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Section 1: 10-K (10-K)

eqr-10k_20191231.htm
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Table of Contents

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2019

OR

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from              to             

Commission File Number: 1-12252 (Equity Residential)

Commission File Number: 0-24920 (ERP Operating Limited Partnership)

 

EQUITY RESIDENTIAL

ERP OPERATING LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Maryland (Equity Residential)

13-3675988 (Equity Residential)

Illinois (ERP Operating Limited Partnership)

36-3894853 (ERP Operating Limited Partnership)

(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 

 

Two North Riverside Plaza, Chicago, Illinois 60606

(312) 474-1300

(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Trading Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Shares of Beneficial Interest,
$0.01 Par Value (Equity Residential)

 

EQR

 

New York Stock Exchange

7.57% Notes due August 15, 2026
(ERP Operating Limited Partnership)

 

N/A

 

New York Stock Exchange

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

 

None (Equity Residential)

Units of Limited Partnership Interest (ERP Operating Limited Partnership)

(Title of each class)

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

 

Equity Residential  Yes   No

ERP Operating Limited Partnership  Yes   No

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.

 

Equity Residential  Yes   No

ERP Operating Limited Partnership  Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

 

Equity Residential  Yes   No

ERP Operating Limited Partnership  Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).

 

Equity Residential  Yes   No

ERP Operating Limited Partnership  Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Equity Residential:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

 

ERP Operating Limited Partnership:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Equity Residential   ERP Operating Limited Partnership  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).

 

Equity Residential  Yes   No

ERP Operating Limited Partnership  Yes   No

The aggregate market value of Common Shares held by non-affiliates of the Registrant was approximately $27.9 billion based upon the closing price on June 30, 2019 of $75.92 using beneficial ownership of shares rules adopted pursuant to Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to exclude voting shares owned by Trustees and Executive Officers, some of whom may not be held to be affiliates upon judicial determination.

The number of Common Shares of Beneficial Interest, $0.01 par value, outstanding on February 14, 2020 was 371,978,449.

 

 


Table of Contents

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Part III incorporates by reference certain information that will be contained in Equity Residential’s Proxy Statement relating to its 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which Equity Residential intends to file no later than 120 days after the end of its fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, and thus these items have been omitted in accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K.  Equity Residential is the general partner and 96.4% owner of ERP Operating Limited Partnership.

 

 

 

2


Table of Contents

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE

This report combines the annual reports on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019 of Equity Residential and ERP Operating Limited Partnership.  Unless stated otherwise or the context otherwise requires, references to “EQR” mean Equity Residential, a Maryland real estate investment trust (“REIT”), and references to “ERPOP” mean ERP Operating Limited Partnership, an Illinois limited partnership.  References to the “Company,” “we,” “us” or “our” mean collectively EQR, ERPOP and those entities/subsidiaries owned or controlled by EQR and/or ERPOP.  References to the “Operating Partnership” mean collectively ERPOP and those entities/subsidiaries owned or controlled by ERPOP.  The following chart illustrates the Company’s and the Operating Partnership’s corporate structure:

 

EQR is the general partner of, and as of December 31, 2019 owned an approximate 96.4% ownership interest in, ERPOP.  The remaining 3.6% interest is owned by limited partners.  As the sole general partner of ERPOP, EQR has exclusive control of ERPOP’s day-to-day management.  Management operates the Company and the Operating Partnership as one business.  The management of EQR consists of the same members as the management of ERPOP.

The Company is structured as an umbrella partnership REIT (“UPREIT”) and EQR contributes all net proceeds from its various equity offerings to ERPOP.  In return for those contributions, EQR receives a number of OP Units (see definition below) in ERPOP equal to the number of Common Shares it has issued in the equity offering.  The Company may acquire properties in transactions that include the issuance of OP Units as consideration for the acquired properties.  Such transactions may, in certain circumstances, enable the sellers to defer in whole or in part, the recognition of taxable income or gain that might otherwise result from the sales.  This is one of the reasons why the Company is structured in the manner shown above.  Based on the terms of ERPOP’s partnership agreement, OP Units can be exchanged with Common Shares on a one-for-one basis because the Company maintains a one-for-one relationship between the OP Units of ERPOP issued to EQR and the outstanding Common Shares.

The Company believes that combining the reports on Form 10-K of EQR and ERPOP into this single report provides the following benefits:

 

enhances investors’ understanding of the Company and the Operating Partnership by enabling investors to view the business as a whole in the same manner as management views and operates the business;

 

eliminates duplicative disclosure and provides a more streamlined and readable presentation since a substantial portion of the disclosure applies to both the Company and the Operating Partnership; and

 

creates time and cost efficiencies through the preparation of one combined report instead of two separate reports.

3


Table of Contents

 

The Company believes it is important to understand the few differences between EQR and ERPOP in the context of how EQR and ERPOP operate as a consolidated company.  All of the Company’s property ownership, development and related business operations are conducted through the Operating Partnership and EQR has no material assets or liabilities other than its investment in ERPOP.  EQR’s primary function is acting as the general partner of ERPOP.  EQR also issues equity from time to time, the net proceeds of which it is obligated to contribute to ERPOP.  EQR does not have any indebtedness as all debt is incurred by the Operating Partnership.  The Operating Partnership holds substantially all of the assets of the Company, including the Company’s ownership interests in its joint ventures.  The Operating Partnership conducts the operations of the business and is structured as a partnership with no publicly traded equity.  Except for the net proceeds from equity offerings by EQR (which are contributed to the capital of ERPOP in exchange for additional partnership interests in ERPOP (“OP Units”) (on a one-for-one Common Share per OP Unit basis) or additional preference units in ERPOP (on a one-for-one preferred share per preference unit basis)), the Operating Partnership generates all remaining capital required by the Company’s business.  These sources include the Operating Partnership’s working capital, net cash provided by operating activities, borrowings under its revolving credit facility and/or commercial paper program, the issuance of secured and unsecured debt and partnership interests, and proceeds received from disposition of certain properties and joint venture interests.

Shareholders’ equity, partners’ capital and noncontrolling interests are the main areas of difference between the consolidated financial statements of the Company and those of the Operating Partnership.  The limited partners of the Operating Partnership are accounted for as partners’ capital in the Operating Partnership’s financial statements and as noncontrolling interests in the Company’s financial statements.  The noncontrolling interests in the Operating Partnership’s financial statements include the interests of unaffiliated partners in various consolidated partnerships.  The noncontrolling interests in the Company’s financial statements include the same noncontrolling interests at the Operating Partnership level and limited partner OP Unit holders of the Operating Partnership.  The differences between shareholders’ equity and partners’ capital result from differences in the equity issued at the Company and Operating Partnership levels.

