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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 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 001-35624
INVESTORS REAL ESTATE TRUST
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
 
North Dakota
 
45-0311232
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
(IRS Employer Identification No.)
1400 31st Avenue SW
Suite 60
Post Office Box 1988
Minot
ND
58702-1988
(Address of principal executive offices)
 (Zip code)
701-837-4738
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934:
Title of each class
Trading Symbol(s)
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Shares of Beneficial Interest, no par value
IRET
New York Stock Exchange
Series C Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Shares
IRET-PC
New York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
      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 Exchange Act.
      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.
      Yes                          No
Indicate by checkmark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§229.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit and post such files).
      Yes                          No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting 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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Large accelerated filer
Accelerated filer
Emerging growth company
Non-accelerated filer
Smaller reporting 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. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
      Yes                          No
The aggregate market value of the Registrant’s outstanding common shares of beneficial interest held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of June 30, 2019 was 679,479,919 based on the last reported sale price on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2019. For purposes of this calculation, the Registrant has assumed that its trustees and executive officers are affiliates.
The number of common shares of beneficial interest outstanding as of February 12, 2020, was 12,098,979.
References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the “Company,” “IRET,” “we,” “us,” or “our” include consolidated subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.
Documents Incorporated by Reference: Portions of IRET’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders will be incorporated by reference into Part III (Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14) hereof.


Table of Contents

INVESTORS REAL ESTATE TRUST 
INDEX
 
 
 
PAGE
PART I 
 
 
Item 1. 
Item 1A. 
Item 1B. 
Item 2. 
Item 3. 
Item 4. 
PART II 
 
 
Item 5. 
Item 6. 
Item 7. 
Item 7A. 
Item 8. 
Item 9. 
Item 9A. 
Item 9B. 
PART III 
 
 
Item 10.
Item 11.
Item 12.
Item 13.
Item 14.
PART IV 
 
 
Item 15. 

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Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents incorporated into this document by reference are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Such forward-looking statements include statements about our plans and objectives, including our future financial condition, anticipated capital expenditures, anticipated distributions, and our belief that we have the liquidity and capital resources necessary to meet our known obligations and to make additional real estate acquisitions and capital improvements when appropriate to enhance long-term growth. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by the use of terms such as “expects,” “anticipates,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “seeks,” “estimates,” and variations of those words and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance, or achievements to be materially different from the results of operations, financial conditions, or plans expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Although we believe the expectations reflected in our forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that our expectations will be achieved. Any statements contained herein that are not statements of historical fact should be deemed forward-looking statements. As a result, reliance should not be placed on these forward-looking statements, as these statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors beyond our control and could differ materially from our actual results and performance.
The following factors, among others, could cause our future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements:
economic conditions in markets in which we own apartment communities or in which we may invest in the future;
rental conditions in our markets, including occupancy levels and rental rates, our potential inability to renew residents or obtain new residents upon expiration of existing leases, changes in tax and housing laws, or other factors;
adverse changes in our markets, including future demand for apartment homes in our markets, barriers of entry into new markets, limitations on our ability to increase rental rates, and inability to reinvest sales proceeds successfully;
reliance on a single asset class (multifamily) and certain geographic areas (Midwest and West regions) of the U.S.;
inability to acquire or develop properties and expand our operations into new markets successfully;
inability to provide high-quality housing and consistent operation of our apartment communities;
failure of new acquisitions to achieve anticipated results or be efficiently integrated;
inability to complete lease-up of our projects on schedule and on budget;
inability to sell certain properties on terms that are acceptable;
failure to reinvest proceeds from sales of properties into tax-deferred exchanges, which could necessitate special dividend and tax protection payments;
inability to fund capital expenditures out of cash flow;
inability to pay, or need to reduce, dividends on our common shares;
financing risks, including our potential inability to obtain debt or equity financing on favorable terms, or at all;
level and volatility of interest or capitalization rates or capital market conditions;
changes in operating costs, including real estate taxes, utilities, and insurance costs;
inability to continue to satisfy complex tax rules in order to maintain our status as a REIT, inability of the Operating Partnership to maintain its status as a partnership for tax purposes, and the risk of changes in laws affecting REITs;
inability to attract and retain qualified personnel;
cyber liability or potential liability for breaches of our privacy or information security systems;
increasing social media activity regarding our properties that could adversely affect our business or reputation;
inability to address catastrophic weather, natural events, and climate change;
inability to comply with environmental laws and regulations; and
other risks identified in this Report, in other SEC reports, or in other documents that we publicly disseminate.
Readers should carefully review our financial statements and the notes thereto, as well as the section entitled “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the other documents we file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). 
In light of these uncertainties, the events anticipated by our forward-looking statements might not occur. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. The foregoing review of factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in any forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K should not be construed as exhaustive.


