In the last eviction moratorium, some U.S. landlords couldn’t evict non-paying tenants for over two years.
That is all but legalized theft. It’s like someone renting a car from Hertz without a credit card, then driving off on a two-year joy ride without paying.
First, the CARES Act placed a partial moratorium on evictions across the country. Then the CDC declared a nationwide eviction moratorium after it expired, initially scheduled to end 12/31/20, then later extended no fewer than five times. On the final extension, the Supreme Court ruled the extension unconstitutional on 8/26/21. That opened the door for landlords to enforce their leases once again — 18 months after the initial CARES Act ban on evictions.
However many states and cities implemented their own stringent eviction bans, barring landlords from starting the eviction process.
Those wound down over the course of 2022. But it left many real estate investors wondering: How can I protect myself from eviction moratoriums ever happening again?
The Precedent: Nationwide Moratorium on Evictions
The original CARES Act eviction moratorium expired in late July 2020, only to be replaced by a far more comprehensive eviction ban by the CDC. It blocked landlords from filing for eviction against most US tenants, and was extended five times before the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional on August 26, 2021.
Sure, the “American Rescue Plan” and other federal initiatives included $47 billion in additional funding for emergency rent relief programs. But they rolled out slowly and with much confusion.
The federal moratorium made lease agreements effectively one-way legal contracts. Landlords had to continue providing their service, but tenants could break their obligations with no enforcement mechanism in place for landlords. That left many landlords pinched with no rental income but lenders still demanding mortgage payments, local governments still demanding property taxes, properties still requiring maintenance, and insurance companies still sending bills.
While landlords could not file for eviction, tenants were still technically obligated to pay their rents, and after the eviction moratoriums expired, back rent was still due. That left many housing experts prophesying an eviction crisis in 2021, but it simply didn’t happen.
Now that the precedent is set, it’s only a matter of time until the government does it again when it’s politically expedient. After all, renters make up over a third of the voting population, while there are very few landlords out there. Which says nothing of how politically reviled landlords are. That leaves landlords at the mercy of politicians to be able to collect income on their investments.
8 Ways to Protect Against Future Eviction Moratoriums
Don’t like the idea of the government waving a wand and making your investment income disappear like a bad magic trick?
But I still like real estate as an investment. It pays higher long-term average returns than stocks, creates ongoing passive income streams, and generates appreciation over time. And that says nothing of the fantastic tax deductions for investment properties, along with write-offs like property depreciation.
That leaves you with a challenge to overcome: finding ways to take advantage of the perks of real estate investing without the added risk of an eviction moratorium.
Fortunately, you have plenty of options.
1. Invest in Non-Residential Real Estate
No one says you have to invest in residential properties subject to future eviction moratoriums.
Consider the following alternatives to residential real estate as an investor.
Deni and I have invested in land and found it a fun business model. And it doesn’t hurt that you can buy parcels for as little as $100.
It works like this: you reach out to motivated sellers to pick up properties inexpensively, perhaps those in tax sale. You take ownership with a simple deed, then turn around and list the land for sale at retail pricing on land marketplace websites and Facebook groups.
Pretty simple, right? No tenants, no toilets, no termites. No renovations or repairs.
If you like, you can offer owner financing for buyers, and collect some interest on top of your sale profit. You can even structure it as an installment contract, so you don’t have to foreclose if they default. You simply reclaim possession and list it for sale all over again, and pocket any money they paid you to date.
Win, win, win.
Self-storage is the ultimate recession-proof investment.
When the economy turns south, people downsize. Which leaves them with more stuff than can fit in their new homes and offices. Enter: self-storage.
You could go out and buy an entire self-storage facility, of course. Or you could just invest in fractional ownership of a self-storage real estate syndication.
And real estate syndications open up a whole new world of passive investments.
Office & Industrial Real Estate
Commercial landlords don’t have to worry about eviction moratoriums.
You could invest in office buildings, industrial properties, retail space, or any other type of commercial real estate. As with self-storage investing, you don’t have to buy an entire commercial property by yourself — you can buy into a real estate syndication.
We even occasionally invest in commercial syndication projects in our real estate investment club. But for the most part, we focus on multifamily real estate.
Multifamily Properties & Mobile Home Parks
It’s not cheap to buy an entire apartment complex on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
By investing passively in real estate syndications, you simply write a check (or send a wire, in today’s world). You become a fractional owner of the property, entitled to rental income, tax benefits, and a share of the profits when the property sells. All without lifting a finger or becoming a landlord.
It’s precisely how we invest every month in our real estate investment club.
“But Brian, apartment buildings and mobile home parks were still subject to the eviction moratorium!”
Yes, they were. But when you can invest smaller amounts of money into larger properties with professional property management, you reduce your exposure and risk. Plus, you can cherry-pick properties with lower rent default risk than others.
Real estate investments? Awesome. Being a landlord? Less fun.
Learn how to earn 15-30% on passive real estate investments in one free class.
