How Are Landlords Faring During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Evidence from a National Cross-Site Survey

Elijah de la Campa, Vincent J. Reina, Chris Herbert

This working paper, produced as part of the Housing Crisis Research Collaborative, describes the results of a survey of landlords in ten cities across the US, conducted by researchers from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, and the Housing Initiative at Penn. From February to April 2021, the authors asked rental property owners to assess the financial health of their pre- and post-COVID rental business. They also asked landlords about the tools they have relied on to manage their rental properties during these two time periods.

Over 2,500 landlords shared information about their rental property portfolios, as well as about individual rental properties in their portfolio. The results show that early rent collection was down significantly in 2020 relative to 2019; that owners of all sizes adjusted their practices during the pandemic, including granting rent extensions; that many owners deferred property maintenance; and that households of color—which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in other domains—have been more likely to face punitive action from landlords, suggesting the pandemic has only exacerbated existing racial inequality in housing markets.