To help investors understand the differences between the Company and the Operating Partnership, this report provides separate consolidated financial statements for the Company and the Operating Partnership; a single set of consolidated notes to such financial statements that includes separate discussions of each entity’s debt, noncontrolling interests and shareholders’ equity or partners’ capital, as applicable; and a combined Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations section that includes discrete information related to each entity.

This report also includes separate Part II, Item 9A, Controls and Procedures, sections and separate Exhibits 31 and 32 certifications for each of the Company and the Operating Partnership in order to establish that the requisite certifications have been made and that the Company and the Operating Partnership are compliant with Rule 13a-15 or Rule 15d-15 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and 18 U.S.C. §1350.

 

In order to highlight the differences between the Company and the Operating Partnership, the separate sections in this report for the Company and the Operating Partnership specifically refer to the Company and the Operating Partnership.  In the sections that combine disclosure of the Company and the Operating Partnership, this report refers to actions or holdings as being actions or holdings of the Company.  Although the Operating Partnership is generally the entity that directly or indirectly enters into contracts and joint ventures and holds assets and debt, reference to the Company is appropriate because the Company is one business and the Company operates that business through the Operating Partnership.

 

As general partner with control of ERPOP, EQR consolidates ERPOP for financial reporting purposes, and EQR essentially has no assets or liabilities other than its investment in ERPOP.  Therefore, the assets and liabilities of the Company and the Operating Partnership are the same on their respective financial statements.  The separate discussions of the Company and the Operating Partnership in this report should be read in conjunction with each other to understand the results of the Company on a consolidated basis and how management operates the Company.

 

 

 

4


Table of Contents

 

EQUITY RESIDENTIAL

ERP OPERATING LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

PAGE

PART I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

 

Business

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

Item 2.

 

Properties

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

Item 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

19

 

 

 

 

 

Item 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

19

 

 

 

 

 

PART II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

 

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

20

 

 

 

 

 

Item 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

Item 7.

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

23

 

 

 

 

 

Item 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

 

42

 

 

 

 

 

Item 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

43

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

43

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

43

 

 

 

 

 

Item 9B.

 

Other Information

 

44

 

 

 

 

 

PART III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

 

Trustees, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

45

 

 

 

 

 

Item 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

45

 

 

 

 

 

Item 12.

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

45

 

 

 

 

 

Item 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Trustee Independence

 

45

 

 

 

 

 

Item 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

45

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

 

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

46

 

 

 

 

 

Item 16.

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

46

 

 

 

 

 

EX-4.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-4.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-4.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-23.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-23.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-31.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-31.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-31.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX 31.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-32.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-32.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-32.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-32.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 INSTANCE DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 SCHEMA DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 CALCULATION LINKBASE DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 LABELS LINKBASE DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 PRESENTATION LINKBASE DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EX-101 DEFINITION LINKBASE DOCUMENT

 

 

 

 

 

5


Table of Contents

 

PART I

Item 1. Business

General

Equity Residential (“EQR”) is committed to creating communities where people thrive.  The Company, a member of the S&P 500, is focused on the acquisition, development and management of rental apartment properties located in urban and high-density suburban communities where today’s renters want to live, work and play.  ERP Operating Limited Partnership (“ERPOP”) is focused on conducting the multifamily property business of EQR.  EQR is a Maryland real estate investment trust (“REIT”) formed in March 1993 and ERPOP is an Illinois limited partnership formed in May 1993.  References to the “Company,” “we,” “us” or “our” mean collectively EQR, ERPOP and those entities/subsidiaries owned or controlled by EQR and/or ERPOP.  References to the “Operating Partnership” mean collectively ERPOP and those entities/subsidiaries owned or controlled by ERPOP.  Unless otherwise indicated, the notes to consolidated financial statements apply to both the Company and the Operating Partnership.

EQR is the general partner of, and as of December 31, 2019 owned an approximate 96.4% ownership interest in, ERPOP.  All of the Company’s property ownership, development and related business operations are conducted through the Operating Partnership and EQR has no material assets or liabilities other than its investment in ERPOP.  EQR issues equity from time to time, the net proceeds of which it is obligated to contribute to ERPOP, but does not have any indebtedness as all debt is incurred by the Operating Partnership.  The Operating Partnership holds substantially all of the assets of the Company, including the Company’s ownership interests in its joint ventures.  The Operating Partnership conducts the operations of the business and is structured as a partnership with no publicly traded equity.  

The Company’s corporate headquarters is located in Chicago, Illinois and the Company also operates regional property management offices in each of its markets.  As of December 31, 2019, the Company had approximately 2,700 employees who provided real estate operations, leasing, legal, financial, accounting, acquisition, disposition, development and other support functions.     

Certain capitalized terms used herein are defined in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.  See also Note 17 in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional discussion regarding the Company’s segment disclosures.

Available Information

You may access our Annual Report on Form 10-K, our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, our Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to any of those reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) free of charge on our website, www.equityapartments.com.  These reports are made available on our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file them with the SEC.  The information contained on our website, including any information referred to in this report as being available on our website, is not a part of or incorporated into this report.

Business Objectives and Operating and Investing Strategies

Overview

The Company is one of the largest U.S. publicly-traded owners of rental apartments with a portfolio of properties primarily located in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Southern California (including Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego) and Denver.  Continued high wage job and income growth, positive demographics and a consumer preference for a rental lifestyle in our highly desirable markets has created a supportive backdrop for our business.  Our markets continue to draw skilled knowledge workers that drive economic growth in the United States.  This, in turn, attracts employers to our markets seeking to locate and expand their businesses and employ this talented pool of workers, resulting in strong demand for our product.  

We believe we have created a best-in-class operating platform to run our properties.  Our employees are focused on delivering remarkable customer service to our residents so they will stay with us longer, be willing to pay higher rent for a great experience and will tell their friends about how much they love living in an Equity Residential property.  Increasingly, we are using technology to improve this resident experience and to operate our business more efficiently. Our disciplined balance sheet management enhances returns and value creation while maintaining capacity to take advantage of future opportunities.  We are committed to sustainability, diversity and inclusion, the total well-being of our employees and being a responsible corporate citizen in the communities in which we operate.  These “Equity Values” are deeply embedded in our culture.  We believe that our stakeholders value stability, liquidity, predictability and accountability and that is the mission to which we remain unwaveringly committed.