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PART I
 
Item 1. Business
OVERVIEW
Investors Real Estate Trust (“we,” “us,” “IRET” or the “Company”) is a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) organized under the laws of North Dakota, that is focused on the ownership, management, acquisition, development, and redevelopment of apartment communities. Over the past several years, we have extensively repositioned our portfolio from a diversified, multi-segment collection of properties into a single segment concentrated on apartment communities. Our current emphasis is on making operational enhancements that will improve our residents' experience, redeveloping some of our existing apartment communities to meet current market demands, and acquiring new apartment communities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Denver metropolitan areas.
We focus on investing in markets characterized by stable and growing economic conditions, strong employment, and an attractive quality of life that we believe, in combination, lead to higher demand for our apartment homes and retention of our residents. As of December 31, 2019, we owned interests in 69 apartment communities, containing 11,953 homes and having a total real estate investment amount, net of accumulated depreciation, of $1.3 billion. Our corporate headquarters is located in Minot, North Dakota. We also have a corporate office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
On September 20, 2018, our Board of Trustees approved a change in our fiscal year-end from April 30 to December 31, effective as of January 1, 2019. As a result of this change, we filed a transition report on Form 10-KT for the eight-month transition period ended December 31, 2018, in accordance with SEC rules and regulations. The references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the terms listed below reflect the respective period noted (all other reporting periods defined separately):
Term
 
Financial Reporting Period
Year ended December 31, 2019
 
January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019
Year ended December 31, 2018
 
January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018
Transition period ended December 31, 2018
 
May 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018
Fiscal year ended April 30, 2018
 
May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018
Fiscal year ended April 30, 2017
 
May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017
For comparative purposes, unaudited data is shown for the year ended December 31, 2018 and for the eight-month period ended December 31, 2017.
On December 14, 2018, the Board approved a reverse stock split of our outstanding common shares and Units, no par value per share, at a ratio of 1-for-10. The reverse stock split was effective as of the close of trading on December 27, 2018, with trading commencing on a split-adjusted basis on December 28, 2018. The number of common shares and Operating Partnership limited partnership units ("Units" or "OP Units") was reduced from 119.4 million to 11.9 million and 13.7 million to 1.4 million, respectively. We have retroactively restated all shares and Units and per share and Unit data for all periods presented.
Website and Available Information
 
Our internet address is www.iretapartments.com. We make available, free of charge, through the “SEC filings” tab under the Investors section of our website, our Transition Report on Form 10-KT, annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to such reports, and proxy statements for our Annual Meetings of Shareholders, filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are filed with or furnished to the SEC. We also file press releases, investor presentations, and certain supplemental information on our website. Current copies of our Code of Conduct; Code of Ethics for Senior Financial Officers; and Charters for the Audit, Compensation, and Nominating and Governance Committees of our Board of Trustees are also available on our website under the “Corporate Governance” tab under the Investors section of our website. Copies of these documents are also available free of charge to shareholders upon request addressed to the Secretary at Investors Real Estate Trust, P.O. Box 1988, Minot, North Dakota 58702-1988. Information on our website does not constitute part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