2. Invest in Higher-End Properties
The higher up the socioeconomic ladder, the rarer the rent defaults during the eviction moratorium. Better-off renters simply didn’t default on their rents at the same rate as the lowest earners.
That meant that Class A and B properties saw far fewer rent defaults than Class C and D properties. Owners of higher-end properties took fewer losses on unpaid rents.
“Brian, aren’t you generalizing?”
Sure — how else should we assess trends among millions upon millions of renters? Now stop interrupting me.
One of the many reasons higher-income renters didn’t default at the same rates as low-income renters is credit history. High earners know the value of strong credit history, and they fiercely protect their credit scores.
Which brings us to the next way to protect against future eviction moratoriums.
3. Report Rent to the Credit Bureaus
Even if landlords couldn’t enforce their lease agreements through eviction during the moratorium, they could still report the rents as late to the credit bureaus. And, of course, the eventual eviction appears on the tenant’s credit report once the courts allow evictions again.
Reporting rent to the credit bureaus works as both a carrot and a stick. You reward responsible renters by helping them improve their credit, which will one day help them buy their own home. But it also penalizes tenants who stop paying their rent but keep using your rental property.
Use a rent collection service that reports rent payments to the credit bureaus, and watch more rents than ever roll in on time.
4. Buy Rent Default Insurance
Did you know that you can insure your tenant’s on-time rent payments?
For a few hundred dollars a year, you can buy an insurance policy that kicks in and pays the rent for them if they default. The insurance company pays you rent until you evict the tenant and replace them with one who, you know, actually pays their bills.
5. Rent to Government-Subsidized Tenants
“Wait, what? Didn’t you just tell me to rent to high-income renters?”
Higher-end renters are one option to protect against eviction moratoriums. But they’re not the only option.
The government — or rather, taxpayers like you and me — pay some tenants’ rents for them. And while the government does plenty of things wrong, you can rely on it to pay its bills.
Programs like Section 8 can pay up to 100% of tenants’ rents. Of course, Section 8 tenants can come with their own headaches, such as abusing your property more than market renters. And that says nothing of the annual inspections that Section 8 requires.
Still, if you can find tenants who don’t pay any of their own rent, and get a 100% rent benefit, you don’t have to worry about rent defaults. Even in an eviction moratorium.
6. Collect Higher Security Deposits & Last Month’s Rent
The more money you collect from renters up front, the less likely they are to default on rent or trash your property. They have more skin in the game, more to lose.
Most states put a cap on how much landlords can collect for a security deposit, usually in the vicinity of two months’ rent. Make sure you don’t breach your state’s laws in asking for too high of a security deposit.
Higher security deposits also help weed out rental applications from people living hand-to-mouth. That said, you may need to offer some other perk to attract applicants if the rental market is cool. If you ask for two months’ security deposit plus last month’s rent up front, but other properties in your market just ask for one month’s rent, it’ll be harder to attract rental applications.
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7. Rent Properties Short-Term on Airbnb
If you like the idea of owning residential real estate, but never want to worry about rent defaults, you can always rent properties short-term on Airbnb.
In many cases, they cash flow better as short-term rentals, making it a no-brainer even if you aren’t worried about future eviction moratoriums. Check out Mashvisor’s comparison tool to see how any given property would cash flow as a short- or long-term rental.
Granted, some cities don’t allow landlords to list properties on Airbnb. Know your own market and laws!
Also beware that short-term rentals require more labor than long-term leases. You run a hospitality business as an Airbnb host. But you can always outsource that labor to a property manager if you wish.
8. Offer Your Property as an Extended Stay
Some landlords find that the “Goldilocks zone” for rental properties is medium-term rentals, also called extended stays.
Instead of renting to a tenant for a year, or to a vacation guest for a few nights or weeks at a time, you rent a furnished unit for a few months. Examples of extended stay renters include travel nurses, homeowners displaced by a fire or insurance claim, and traveling businesspeople.
The rents are typically 20-40% higher than long-term tenancy rents, and generally the employer or insurance company pays their rent. Read: no risk of rent defaults.
You do have to furnish the property just like an Airbnb, but you don’t have the same constant turnovers or wear and tear. Landlords in this real estate investing niche swear by it.
I don’t know if the next eviction moratorium will come next year, next decade, or next century. But now that the precedent has been set, it will almost certainly happen again when it becomes politically expedient.
That means you don’t want 100% of your portfolio to be single-family long-term rental properties. If you rely entirely on rental income to reach financial independence and early retirement, you could find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
As always, focus on diversifying your portfolio as much as possible. That includes both stocks and real estate, of course, but within each one of those broad buckets you also want to diversify. Hold U.S. and international stocks; small cap, mid cap, and large cap stocks; stocks from every industry. Invest in real estate in many cities, across many property types, serving different income levels.
You don’t know where the next crash or shock will come from. But you do know it will come, and diversification protects you from any one type of asset collapsing.♦
How worried are you about future eviction moratoriums as a real estate investor? How do you plan to protect yourself and your real estate investments against the possibility?