6


Table of Contents

 

Investment Strategy

The Company invests in apartment communities located in strategically targeted markets (primarily urban and high-density suburban locations) with the goal of maximizing our risk-adjusted total returns by balancing current cash flow generation with long-term capital appreciation.  We seek to meet this goal by investing in markets that are characterized by conditions favorable to multifamily property operations over the long-term.  These markets generally feature one or more of the following characteristics that allow us to drive performance:

 

High single family housing prices;

 

Strong economic growth as centers of the knowledge-based economy, leading to high wage job growth and household formation, which in turn leads to high demand for our apartments;

 

Highly walkable urban and high-density suburban areas in what we believe are some of the best locations in the public apartment REIT sector with an attractive quality of life, leading to high resident demand and retention;

 

Favorable demographics contributing to a larger pool of target residents with a high propensity or greater preference to rent apartments;

 

Higher barriers to entry where, because of land scarcity or government regulation, it is typically more difficult or costly to build new apartment properties, creating limits on new supply; and

 

Strong demand drivers.

We believe our strategy capitalizes on the increasing preference of renters of all ages to live in the urban core of cities or dense suburban locations near transit, entertainment and cultural amenities.  Currently demand for rental housing is driven primarily by household formations from the Millennial segment of our population, also known as the Echo Boom Generation, that now comprises the largest segment of the U.S. population.  These young adults, born between 1981 and 2000, currently total approximately 78 million people and are disproportionately renters.  We also expect this demographic to remain renters longer due to societal trends favoring delays in marriage and having children.  We believe we will continue to see demand from this group, as the largest sub-segment of this cohort is now turning 29 years old while the median age of our resident is 33 years old.  Following the Millenials is Generation Z, which comprises the more than 70 million people born between 2001 and 2014.  Reports also show a growing trend among aging Baby Boomers, a demographic of more than 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, toward apartment rentals.  We believe we are extremely well positioned to benefit for many years to come as a result of the significant impact these generations will have on rental housing.

Over the past several years, the Company has done an extensive repositioning of its portfolio into urban and highly walkable, close-in suburban assets.  While we continue to look for opportunities to expand our portfolio in these locations, we also have been exploring other markets that share these same characteristics, such as Denver.  These markets feature strong high wage job growth, high single family home prices and a very attractive lifestyle for our target demographic, which we believe will lead to long-term outperformance for a rental market.  

Operations and Innovation

We balance occupancy and rental rates to maximize our revenue while exercising tight cost control to generate the highest possible return to our shareholders.  Revenue is maximized through our customized pricing system that uses market data on current and projected demand and availability to create both current and forward pricing daily for each apartment unit we manage.  We believe our great success with renewal rate growth is due to our motivation to retain our residents with a relentless focus on customer service.  Highly satisfied residents stay longer and say great things about us.  We also use a standardized purchasing system to control our operating expenses and a business intelligence platform that allows all our team members to quickly identify and address issues and opportunities.

The technology driving the rental industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and we have long been a leader in deploying and investing in property technology to serve our customers better and operate more efficiently.  As a first mover in such important areas as revenue management, online leasing, centralized procurement and internet listing services, we are focused on technology that improves our operating margin and customer experience.  Currently, we are focused on areas such as self-guided tours enabled by technology; automated responses to customer inquiries; data analytics to drive expense savings and revenue improvements; and “smart home” technology.  We believe these areas will provide the foundation for current and future improvements to how we do business.

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Focus on Our Employees

The Company has a strong, rich culture with a commitment to our “Equity Values” of Diversity & Inclusion, “Total Well-Being” (which brings together physical, financial, career, social and community well-being into a cohesive whole), Sustainability and Social Responsibility.  We actively elevate and support these values when employees’ voices are heard and we embrace each other regardless of our differences; when we give back to our communities; when we care for and preserve our environment; and when we encourage and enable our employees and their families to thrive in all areas of well-being.  Our employee-led Equity Values Council leads our efforts on these values by acting as change agents to drive initiatives and create awareness.  We engage our stakeholders for feedback on key issues, and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors help guide our investment and operating strategy.  Additionally, executive compensation is based in part on meeting these important Equity Values goals, and our Board of Trustees takes an active role in overseeing these matters.

Our goal is to create and sustain an inclusive environment where diversity will thrive, employees will want to work and residents will want to live.  The Equity Values Council drives new, diversity-focused initiatives for recruitment, career development and education.  We actively promote from within, and many senior corporate and property leaders have risen from entry level or junior positions.  We survey our employees annually to identify strengths and opportunities in employee satisfaction.  We continue to maintain high engagement scores in these surveys and find our employees say they are proud to work at the Company, value one another as colleagues, believe in our mission and values and feel their skills meet their job requirements.  The Company was honored with a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award, recognizing the Company as one of the 100 Best Places to Work in 2019 among all United States large companies, was in the Top 50 on the overall list and was the highest rated real estate company in this survey.  Indeed also recognized the Company as a top-rated workplace in many of our markets.

Our Commitment to ESG

Our purpose is creating communities where people thrive.  This needs to be a sustainable endeavor, in which we provide properties that will stand the test of time and remain attractive to our customers and the community without negatively impacting the environment.  We have a dedicated in-house team that initiates and applies sustainable practices in all aspects of our business, including investment activities, development, property operations and property management activities.  Multifamily housing is one of the most environmentally-friendly uses of real estate, as each property provides homes for hundreds of families in a denser shared environment.  We invest in locations that are highly walkable and transit-friendly, enabling a low carbon footprint lifestyle for our residents to live, work and play.

Our sustainability goals help us focus efforts and track progress.  We are especially focusing on energy consumption, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  We invest in developing and renovating our properties, with a focus on reducing waste, energy and water use by investing in energy-saving technology, such as those for irrigation, lighting, HVAC and renewable energy, while positively impacting the experience of our residents and the value of our assets.  

For additional information regarding our ESG efforts, see our October 2019 Environmental, Social and Governance Report at our website, www.equityapartments.com.  This report was reviewed and approved by the Corporate Governance Committee of our Board of Trustees, which monitors the Company’s ongoing ESG efforts.  We continue to enhance our ESG disclosure efforts, including auditing the results outlined in the above report.  In addition, the Company issued $400.0 million of ten-year 4.15% unsecured notes in 2018 as "green" bonds, and as a result, the Company allocated an amount equal to the net proceeds to eligible green/sustainable projects.  This was the first "green" bond issuance from an apartment REIT.

Please refer to Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, for the Company’s Results of Operations and Liquidity.

Competition

All of the Company’s properties are located in developed areas that include other multifamily properties.  The number of competitive multifamily properties in a particular area could have a material effect on the Company’s ability to lease apartment units at its properties and on the rents charged.  The Company may be competing with other entities that have greater resources than the Company and whose managers have more experience than the Company’s managers.  In addition, other forms of rental properties and single family housing provide housing alternatives to potential residents of multifamily properties.  See Item 1A, Risk Factors, for additional information with respect to competition.

