandemic. Data shows the share of landlords who collected 90 percent or more of their rental revenue falling by 27 percent from 2019 to 2020. Mom and pop landlords experienced the worst of these pandemic financial difficulties, with many owners of less than ten properties seeing their rental revenue drop by 50 percent.
The Landlord Compensation Fund: Expectations Vs. Reality
The Landlord Compensation Fund initially seemed to be the first hopeful news landlords had received in some time. While lawmakers rushed to help protect vulnerable renters from eviction during a health crisis, landlords were left out in the legislative cold. For nine months after the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon landlords could only wait and hope that lawmakers would help them shoulder the financial burden of unpaid rent. When legislators finally announced the Landlord Compensation Fund, it seemed like the assistance many local landlords had hoped for.
But despite the fund’s obvious necessity, the reality has fallen short. From the beginning, many landlords experienced difficulties when trying to submit their applications. Bugs and glitches plagued the submission portal, making it impossible to attach the necessary paperwork. In response, Oregon Housing & Community Services paid over $350,000 to develop a software application to facilitate applications and disperse funds. Despite the high price tag, this software also suffered many setbacks and glitches. Technological issues delayed the program’s third application round, which has forced landlords to wait even longer for aid.
The halting progress of relief efforts have frustrated landlords and tenants alike. Despite the legislature allocating $150 million for the Landlord Compensation Fund, very little of that money has actually reached owners. Many landlords report that they have not received the money owed even after the program accepted their tenants’ applications.
Time Is Running Out
At the moment, Oregon renters must pay back their past-due rent by February 2022. However, many tenants face similar issues when it comes to collecting their own rental assistance money. While OERAP has promised to pay back qualifying tenants’ missed rent as far back as March of 2020, many tenants haven’t received money they applied for months ago. As of October 4, Oregon Housing and Community Services announced it could take another ten to thirteen weeks to catch up on the application backlog. The state estimates that 11,900 households could face eviction for nonpayment of rent without access to those funds. Of the people who have applied for rental assistance, 3,700 have been waiting more than 120 days.
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek suggested that a special legislative session is in order to extend the period for tenants to pay back their missed rent. However, given the number of times legislators have already stretched that timeframe, many Oregon lawmakers are beginning to balk. It remains unclear whether legislators will allot time past February for tenants to pay back their rent.
Landlords Need Support Now More Than Ever
It’s been a long road for landlords seeking aid during the pandemic, and the end is not yet in sight. Even with a balanced budget, coping with the loss of rental revenue that COVID-19 has brought on has been difficult. On top of that, times of financial hardship and stress can cause a rental to suffer across the board. It’s harder to stay on top of routine maintenance and nonessential repairs when you have a dozen other troubles on your mind. And of course, putting off maintenance and repairs can quickly lead to even more problems on your to-do list. The expenses rapidly add up to a whole new headache.
Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew deeply values Portland’s small landlords. We believe that local mom-and-pop landlords are the beating heart of Portland’s rental community, and we’re here to assist those owners in the face of today’s unprecedented challenges. We help Portland property owners turn their homes into rentals, supplying quality housing options in a time when they’re especially vital.
Our maintenance and contractor team will quickly take care of any issues that arise at your property without you needing to find room in your busy schedule to address them yourself. With our professional budgeting services, you can be sure that your rental has a solid financial plan for the future. At the end of the day, we firmly believe in creating the best rentals for our tenants and the best renting experience for our owners. Quality communication is part of what makes our business stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to hear more, call or text us any time at (503) 515-3170 or contact us through our website’s contact form.