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STRUCTURE
We were organized under the laws of North Dakota on July 31, 1970, and have operated as a REIT under Sections 856-858 of the Internal Revenue Code since our formation. On February 1, 1997, we were restructured as an Umbrella Partnership Real Estate Investment Trust, or UPREIT, and we conduct our daily business operations primarily through our operating partnership, IRET Properties, a North Dakota Limited Partnership (“IRET Properties” or the “Operating Partnership”). The sole general partner of IRET Properties is IRET, Inc., a North Dakota corporation and our wholly owned subsidiary. All of our assets and liabilities have been contributed to IRET Properties, through IRET, Inc., in exchange for the sole general partnership interest in IRET Properties. IRET Properties holds substantially all of the assets of the Company. IRET Properties conducts the operations of the business and is structured as a partnership with no publicly traded equity. Contributions of properties to the Company can be structured as tax-deferred transactions through the issuance of OP Units, which is one of the reasons the Company is structured in this manner. As of December 31, 2019, IRET, Inc. owned a 92.0% interest in IRET Properties. The remaining interest in IRET Properties is held by individual limited partners.
BUSINESS STRATEGIES 
Our business is focused on our mission - to provide a great home - for our residents, our employees and our investors. We fulfill this mission by providing renters well-located options that range from workforce to lifestyle housing. While fulfilling our mission, we are seeking consistent earnings growth through exceptional operations, disciplined capital allocation, and market knowledge and efficiencies. Our operations and investment strategies are the foundation for fulfilling our mission.
Operations Strategy
We manage our apartment communities with a focus on providing an exceptional resident experience and maximizing our property financial results. Our initiatives to optimize our operations include:
Providing excellent customer service to enhance resident satisfaction and retention;
Employing new technologies that make our communities more efficient and more accessible to residents;
Optimizing revenues;
Controlling operating costs; and
Unlocking value within the portfolio through redevelopment and enhancement of existing assets.
Investment Strategy
Our business objective under our current strategic plan is to employ an investment strategy that includes the following elements:
Investing in income-producing apartment communities that grow distributable cash flow and are located in key geographic markets with populations ranking in the top 50 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, including expansion in the Minneapolis and Denver markets;
Selecting markets with favorable market characteristics, including strong growth prospects and employment forecasts, high occupancy rates, strong rent growth potential, and institutional liquidity;
Leveraging our portfolio to take advantage of our heightened market knowledge and regional experience;
Building a strong market presence in new markets; and
Deemphasizing our exposure to tertiary markets.
 
FINANCING AND DISTRIBUTIONS
 
To fund our investment and capital activities, we rely on a combination of issuance of common shares, preferred shares, OP Units, and borrowed funds in exchange for property. We regularly issue dividends to our shareholders. Each of these is described below.

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At-the-Market Offering
In November 2019, we entered into an equity distribution agreement in connection with an at-the-market offering ("2019 ATM Program") through which we may offer and sell common shares having an aggregate gross sales price of up to $150.0 million, in amounts and at times that we determine. The proceeds from the sale of common shares under the 2019 ATM Program are intended to be used for general corporate purposes, which may include the funding of future acquisitions and the repayment of indebtedness. During the year ended December 31, 2019, we issued 308,444 common shares under the 2019 ATM Program at an average price of $72.29 per share, net of commissions. Total consideration, net of commissions and issuance costs, was approximately $22.0 million. As of December 31, 2019, we had common shares having an aggregate offering price of up to $127.7 million remaining available under the 2019 ATM Program.
Issuance of Senior Securities
On October 2, 2017, we issued 4,118,460 shares of 6.625% Series C Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Shares of Beneficial Interest (the "Series C preferred shares"). All of our outstanding shares of 7.95% Series B preferred shares were redeemed on October 30, 2017. Depending on future interest rates and market conditions, we may issue additional preferred shares or other senior securities which would have dividend and liquidation preference over our common shares.
Bank Financing and Other Debt
As of December 31, 2019, we owned 69 apartment communities, of which 24 properties served as collateral for mortgage loans. All of these mortgages payable were non-recourse to us other than for standard carve-out obligations. Our primary unsecured credit facility is a revolving, multi-bank line of credit, with borrowing capacity based on the value of properties contained in the unencumbered asset pool. This credit facility matures on August 31, 2022, with one 12-month option to extend the maturity date at our election.
During the year ended December 31, 2019, we entered into a private shelf agreement for the issuance of up to $150.0 million of unsecured senior promissory notes ("unsecured senior notes"). Under this agreement, we issued $75.0 million of Series A notes due September 13, 2029 bearing interest at a rate of 3.84% annually, and $50.0 million of Series B notes due September 30, 2028 bearing interest at a rate of 3.69% annually. We have $25.0 million remaining available under the private shelf agreement.
As of December 31, 2019, we owned 45 apartment communities that were not encumbered by mortgages, with 45 of these properties providing credit support for our unsecured borrowings. Our primary unsecured credit facility ("unsecured credit facility") is a revolving, multi-bank line of credit, with the Bank of Montreal serving as administrative agent. Our line of credit has total commitments of $250.0 million, with borrowing capacity based on the value of properties contained in the unencumbered asset pool (“UAP”). The UAP provided for a borrowing capacity of $250.0 million at December 31, 2019, providing additional borrowing availability of $199.9 million beyond the $50.1 million drawn, including the balance on our operating line of credit (discussed below), priced at an interest rate of 3.81%, including the impact of our interest rate swap. This credit facility matures on August 31, 2022, with one 12-month option to extend the maturity date at our election.
Under our primary unsecured credit facility, we also have a $70.0 million unsecured term loan, which matures on January 15, 2024, and a $75.0 million unsecured term loan, which matures on August 31, 2025.
We also have a $6.0 million operating line of credit, which is designed to enhance treasury management activities and more effectively manage cash balances. As of December 31, 2019, our ratio of total indebtedness to total gross real estate investments was 39.2%.
Issuance of Securities in Exchange for Property
Our organizational structure allows us to issue shares and limited partnership units (or "OP Units") of IRET Properties in exchange for real estate. The OP Units generally are redeemable, at our option for cash or common shares on a one-for-one basis. Generally, OP Units receive the same per unit cash distributions as the per share dividends paid on common shares.
 
