Survey: 9,000 households in Hawaii are 2 months behind in rent or more

HNN File
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 11:47 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new survey indicates more than 9,000 households in the islands are two months or more behind in rent ― and thousands more are 30 days late.

The findings, from a survey of 271 landlords and property managers statewide, underscore the economic toll the pandemic has taken on Hawaii renters. It also shows that many households that have experienced at least one job loss are doing without in other areas to pay their rent on time.

[The state has set aside millions for rent relief. Here’s how to apply for it.]

The poll from the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii was conducted in August and is meant to be a rough but broadly representative picture of the rental situation statewide.

It found that 85% of tenants were caught up on rent, down from 95% before the pandemic.

Five percent of renters had a 60-day delinquency or more, up from 2% previously.

UHERO said perhaps most concerning of all is the “invisible" struggle of many renters in the islands, who have shouldered job losses and are struggling to make ends meet but still paying rent on time.

[Read more: With no job prospects on the horizon, some are moving to the mainland]

“Landlords and property managers can’t know everything about what their tenants are going through, but their assessment of their tenant’s financial situation is sobering,” UHERO said.

“Our respondents estimate that 60% of their tenants have suffered a financial hardship, although two thirds of those tenants are still current on their rent.”

Many of those surveyed expressed a willingness to work with tenants on meeting rental obligations, including by setting up a payment plan or lowering or discounting rent.

Meanwhile, the survey authors highlighted another concerning trend: A rise in the rental vacancy rate from 4% before the pandemic to 9% now. They said the explanation for the increase was “multifaceted” but included unplanned turnover as people moved in with friends and family or left the state entirely.

UHERO said half of the families who left their units planned to move to the mainland.

The organization has raised red flags about the prospect of residents picking up and leaving the state to search for better opportunities elsewhere.

Carl Bonham, director of UHERO, said over the summer that Hawaii’s population could drop by 30,000 by 2022 in the absence of dramatic efforts to get people back to work.

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