Environmental Considerations

See Item 1A, Risk Factors, for information concerning the potential effects of environmental regulations on our operations.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

General

This Item 1A includes forward-looking statements.  You should refer to our discussion of the qualifications and limitations on forward-looking statements included in Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

The occurrence of the events discussed in the following risk factors could adversely affect, possibly in a material manner, our business, financial condition or results of operations, which could affect the value of our common shares of beneficial interest or preferred shares of beneficial interest (which we refer to collectively as “Shares”), Preference Units, OP Units, restricted units and our public unsecured debt.  In this section, we refer to the Shares, Preference Units, OP Units, restricted units and public unsecured debt together as our “securities” and the investors who own such securities as our “security holders.”

Risks Related to our Business Strategy

Investing in real estate is inherently subject to risks that could negatively impact our business.

Investing in real estate is subject to varying degrees and types of risk. While we seek to mitigate these risks through various strategies, including geographic diversification, market research and proactive asset management, among other techniques, these risks cannot be eliminated. Factors that may impact cash flows and real estate values include, but are not limited to:

 

Local economic conditions, particularly oversupply or reductions in demand;

 

National, regional and local political climates and governmental policies;

 

The inability or unwillingness of residents to pay rent increases;

 

Increases in our operating expenses;

 

Cost of labor and materials required to maintain our properties at acceptable standards;

 

Availability of attractive financing opportunities;

 

Changes in social preferences; and

 

Additional risks that are discussed below.

Competition in multifamily housing may negatively affect operations and demand for the Company’s properties or residents.

Our properties face competition for residents from other existing or new multifamily properties, condominiums, single family homes and other living arrangements, whether owned or rental, that may attract residents from our properties or prospective residents that would otherwise choose to live with us.  As a result, we may not be able to renew existing resident leases or enter into new resident leases, or if we are able to renew or enter into new leases, they may be at rates or terms that are less favorable than our current rates or terms, resulting in a material impact on our results of operations.

Failure to generate sufficient revenue could limit our ability to make financing payments or distributions to security holders.

A decrease in cash flows due to declines in rental revenue could negatively affect our ability to make financing payments and distributions to our security holders. Significant expenditures associated with each property, such as real estate taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance costs and employee wages and benefits, may also negatively impact cash flows and not decline as quickly or at the same rate as revenues when circumstances might cause a reduction at our properties.

The short-term nature of apartment leases expose us more quickly to the effects of declining market rents, potentially making our revenue more volatile. 

Generally our residential apartment leases are for twelve months or less.  If the terms of the renewal or reletting are less favorable than current terms, then the Company’s results of operations and financial condition could be negatively affected. Given our generally shorter term lease structure, our rental revenues are impacted by declines in market rents more quickly than if our leases were for longer terms.

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The geographic concentration of our properties could have an adverse effect on our operations.

The Company’s properties are highly concentrated in our primarily coastal markets.  If one or more of our markets is unfavorably impacted by specific economic conditions, local real estate conditions, increases in real estate and other taxes, rent control or stabilization laws or localized environmental issues or natural/man-made disasters, the impact of such conditions may have a more negative impact on our results of operations than if our properties were more geographically diverse.

Additionally within its primarily coastal markets, the Company is highly concentrated in certain dense urban and suburban submarkets.  To the extent that these particular submarkets become less desirable to operate in, including changes in multifamily housing supply and demand, our results of operations could be more negatively impacted than if we were more diversified within our markets.  

Operations from new acquisitions, development projects and renovations may fail to perform as expected.

We intend to actively acquire, develop and renovate multifamily operating properties as part of our business strategy.  Newly acquired, developed or renovated properties may not perform as we expect.  We may also overestimate the revenue (or underestimate the expenses) that a new or repositioned project may generate.  The occupancy rates and rents at these properties may fail to meet the expectations underlying our investment.  Development and renovations, in particular, are subject to greater uncertainties and risks due to complexities and lead time in estimating costs.  We may underestimate the costs necessary to operate an acquired property to the standards established for its intended market position.  We may also underestimate the costs to complete a development property or to complete a renovation.  

Competition for acquisitions may prevent us from acquiring properties on favorable terms.

We may not be successful in pursuing acquisition and development opportunities.  We expect that other real estate investors will compete with us for attractive investment opportunities or may also develop properties in markets where we focus our development and acquisition efforts.  We may not be in a position or have the opportunity in the future to make suitable property acquisitions on favorable terms.  

Because real estate investments are illiquid, we may not be able to sell properties when appropriate.

Real estate investments generally cannot be sold quickly.  We may not be able to reconfigure our portfolio promptly in response to economic or other conditions.  We may be unable to consummate such dispositions in a timely manner, on attractive terms, or at all.  In some cases, we may also determine that we will not recover the carrying amount of the property upon disposition.  This inability to reallocate our capital promptly could negatively affect our financial condition, including our ability to make distributions to our security holders.

The Company’s real estate assets may be subject to impairment charges.

A decline in the fair value of our assets may require us to recognize an impairment against such assets under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) if we were to determine that, with respect to any assets in unrealized loss positions, we do not have the ability and intent to hold such assets for a period of time sufficient to allow for recovery of the amortized cost of such assets. If such a determination were to be made, we would recognize unrealized losses through earnings and write-down the amortized cost of such assets to a new cost basis, based on the fair value of such assets on the date they are considered to be impaired. Such impairment charges reflect non-cash losses at the time of recognition; subsequent disposition or sale of such assets could further affect our future losses or gains, as they are based on the difference between the sale price received and adjusted amortized cost of such assets at the time of sale. If we are required to recognize material asset impairment charges in the future, these charges could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Construction risks on our development projects could affect our profitability.

We intend to continue to develop multifamily properties as part of our business strategy.  Development often includes long planning and entitlement timelines, subjecting the project to changes in market conditions. It can involve complex and costly activities, including significant environmental remediation or construction work in our markets.  We may also experience an increase in costs due to general disruptions that affect the cost of labor and/or materials such as trade disputes, tariffs, labor unrest and/or geopolitical conflicts.  We may abandon opportunities that we have already begun to explore for a number of reasons, and as a result, we may fail to recover expenses or option payments already incurred in exploring those opportunities.  We may also be unable to obtain, or experience delays in obtaining, necessary zoning, occupancy, or other required governmental or third party permits and

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authorizations.  These and other risks inherent in development projects could result in increased costs or the delay or abandonment of opportunities.  

We are subject to risks involved in real estate activity through joint ventures.