Our Declaration of Trust, as amended (our “Declaration of Trust”), does not contain any restrictions on our ability to offer limited partnership units of IRET Properties in exchange for property. As a result, any decision to do so is vested solely in our Board of Trustees. For the year ended December 31, 2019, the transition period ended December 31, 2018 and the fiscal years ended April 30, 2018 and 2017, we did not issue any regular OP Units of IRET Properties in exchange for properties. However, on February 26, 2019, we issued 165,600 newly created Series D preferred units as partial consideration for the acquisition of

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SouthFork Townhomes. The Series D preferred unit holders receive a preferred distribution at the rate of 3.862% per year. The Series D preferred units have a put option which allows the holder to redeem any or all of the Series D preferred units for cash equal to the issue price. Each Series D preferred unit is convertible, at the holder's option, into 1.37931 Units, representing a conversion exchange rate of $72.50 per unit. The holders of the Series D preferred units do not have any voting rights.

Distributions to Shareholders
The Internal Revenue Code requires a REIT to distribute 90% of its net taxable income, excluding net capital gains, to its shareholders, and a separate requirement to distribute 100% net capital gains or pay a corporate level tax in lieu thereof. We have distributed, and intend to continue to distribute, enough of our taxable income to satisfy these requirements. Our general practice has been to target cash distributions to our common shareholders and the holders of limited partnership units of approximately 65% to 90% of our funds from operations and to use the remaining funds for capital improvements or the reduction of debt. Distributions to our common shareholders and unitholders in the year ended December 31, 2019 and in the transition period ended December 31, 2018 totaled approximately 69% and 82%, respectively, on a per share and unit basis of our funds from operations.
For additional information on our sources of liquidity and funds from operations, see Item 7, "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations -- Liquidity and Capital Resources."
EMPLOYEES
 
As of December 31, 2019, we had 392 employees, of which 361 were full-time and 31 were part-time.
 
