By Catherine Reagor| May 08th, 2020
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Despite talk of rent strikes across the U.S. due the COVID-19 crisis, the number of tenants who paid at least part of their monthly rents at the beginning of May climbed.

About 86.2% of Phoenix-area renters paid their landlords this month. That compares with 80% in April, according to new data from the National Multifamily Housing Council and apartment research firm RealPage.

Rent relief programs and higher unemployment benefits due the CARES Act could be helping more renters.

The increase in rent payments comes as more than 500,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits during the health and economic crisis in Arizona.

“Despite the fact that over twenty million people lost their jobs in April, we are seeing evidence that apartment renters who can pay rent are doing so,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC president in a statement.

About 89% of Valley renters made their payments during May 2019.

None of the data for rent payments includes student housing and lower-income properties.

No big rent strike

Housing advocates were concerned about a national movement for a rent strike in May because most of the current Arizona eviction protections run out in late July.

Renters who don’t pay will then still owe unpaid rent and face possible eviction.

“Once the protections of the CARES Act and the governor's order are over, unless tenants have made arrangements with the landlord in writing to pay back any rent owed, landlords will be able to evict tenants for unpaid rent," said Pamela Bridge, director of Advocacy and Litigation at Phoenix-based Community Legal Services. 

Evictions fall

Metro Phoenix evictions fell 66% in April, due to state and federal restrictions and financial help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Doug Ducey issued a March executive order to delay evictions for people either quarantined or facing economic hardships due to COVID-19. It expires on July 22.

More than 11,000 people have applied for rent help from a $5 million state fund launched in late March, according to the Arizona Department of Housing.

Another 19,000 applications to receive financial aid have been started but not submitted. The money goes directly to landlords. Renters can apply at the housing department’s website.

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association, said Arizona property owners are working with renters during the pandemic.

“Please, if you’re experiencing difficulty paying rent, talk to the property owner and use the resources available through government and other agencies,” she said.

The national apartment group is lobbying for $100 billion to renter assistance to be in the next federal relief package.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8040. Follow her on Twitter @Catherinereagor.

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