We currently and may continue to in the future develop and acquire properties in joint ventures with other persons or entities.  Joint ventures create risks including the following:

 

The possibility that our partners might refuse to make capital contributions when due and therefore we may be forced to make contributions to protect our investments;

 

We may be responsible to our partners for indemnifiable losses;

 

Our partners might at any time have business or economic goals that are inconsistent with ours; and

 

Our partners may be in a position to take action or withhold consent contrary to our recommendations, instructions or requests.

At times we have entered into agreements providing for joint and several liability with our partners.  We also have in the past and could choose in the future to guarantee part of or all of certain joint venture debt.  We and our respective joint venture partners may each have the right to trigger a buy-sell arrangement that could cause us to sell our interest, or acquire our partner's interest, at a time when we otherwise would not have initiated such a transaction.  In some instances, joint venture partners may also have competing interests or objectives that could create conflicts of interest similar to those noted above. These objectives may be contrary to our compliance with the REIT requirements, and our REIT status could be jeopardized if any of our joint ventures do not operate in compliance with those requirements. To the extent our partners do not meet their obligations to us or our joint ventures, or they take actions inconsistent with the interests of the joint venture, it could have a negative effect on our results of operations and financial condition, including distributions to our security holders.

Risks Related to our Financing Strategy and Capital Structure

Disruptions in the financial markets could hinder our ability to obtain debt and equity financing and impact our acquisitions and dispositions.

Dislocations and disruptions in capital markets could result in increased costs or lack of availability of debt financing (including under our $1.0 billion commercial paper program) and equity financing. Such events may affect our ability to refinance existing debt, require us to utilize higher cost alternatives and/or impair our ability to adjust to changing economic and business conditions.  Capital market disruptions could negatively impact our ability to make acquisitions or make it more difficult or not possible for us to sell properties or may unfavorably affect the price we receive for properties that we do sell.  Such disruptions could cause the price of our securities to decline.

Our financial counterparties may not perform their obligations.

Although we have not experienced any material counterparty non-performance, disruptions in financial and credit markets or other events could impair the ability of our counterparties to perform under their contractual obligations to us.  There are multiple financial institutions that are individually committed to provide borrowings under our revolving credit facility.  Should any of these institutions fail to perform their obligations when contractually required, our financial condition could be adversely affected.

Rising interest rates can increase costs.

The Company is exposed to market risk from financial instruments primarily from changes in market interest rates.  Such risks derive from the refinancing of debt, exposure to interest rate fluctuations in floating rate debt and from derivative instruments utilized to swap fixed rate debt to floating rates or to hedge rates in anticipation of future debt issuances.  Increases in interest rates would increase our interest expense and the costs of refinancing existing debt.

Insufficient cash flow could affect our ability to service existing debt and create refinancing risk.

We are subject to risks normally associated with debt financing, including the risk that our cash flow will be insufficient to meet required payments.  We may not be able to refinance existing debt and if we can, the terms of such refinancing may be less favorable than the terms of existing indebtedness.  Our inability to refinance, extend or repay debt with proceeds from other capital market transactions would negatively impact our financial condition.  If the debt is secured, the mortgage holder may also foreclose on the property.  

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A significant downgrade in our credit ratings could adversely affect our performance.

A significant downgrade in our credit ratings, while not affecting our ability to draw proceeds under the Company’s revolving credit facility, would cause the corresponding borrowing costs to increase, impact our ability to borrow secured and unsecured debt, and potentially impair our ability to access the commercial paper market or otherwise limit our access to capital.  In addition, a downgrade below investment grade would require us to post cash collateral and/or letters of credit in favor of some of our secured lenders to cover our self-insured property and liability insurance deductibles or to obtain lower deductible insurance compliant with the lenders’ requirements at the lower ratings level.

Financial covenants could limit operational flexibility and affect our overall financial position.

The terms of our credit agreements, including our revolving credit facility and the indentures under which a substantial portion of our unsecured debt was issued, require us to comply with a number of financial covenants. These covenants may limit our flexibility to run our business and breaches of these covenants could result in defaults under the instruments governing the applicable indebtedness and trigger a cross default of other debt.

Some of our properties are financed with tax-exempt bonds or otherwise contain restrictive covenants or deed restrictions, including affordability requirements, which limit income from certain properties.  The Company monitors compliance with the restrictive covenants and deed restrictions that affect these properties.  While we generally believe that the interest rate benefit from financing properties with tax-exempt bonds more than outweighs any loss of income due to restrictive covenants or deed restrictions, this may not always be the case.  Some of these requirements are complex, and our failure to comply with them may subject us to material fines or liabilities.

We may change the dividend policy for our securities in the future. 

The decision to declare and pay dividends on our securities, as well as the timing, amount and composition of any such future dividends, is at the discretion of the Board of Trustees and will depend on actual and projected financial conditions, the Company’s actual and projected liquidity and operating results, the Company’s projected cash needs for capital expenditures and other investment activities and such other factors as the Company’s Board of Trustees deems relevant.  The Board of Trustees may modify our dividend policy from time to time and any change in our dividend policy could negatively impact the market price of our securities.

Changes in market conditions and volatility of share prices could decrease the market price of our Common Shares.

The stock markets, including the New York Stock Exchange on which we list our Common Shares, have experienced significant price and volume fluctuations over time.  As a result, the market price of our Common Shares could be similarly volatile.  Investors in our Common Shares consequently may experience a decrease in the value of their shares, including decreases due to this volatility and not necessarily related to our operating performance or prospects.  Additionally, the market price of our Common Shares may decline or fluctuate significantly in response to the sale of substantial amounts of our Common Shares, or the anticipation of the sale of such shares, by large holders of our securities.  The issuance of additional Common Shares by the Company, or the perception that such issuances might occur, could also cause significant volatility and decreases in the value of our shares.

Issuances or sales of our Common Shares or Units may be dilutive.

Any potential additional issuance of Common Shares or OP Units would reduce the percentage of our Common Shares and OP Units owned by investors. In most circumstances, shareholders and unitholders will not be entitled to vote on whether or not we issue additional Common Shares or Units. In addition, depending on the terms and pricing of additional offerings of our Common Shares or Units along with the value of our properties, our shareholders and unitholders could experience dilution in both book value and fair value of their Common Shares or Units, as well as dilution in our actual and expected earnings per share, funds from operations (“FFO”) per share and Normalized FFO per share.

General Risks

We depend on our key personnel.

We depend on the efforts of our trustees and executive officers.  If one or more of them resign or otherwise cease to be employed by us, our business and results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.  

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The occurrence of cyber incidents, or a deficiency in our cybersecurity, could negatively impact our business by causing a disruption to our operations, a compromise or corruption of our confidential information, and/or damage to our reputation and business relationships, all of which could negatively impact our financial results.