INSURANCE
We purchase general liability and property insurance coverage for each of our properties. We also purchase limited terrorism, environmental, and flood insurance as well as other types of insurance coverage related to a variety of risks and exposures. There are certain types of losses that may not be covered or could exceed coverage limits. Due to changing market conditions, our insurance policies are also subject to increasing deductibles and coverage limits. In addition, we carry other types of insurance coverage related to a variety of risks and exposures. Based on market conditions, we may change or potentially eliminate insurance coverages or face higher deductibles or other costs. Although we believe that we have adequate insurance coverage on our properties, we may incur losses, which could be material, due to uninsured risks, deductibles and/or losses in excess of coverage limits, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
COMPETITION
There are numerous housing alternatives that compete with our apartment communities in attracting residents. Our apartment communities compete directly with other apartment communities, condominiums, and single-family homes in the areas in which our properties are located. If the demand for our apartment communities is reduced or competitors develop or acquire competing housing, rental and occupancy rates may decrease, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Additionally, we compete with other real estate investors, including other REITs, businesses, and other entities to acquire properties. This competition affects our ability to acquire properties we want to add to our portfolio and the price we pay for acquisitions.  
ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS
See the discussion under the caption "Risks Related to Our Properties and Operations -- We may be responsible for potential liabilities under environmental laws" in Item 1A, Risk Factors, for information concerning the potential effects of environmental matters on our business, which discussion under "We may be responsible for potential liabilities under environmental laws" is incorporated by reference into this Item 1.


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Item 1A.  Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Properties and Operations
We face certain risks related to our ownership of apartment communities and operation of our business. Set forth below are the risks that we believe are material to IRET’s shareholders and unitholders. You should carefully consider the following risks in evaluating our properties, business, and operations. Our business, financial condition, cash flows, results of operations, value of our real estate assets and/or the value of an investment in our stock or units are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those set forth below, any of which could cause our actual operating results to vary materially from our recent results or from our anticipated future results.
Our financial performance is subject to risks associated with the real estate industry and ownership of apartment communities. Our financial performance risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
downturns in national, regional, and local economic conditions (particularly increases in unemployment); 
competition from other apartment communities; 
local real estate market conditions, including an oversupply of apartments or other housing, or a reduction in demand for apartment communities; 
the attractiveness of our apartment communities to residents as well as residents' perceptions of the safety, convenience, and attractiveness of our apartment communities and the areas in which they are located;
changes in interest rates and availability of attractive financing that might make other housing options, like home ownership, more attractive; 
our ability to collect rents from our residents;
vacancies, changes in rental rates, and the periodic need to repair, renovate, and redevelop our apartment communities; 
increases in operating costs, including real estate taxes, state and local taxes, insurance expenses, utilities, and security costs, many of which are not reduced significantly when circumstances cause a reduction in revenues from a property;
increases in compensation costs due to the tight labor market in many of the markets in which we operate; 
our ability to provide adequate maintenance for our apartment communities;
our ability to provide adequate insurance on our apartment communities; and
changes in tax laws and other government regulations that could affect the value of REITs generally or our business in particular.
Our property acquisition activities may not produce the cash flows expected and could subject us to various risks that could adversely affect our operating results. We have acquired and intend to continue to pursue the acquisition of apartment communities, but the success of our acquisition activities is subject to numerous risks, including the following:
acquisition agreements are subject to customary closing conditions, including completion of due diligence investigations, and we may be unable to complete an acquisition after making a non-refundable deposit and incurring other acquisition-related costs; 
expected occupancy, rental rates, and operating expenses of acquired apartment communities may differ from the actual results, or from those of our existing apartment communities;
we may be unable to obtain financing for acquisitions on favorable terms, or at all; 
competition for these properties could cause us to pay higher prices or prevent us from purchasing a desired property at all;
we may be subject to unknown liabilities from acquired properties, with either no recourse or limited recourse against prior owners or other third parties with respect to these unknown liabilities; and 
we may be unable to quickly and efficiently integrate new acquisitions into our existing operations.

