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Unpaid Rent Remains a COVID Challenge

Casey Harlow / HPR

Two surveys of commercial and residential real estate show how much unpaid rent has accumulated through the Covid economy.


Both the Hawaii Commercial Rent Survey and The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization’s survey of residential landlords show landlords left in the lurch.

The commercial survey concentrated on the fourth quarter of 2020, finding $57 million in unpaid rent per month across all industries. This was a slight improvement over the third quarter.

Retail and restaurants remain the hardest hit by Covid closures, responsible for close to half of the unpaid rent.

And we haven’t seen the end of this. According to the survey organizer, Ryan Tanaka, president of Island Business Management, half of the respondents expect to miss at least one rent payment between now and June. Four in 10 businesses expect to miss three to six months of rent payments.

UHERO’s residential rental survey, conducted in November, found that nearly 16% of tenants were late with their rent by the middle of the month, with about 3% more than 30 days late and just over 4% more than 60 days late. This was similar to findings of an earlier survey during the pandemic, suggesting rent relief has not made a sizable dent. The vacancy rate has doubled to nearly 6%. Since there is a mortarium on evictions, this is due to renters moving in with family or friends on their own accord rather than accumulate months of rent payments.

Landlords are doing what they can, with more than 80% of respondents describing some combination of rent reduction or forgiveness that they’ve extended to help their tenants get by.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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