A cyber incident is an intentional attack or an unintentional event that can include gaining unauthorized access to systems to disrupt payment collections and operations, corrupt data or steal confidential information, including information regarding our residents, prospective residents, employees and employees’ dependents.  

Despite system redundancy, the implementation of security measures, required employee awareness training and the existence of a disaster recovery plan for our internal information technology systems, our systems and systems maintained by third party vendors with which we do business are vulnerable to damage from any number of sources.  We face risks associated with security breaches, whether through cyber attacks or cyber intrusions over the Internet, malware, computer viruses, attachments to emails, phishing attempts or other scams, persons inside our organization or persons/vendors with access to our systems and other significant disruptions of our information technology networks and related systems, including property infrastructure.  Our information technology networks and related systems are essential to the operation of our business and our ability to perform day-to-day operations.  Even the most well-protected information, networks, systems and facilities remain potentially vulnerable because the techniques used in such attempted security breaches evolve and generally are not recognized until launched against a target, and in some cases are designed not to be detected and, in fact, may not be detected.  Accordingly, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate security barriers or other preventative measures, and thus it is impossible for us to entirely mitigate this risk.  

We collect and hold personally identifiable information of our residents and prospective residents in connection with our leasing activities, and we collect and hold personally identifiable information of our employees and their dependents.  In addition, we engage third party service providers that may have access to such personally identifiable information in connection with providing necessary information technology, security and other business services to us.  The systems of our third party service providers may contain defects in design or other problems that could unexpectedly compromise personally identifiable information.  Although we make efforts to maintain the security and integrity of our information technology networks and those of our third party providers and we have implemented various measures to manage the risk of a security breach or disruption, there can be no assurance that our security efforts and measures will be effective or that attempted security breaches or disruptions would not be successful or damaging.

We address potential breaches or disclosure of this confidential personally identifiable information by implementing a variety of security measures intended to protect the confidentiality and security of this information including (among others):  (a) engaging reputable, recognized firms to help us design and maintain our information technology and data security systems; (b) conducting periodic testing and verification of information and data security systems, including performing ethical hacks of our systems to discover where any vulnerabilities may exist; and (c) providing periodic employee awareness training around phishing and other scams, malware and other cyber risks.  The Company also has a cyber liability insurance policy to provide some coverage for certain risks arising out of data and network breaches and data privacy regulations which provides a policy aggregate limit and a per occurrence deductible.  Cyber liability insurance generally covers, among other things, costs associated with the wrongful release, through inadvertent breach or network attack, of personally identifiable information.  However, there can be no assurance that these measures will prevent a cyber incident or that our cyber liability insurance coverage will be sufficient in the event of a cyber incident.

A breach or significant and extended disruption in the function of our systems, including our primary website, could damage our reputation and cause us to lose residents and revenues, result in a violation of applicable privacy and other laws, generate third party claims, result in the unintended and/or unauthorized public disclosure or the misappropriation of proprietary, personally identifiable and confidential information and require us to incur significant expenses to address and remediate or otherwise resolve these kinds of issues.  We may not be able to recover these expenses in whole or in any part from our service providers, our insurers or any other responsible parties.  As a result, there can be no assurance that our financial results would not be negatively impacted.

Litigation risk could affect our business.

We may become involved in legal proceedings, claims, actions, inquiries and investigations in the ordinary course of business. These legal proceedings may include, but are not limited to, proceedings related to consumer, shareholder, securities, employment, environmental, development, condominium conversion, tort, eviction and commercial legal issues.  Litigation can be lengthy and expensive, and it can divert management's attention and resources. Results cannot be predicted with certainty, and an unfavorable outcome in litigation could result in liability material to our financial condition or results of operations.

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Insurance policies can be costly and may not cover all losses, which may adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations.

The Company’s property, general liability and workers compensation insurance policies provide coverage with substantial per occurrence deductibles and/or self-insured retentions.  These self-insurance retentions can be a material portion of insurance losses in excess of the base deductibles.  While the Company has previously purchased incremental insurance coverage in the event of multiple non-catastrophic occurrences within the same policy year, these substantial deductible and self-insured retention amounts do expose the Company to greater potential for uninsured losses and this additional multiple occurrences coverage may not be available at all or on commercially reasonable terms in the future.  We believe the policy specifications and insured limits of these policies are adequate and appropriate; however, there are certain types of extraordinary losses which may not be adequately covered under our insurance program.  As a result, our financial results could be adversely affected and may vary significantly from period to period.

The Company relies on third party insurance providers for its property, general liability, workers compensation and other insurance, and should any of them experience liquidity issues or other financial distress, it could negatively impact their ability to pay claims under the Company’s policies.  

Earthquake risk:  Our policies insuring against earthquake losses have substantial deductibles which are applied to the values of the buildings involved in the loss.  With the geographic concentration of our properties, a single earthquake affecting a market may have a significant negative effect on our financial condition and results of operations.  We cannot assure that an earthquake would not cause damage or losses greater than insured levels.  In the event of a loss in excess of insured limits, we could lose our capital invested in the affected property or market, as well as anticipated future revenue.

Terrorism risk:  The Company has terrorism insurance coverage which excludes losses from nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.  In the event of a terrorist attack impacting one or more of our properties, we could lose the revenues from the property, our capital investment in the property and possibly face liability claims from residents or others suffering injuries or losses.

Catastrophic weather risk:  Our properties may be located in areas that could experience catastrophic weather and other natural disasters from time to time, including wildfires, snow or ice storms, windstorms or hurricanes, flooding or other severe weather.  This severe weather and natural disasters could cause substantial damages or losses to our properties which may not be covered or could exceed our insurance coverage.  Exposure to this risk could also result in a decrease in demand for properties located in these areas or affected by these conditions.  

Climate change risk: To the extent that significant changes in the climate occur in areas where our properties are located, we may experience severe weather, which may result in physical damage to or decrease the demand for properties located in these areas or affected by these conditions. Should the impact of climate change be material in nature, significant property damage or destruction of our properties could result.  In addition, climate change could cause a significant increase in insurance premiums and deductibles or a decrease in the availability of coverage, either of which could expose the Company to even greater uninsured losses. Our financial condition or results of operations may be adversely affected. In addition, changes in federal, state and local legislation and regulation based on concerns about climate change could result in increased capital expenditures on our existing properties and our new development properties.

Provisions of our Declaration of Trust and Bylaws could inhibit changes in control.