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We may be unable to acquire or develop properties and expand our operations into new or existing markets successfully. We intend to explore acquisitions or developments of properties in new and existing geographic markets. Acquiring or developing new properties and expanding into new markets introduces several risks, including but not limited to the following:
we may not be successful in identifying suitable properties or other assets that meet our acquisition or development criteria or in consummating acquisitions or developments on satisfactory terms, or at all;
we may be unable to maintain consistent standards, controls, policies, and procedures, or realize the anticipated benefits of the acquisitions within the anticipated time frame, or at all;
acquisitions and divestitures could divert our attention from our existing properties and could cause us to lose key employees or be unable to attract highly qualified new employees;
unfamiliarity with the dynamics and prevailing market conditions or local government or permitting procedures of any new geographic markets could adversely affect our ability to successfully expand into or operate within those markets or cause us to become more dependent on third parties in new markets due to our inability to directly and efficiently manage and otherwise monitor new properties in new markets;
we may make assumptions regarding the expected future performance of acquired properties, including expected occupancy, rental rates, and cash flows, that prove to be inaccurate; and
we may improperly estimate the costs of repositioning or redeveloping an acquired property.
We also may abandon opportunities to enter new markets that we have begun to explore for any reason and may, as a result, fail to recover expenses already incurred.
Our current or future insurance may not protect us against possible losses. We carry comprehensive liability, fire, extended coverage, and other insurance with respect to our properties at levels that we believe to be adequate and comparable to coverage customarily obtained by owners of similar properties. However, the coverage limits of our current or future policies may be insufficient to cover the full cost of repair or replacement of all potential losses, or our level of coverage may not continue to be available in the future or, if available, may be available only at unacceptable cost or with unacceptable terms. We also do not maintain coverage for certain catastrophic events like hurricanes and earthquakes because the cost of such insurance is deemed by management to be higher than the risk of loss due to the location of our properties. In most cases, we have to renew our insurance policies on an annual basis and negotiate acceptable terms for coverage, exposing us to the volatility of the insurance markets, including the possibility of rate increases. In addition, a reduction of the number of insurance providers or the unwillingness of existing insurance providers to write insurance for multifamily properties may reduce the potential availability and/or cost for obtaining insurance on our properties. Any material increases in insurance rates or decrease in available coverage in the future could adversely affect our results of operations.
Catastrophic weather, natural events, and climate change could adversely affect our business. Some of our apartment communities are located in areas that may experience catastrophic weather and other natural events from time to time, including snow or ice storms, flooding, tornadoes, or other severe or inclement weather. During the year ended December 31, 2019, many of our markets were impacted by a series of adverse weather-related events. These events included extreme cold, record-setting snowfall, extensive hail storms in certain markets, and tornadoes, which caused excess ice and snow accumulation, water and hail damage, and other weather-related damage to some of our apartment communities. Although most of these losses were covered by insurance, these or other adverse and natural events could cause damage or losses that may be greater than insured levels. In the event of a loss in excess of insured limits, we could lose all or a portion of our investment in an affected property as well as additional revenue from that apartment community. We may continue to be obligated to repay mortgage indebtedness or other obligations related to an affected apartment community.
To the extent that we experience any significant changes in the climate in areas where our apartment communities are located, we may experience extreme weather conditions and prolonged changes in precipitation and temperature, all of which could result in physical damage to, and/or a decrease in demand for, our apartment communities located in these areas. If the impact of any such climate change were to be material, or occur for a lengthy period of time, our business may be adversely affected.
Changes in federal or state laws and regulations relating to climate change could result in increased costs to our business, including capital expenditures to improve the energy efficiency of our existing communities or new development communities without a corresponding increase in revenue. Among other things, "green" building codes may seek to reduce emissions through the imposition of standards for design, construction materials, water and energy usage and efficiency and waste management The imposition of such requirements in the future, including the imposition of new energy efficiency standards or requirements relating to resistance to inclement weather, could increase the costs of maintaining or improving our properties without a corresponding increase in revenue, thereby having an adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operation. The impact of climate

