Apartment rent payments continued to decline in December. As of December 10, rent collections were down 24% from March collections, according to research from Rentec Direct, which aggregates rent collection data to analyze the impact of the pandemic.

Rent payments continue to trend well below March collections; however, payments have improved since September 2020, when collections were 35% below March and a record low for the pandemic. In October collections were down 28%, and in November, payments were 27% below March.

Whether or not payments will continue to improve in December is still in question. Rents payments are already down 24% in the first 10 days of the month, generally a good indicator of payment activity. However, the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country and the absence of a new a stimulus plan has put more pressure on renters to make payments.

National Multifamily Housing Council found that rents fell 8% in the first six days of December over the previous month with renters making 75.4% of rent payments—similar to the data from Rentec Direct. The NMHC data found the decrease concerning, but also said that the first six days of the month weren’t necessarily an indicator of total collections for the month.

While renters are struggling to make rent payments, they are utilizing online payment tools more frequently. Online payments surged 8.1% in December, according to the Rentec Direct report, and online rent payment options dramatically increase collections for landlords. In November, online payments increased 1.8% compared to March and in October, payments made online were up 4.3%. Online payment activity has increased consistently since September.

Landlords and property managers are showing increased interest in the online rent payment tools as a result of the pandemic. In November, rent payment applications increased 4.1% over February 2020. This is down from the pandemic peak in August, but interest in online payments has grown throughout the pandemic.