Certain provisions of our Declaration of Trust and Bylaws may delay or prevent a change in control of the Company or other transactions that could provide the security holders with a premium over the then-prevailing market price of their securities or which might otherwise be in the best interest of our security holders.  This includes the Ownership Limit described below in this Item 1A.  While our existing preferred shares/preference units do not have all of these provisions, any future series of preferred shares/preference units may have certain voting provisions that could delay or prevent a change in control or other transactions that might otherwise be in the interest of our security holders.  Our Bylaws require certain information to be provided by any security holder, or persons acting in concert with such security holder, who proposes business or a nominee at an annual meeting of shareholders, including disclosure of information related to hedging activities and investment strategies with respect to our securities.  These requirements could delay or prevent a change in control or other transactions that might otherwise be in the interest of our security holders.  The Board of Trustees may use its powers to issue preferred shares and to set the terms of such securities to delay or prevent a change in control of the Company even if a change in control were in the interest of the security holders.

Regulatory and Tax Risks

The adoption of, or changes, in rent control or rent stabilization laws and regulations and eviction laws and regulations in our markets could have an adverse effect on our operations and property values.

Various state and local governments have enacted and may continue to enact rent control or rent stabilization laws and regulations which could limit our ability to raise rents or charge certain fees, either of which could have a retroactive effect. We continue to see increases in governments considering or being urged by advocacy groups to consider rent control or rent stabilization

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laws and regulations.  These regulations may also make changes to eviction and other tenants’ rights laws and regulations that could have an adverse impact on our operations and property values.  In June 2019, the State of New York enacted rent control regulations known as the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019.  In October 2019, the State of California enacted rent control regulations known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.  

Compliance or failure to comply with regulatory requirements could result in substantial costs. 

Our properties are subject to various federal, state and local regulatory requirements, such as state and local fire and life safety requirements and federal, state and local accessibility requirements, including and in addition to those imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. Noncompliance could result in fines, subject us to lawsuits and require us to remediate or repair the noncompliance. Existing requirements could change and compliance with future requirements may require significant unanticipated expenditures that could adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations.

Environmental problems are possible and can be costly.

Federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment may require current or previous owners or operators of real estate to investigate and clean up hazardous or toxic substances at such properties.  The owner or operator may have to pay a governmental entity or third parties for property damage and for investigation and clean-up costs incurred by such parties in connection with the contamination.  These laws typically impose clean-up responsibility and liability without regard to whether the owner or operator knew of or caused the presence of the contaminants.  Even if more than one person may have been responsible for the contamination, each person covered by the environmental laws may be held responsible for all of the clean-up costs incurred.  Third parties may also sue the owner or operator of a site for damages and costs resulting from environmental contamination emanating from that site.  We cannot be assured that existing environmental assessments of our properties reveal all environmental liabilities, that any prior owner of any of our properties did not create a material environmental condition not known to us, or that a material environmental condition does not otherwise exist as to any of our properties.

Changes in U.S. accounting standards may materially and adversely affect the reporting of our operations.

The Company follows GAAP, which is established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”), an independent body whose standards are recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) as authoritative for publicly held companies.  The FASB and the SEC create and interpret accounting standards and may issue new accounting pronouncements or change the interpretation and application of these standards that govern the preparation of our financial statements.  These changes could have a material impact on our reported consolidated results of operations and financial position.

Any weaknesses identified in our internal control over financial reporting could result in a decrease of our share price.

Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires us to evaluate and report on our internal control over financial reporting.  If we identify one or more material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, we could lose investor confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports, which in turn could have a negative impact on our share price.

Our failure to qualify as a REIT would have serious adverse consequences to our security holders.

We plan to continue to meet the requirements for taxation as a REIT.  Many of these requirements, for which there is limited judicial and administrative interpretation, however, are highly technical and complex.  Therefore, we cannot guarantee that we have qualified or will qualify as a REIT in the future.  The determination that we are a REIT requires an analysis of various factual matters that may not be totally within our control.  To qualify as a REIT, our assets must be substantially comprised of real estate assets as defined in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and related guidance and our gross income must generally come from rental and other real estate or passive related sources that are itemized in the REIT tax laws.  We are also required to distribute to security holders at least 90% of our REIT taxable income excluding net capital gains.

If we fail to qualify as a REIT, we would be subject to federal income tax at regular corporate rates (including, for years prior to 2018, any alternative minimum tax) and would have to pay significant income taxes unless the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) granted us relief under certain statutory provisions.  In addition, we would remain disqualified from taxation as a REIT for four years following the year in which we failed to qualify as a REIT.  We would therefore have less money available for investments or for distributions to security holders and would no longer be required to make distributions to security holders.  This would likely have a significant negative impact on the value of our securities.  

In addition, certain of our subsidiary entities have elected to be taxed as REITs.  As such, each must separately satisfy all of the requirements to qualify for REIT status.  If a subsidiary REIT did not satisfy such requirements, and certain relief provisions did not apply, it would be taxed as a regular corporation and its income would be subject to U.S. federal income taxation.   Failure to comply with these complex REIT rules at the subsidiary REIT level can have a material and detrimental impact to EQR’s REIT status.

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Gain on disposition of assets held for sale in the ordinary course of business is subject to 100% tax.

Any gain resulting from transfers of properties we hold as inventory or primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business is treated as income from a prohibited transaction subject to a 100% penalty tax.  We do not believe that our transfers or disposals of property are prohibited transactions.  However, whether property is held for investment purposes is a question that depends on all the facts and circumstances surrounding the particular transaction.  The IRS may contend that certain transfers or dispositions of properties by us or contributions of properties are prohibited transactions.  While we believe the IRS would not prevail in any such dispute, if the IRS were to argue successfully that a transfer or disposition of property constituted a prohibited transaction, we would be required to pay a 100% penalty tax on any gain allocable to us from the prohibited transaction.  In addition, income from a prohibited transaction might adversely affect our ability to satisfy the income tests for qualification as a REIT.

We may be subject to legislative or regulatory tax changes that could negatively impact our financial condition.

At any time, U.S. federal income tax laws governing REITs or the administrative interpretations of those laws may be enacted or amended. We cannot predict if or when any new U.S. federal income tax law, regulation or administrative interpretation, or any amendment to any existing U.S. federal income tax law, IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury regulations or administrative guidance, will be adopted or become effective and any such law, regulation or interpretation may take effect retroactively.  The Company and our shareholders could be negatively impacted by any such change in, or any new, U.S. federal income tax law, regulations or administrative guidance.

Distribution requirements may limit our flexibility to manage our portfolio.

In order to maintain qualification as a REIT under the Code, a REIT must annually distribute to its shareholders at least 90% of its REIT taxable income, excluding the dividends paid deduction and net capital gains. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on amounts, if any, by which distributions we pay in any calendar year are less than the sum of 85% of our ordinary income, 95% of our net capital gains and 100% of our undistributed income from prior years.  We may not have sufficient cash or other liquid assets to meet the 90% distribution requirement. We may be required from time to time, under certain circumstances, to accrue as income for tax purposes interest and rent earned but not yet received.  We may incur a reduction in tax depreciation without a reduction in capital expenditures.  Difficulties in meeting the 90% distribution requirement might arise due to competing demands for our funds or due to timing differences between tax reporting and cash distributions, because deductions may be disallowed, income may be reported before cash is received, expenses may have to be paid before a deduction is allowed or because the IRS may make a determination that adjusts reported income.  In addition, gain from the sale of property may exceed the amount of cash received on a leverage-neutral basis.  A substantial increase to our taxable income may reduce the flexibility of the Company to manage its portfolio through dispositions of properties other than through tax deferred transactions or cause the Company to borrow funds or liquidate investments on unfavorable terms in order to meet these distribution requirements. If we fail to satisfy the 90% distribution requirement, we would cease to be taxed as a REIT, resulting in substantial tax-related liabilities.

We have a share ownership limit for REIT tax purposes.

To remain qualified as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, not more than 50% in value of our outstanding Shares may be owned, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of any year.  To facilitate maintenance of our REIT qualification, our Declaration of Trust, subject to certain exceptions, prohibits ownership by any single shareholder of more than five percent of the lesser of the number or value of any outstanding class of common or preferred shares (the “Ownership Limit”). Absent an exemption or waiver granted by our Board of Trustees, securities acquired or held in violation of the Ownership Limit will be transferred to a trust for the exclusive benefit of a designated charitable beneficiary, and the security holder’s rights to distributions and to vote would terminate.  A transfer of Shares may be void if it causes a person to violate the Ownership Limit.  The Ownership Limit could delay or prevent a change in control and, therefore, could affect our security holders’ ability to realize a premium over the then-prevailing market price for their Shares.  To reduce the ability of the Board to use the Ownership Limit as an anti-takeover device, the Company’s Ownership Limit requires, rather than permits, the Board to grant a waiver of the Ownership Limit if the individual seeking a waiver demonstrates that such ownership would not jeopardize the Company’s status as a REIT.  

Tax elections regarding distributions may impact future liquidity of the Company or our shareholders.

Under certain circumstances we have made and/or may consider making in the future, a tax election to treat future distributions to shareholders as distributions in the current year.  This election, which is provided for in the Code, may allow us to avoid increasing our dividends or paying additional income taxes in the current year.  However, this could result in a constraint on our ability to decrease our dividends in future years without creating risk of either violating the REIT distribution requirements or generating additional income tax liability.

In order to retain liquidity and continue to satisfy the REIT distribution requirements, the Company could issue shares rather than pay a dividend entirely in cash to shareholders. The IRS has published several rulings which have allowed REITs to offer shareholders the choice between shares or cash as a form of payment of a dividend (an “elective stock dividend”).  However, REITs

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are also permitted to limit the amount of cash paid to all shareholders to 20% of the total dividend paid.  Therefore, it is possible that the total tax burden to shareholders resulting from an elective stock dividend may exceed the amount of cash received by the shareholder.

Inapplicability of Maryland law limiting certain changes in control.

Certain provisions of Maryland law applicable to REITs prohibit “business combinations” (including certain issuances of equity securities) with any person who beneficially owns ten percent or more of the voting power of outstanding securities, or with an affiliate who, at any time within the two-year period prior to the date in question, was the beneficial owner of ten percent or more of the voting power of the Company’s outstanding voting securities (an “Interested Shareholder”), or with an affiliate of an Interested Shareholder.  These prohibitions last for five years after the most recent date on which the Interested Shareholder became an Interested Shareholder.  After the five-year period, a business combination with an Interested Shareholder must be approved by two super-majority shareholder votes unless, among other conditions, holders of common shares receive a minimum price for their shares and the consideration is received in cash or in the same form as previously paid by the Interested Shareholder for its common shares.  As permitted by Maryland law, however, the Board of Trustees of the Company has opted out of these restrictions with respect to any business combination involving Sam Zell and certain of his affiliates and persons acting in concert with them.  Consequently, the five-year prohibition and the super-majority vote requirements will not apply to a business combination involving us and/or any of them.  Such business combinations may not be in the best interest of our security holders.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

Item 2. Properties

As of December 31, 2019, the Company, directly or indirectly through investments in title holding entities, owned all or a portion of 309 properties located in 10 states and the District of Columbia consisting of 79,962 apartment units.  See Item 1, Business, for additional information regarding the Company’s properties and the markets/metro areas upon which we are focused.  The Company’s properties are summarized by building type in the following table:

 

Type

 

Properties

 

 

Apartment Units

 

 

Average

Apartment Units

 

Garden

 

 

105

 

 

 

26,688

 

 

 

254

 

Mid/High-Rise

 

 

204

 

 

 

53,274

 

 

 

261

 

 

 

 

309

 

 

 

79,962

 

 

 

259

 

 

The Company’s properties are summarized by ownership type in the following table:

 

 

 

Properties

 

 

Apartment Units

 

Wholly Owned Properties

 

 

291

 

 

 

76,265

 

Master-Leased Property – Consolidated

 

 

1

 

 

 

162

 

Partially Owned Properties – Consolidated

 

 

17

 

 

 

3,535

 

 

 

 

309

 

 

 

79,962

 

 

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The following table sets forth certain information by market relating to the Company’s properties at December 31, 2019:

 

Portfolio Summary

 

Markets/Metro Areas

 

Properties

 

 

Apartment

Units

 

 

% of

Stabilized

Budgeted

NOI (A)

 

 

Average

Rental

Rate (B)

 

Los Angeles

 

 

72

 

 

 

16,603

 

 

 

18.7

%

 

$

2,634

 

Orange County

 

 

13

 

 

 

4,028

 

 

 

4.3

%

 

 

2,271

 

San Diego

 

 

12

 

 

 

3,385

 

 

 

3.8

%

 

 

2,437

 

Subtotal – Southern California

 

 

97

 

 

 

24,016

 

 

 

26.8

%

 

 

2,545

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco

 

 

51

 

 

 

13,606

 

 

 

20.6

%

 

 

3,320

 

Washington D.C.

 

 

48

 

 

 

15,248

 

 

 

16.2

%

 

 

2,466

 

New York

 

 

37

 

 

 

9,606

 

 

 

14.4

%

 

 

3,937

 

Seattle

 

 

45

 

 

 

9,296

 

 

 

10.7

%

 

 

2,459

 

Boston

 

 

25

 

 

 

6,430

 

 

 

9.9

%

 

 

3,179

 

Denver

 

 

5

 

 

 

1,624