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change also may increase the cost of, or make unavailable, property insurance or other hazard insurance on terms we find acceptable or necessary to adequately protect our properties.
We are dependent on a concentration of our investments in a single asset class, making our results of operations more vulnerable to a downturn or slowdown in the sector or other economic factors. Since April 30, 2018, substantially all of our investments have been concentrated in the multifamily sector. As a result, we will be subject to risks inherent in investments in a single type of property. A downtown or slowdown in the demand for multifamily housing may have more pronounced effects on our business and results of operations or on the value of our assets than if we had continued to be more diversified in our investments into more than one asset class.
Our operations are concentrated in certain regions of the United States, and we are subject to general economic conditions in the regions in which we operate. Our overall operations are concentrated in the Midwest region and portions of the West region of the United States. Our performance could be adversely affected by economic conditions in, and other factors relating to, these geographic areas, including supply and demand for apartments in these areas, zoning and other regulatory conditions, and competition from other communities and alternative forms of housing. In particular, our performance is influenced by job growth and unemployment rates in the areas in which we operate. To the extent the economic conditions, job growth and unemployment in any of these markets deteriorate or any of these areas experience natural disasters or more pronounced effects of climate change, the value of our portfolio, our results of operations, and our ability to make payments on our debt and to make distributions could be adversely affected.
Our business depends on our ability to continue to provide high quality housing and consistent operation of our apartment communities, the failure of which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Our business depends on providing our residents with quality housing and reliable services (including utilities), along with the consistent operation of our communities and their associated amenities, including covered parking, swimming pools, clubhouses with fitness facilities, playground areas, and other similar features. We may be required to undertake significant capital expenditures to renovate or reconfigure our communities in order to attract new residents and retain existing residents. The delayed delivery, material reduction, or prolonged interruption in any of these services may cause our residents to terminate their leases, may result in the reduction of rents and/or may result in an increase in our costs. In addition, we may fail to provide quality housing and continuous access to amenities as a result of other factors, including mechanical failure, power failure, inclement weather, physical or electronic security breaches, vandalism or acts of terrorism, or other similar events. Any of these issues could cause our residents to terminate or fail to renew their leases, could expose us to additional costs or liability claims, and could damage our reputation, any of which could impact our ability to provide quality housing and consistent operation of our apartment communities, which in turn could materially affect our business and results of operations.
Competition may negatively impact our earnings. We compete with many kinds of institutions, including other REITs, private partnerships, individuals, pension funds, and banks in attracting residents and finding investment opportunities. Many of these institutions are active in the markets in which we invest and have greater financial and other resources than we do, including access to capital on more favorable terms. Our apartment communities compete directly with other multifamily apartment communities, single-family homes, condominiums, and other short-term rentals.
Short-term leases could expose us to the effects of declining market rents. Our apartment leases are generally for a term of 18 months or less. Because these leases generally allow residents to leave at the expiration of the lease term without penalty, our rental revenues are impacted by declines in market rents more quickly than if our leases were for longer terms.
Because real estate investments are relatively illiquid and various other factors limit our ability to dispose of assets, we may not be able to sell properties when appropriate. We may have limited ability to change our portfolio of properties quickly in response to our strategic plan and changes in economic or other conditions, and the prohibitions under the federal income tax laws on REITs holding property for sale and related regulations may affect our ability to sell properties. Under certain circumstances, the Internal Revenue Code (the "Code") imposes penalties on a REIT that sells property held for less than two years and limits the number of properties it can sell in a given year. Our ability to dispose of assets also may be limited by constraints on our ability to use disposition proceeds to make acquisitions on financially attractive terms. Some of our properties were acquired using limited partnership units of IRET Properties, our operating partnership, and are subject to certain tax-protection agreements that restrict our ability to sell these properties in transactions that would create current taxable income to the former owners. As a result, we are motivated to structure the sale of these assets as tax-free exchanges, the requirements of which are technical and may be difficult to achieve.
Inability to manage growth effectively may adversely affect our operating results. We have experienced significant growth at various times in the past and may do so in the future, principally through the acquisition of additional real estate properties. Effective management of rapid growth presents challenges, including:

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the need to expand our management team and staff;
the need to enhance internal operating systems and controls; and
the ability to consistently achieve targeted returns on individual properties.
We may not be able to maintain similar rates of growth in the future or manage our growth effectively.
Adverse changes in taxes and other laws may affect our liabilities relating to our properties and operations. Increases in real estate taxes, including recent property tax increases in several of the markets in which we operate, and service and transfer taxes may adversely affect our cash available for distributions and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. Similarly, changes in laws that increase the potential liability for environmental conditions or that affect development, construction, and safety requirements may result in significant unanticipated costs. Future enactment of rent control or rent stabilization laws or other laws regulating apartment communities may reduce rental revenues or increase operating costs.
We may be unable to retain or attract qualified management. We are dependent upon our senior officers for essentially all aspects of our business operations. Our senior officers have experience in the real estate industry, and the loss of them would likely have a material adverse effect on our operations and could adversely impact our relationships with lenders and industry personnel. We do not have employment contracts with any of our senior officers. As a result, any senior officer may terminate his or her relationship with us at any time, without providing advance notice. If we fail to effectively manage a transition to new personnel, or if we fail to attract and retain qualified and experienced personnel on acceptable terms, it could adversely affect our business.
We may not be able to attract and retain qualified employees. Strong economic growth in recent years has created a tight labor market in many of the markets in which we operate, and we are dependent on employees at our apartment communities to provide attractive homes for our residents. The loss of key personnel at these apartment communities, or the inability or cost of replacing such personnel at such communities, could have an adverse impact on our business and results of operations.
We face risks associated with security breaches through cyber-attacks, cyber intrusions, or otherwise, which could pose a risk to our systems, networks, and servicesWe face risks associated with security breaches or disruptions, whether through cyber-attacks or cyber intrusions over the Internet, malware, computer viruses, attachments to emails, or persons inside our organization. The risk of a security breach or disruption, particularly through cyber-attacks or cyber intrusion, including by computer hackers, foreign governments and cyber terrorists, has generally increased as the number, intensity, and sophistication of attempted attacks and intrusions around the world have increased. In the normal course of business, we and our service providers (including service providers engaged in providing web hosting, property management, leasing, accounting and/or payroll software/services) collect and retain certain personal information provided by our residents, employees, and vendors. We also rely extensively on computer systems to process transactions and manage our business. While we and our service providers employ a variety of data security measures to protect confidential information on our systems and periodically review and improve our data security measures, we cannot provide assurance that we or our service providers will be able to prevent unauthorized access to this personal information, that our efforts to maintain the security and integrity of the information that we and our service providers collect will be effective, or that attempted security breaches or disruptions would not be successful or damaging. 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. In some cases, these breaches are designed not to be detected and, in fact, may not be detected. Accordingly, we and our service providers may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate security barriers or other preventative measures, thereby making it impossible to entirely mitigate this risk. The risk of a breach or security failure, particularly through cyber-attacks or cyber-intrusion, has generally increased due to the rise in new technologies and the increased sophistication and activities of the perpetrators of attempted attacks and intrusions. A security breach or other significant disruption involving computer networks and related systems could cause substantial costs and other negative effects, including litigation, remediation costs, costs to deploy additional protection strategies, compromising of confidential information, and reputational damage adversely affecting investor confidence.
We may be responsible for potential liabilities under environmental laws. Under various federal, state, and local laws, ordinances and regulations, we, as a current or previous owner or operator of real estate, may be liable for the costs of removal or remediation of hazardous or toxic substances in, on, around, or under that property. These laws may impose liability without regard to whether we knew of, or were responsible for, the presence of the hazardous or toxic substances. The presence of these substances, or the failure to properly remediate any property containing these substances, may adversely affect our ability to sell or rent the affected property or to borrow funds using the property as collateral. In arranging for the disposal or treatment of hazardous or toxic substances, we also may be liable for the costs of removal of, or remediation of, these substances at that disposal or treatment facility, whether or not we own or operate the facility. In connection with our current or former ownership (direct or indirect), operation, management, development, and/or control of real properties, we may be potentially liable for removal or remediation costs with respect to hazardous or toxic substances at those properties, as well as certain other costs, including governmental fines

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and claims for injuries to persons and property. Although we are not aware of any such claims associated with our existing properties that would have a material adverse effect on our business, potential future costs and damage claims may be substantial and could exceed any insurance coverage we may have for such events or such coverage may not exist. The presence of such substances, or the failure to properly remediate any such impacts, may adversely affect our ability to borrow against, develop, sell, or rent the affected property. Some environmental laws create or allow a government agency to impose a lien on the impacted property in favor of the government for damages and costs it incurs as a result of responding to hazardous or toxic substances.
Environmental laws also govern the presence, maintenance, and removal of asbestos, and require that owners or operators of buildings containing asbestos properly manage and maintain the asbestos; notify and train those who may come into contact with asbestos; and undertake special precautions if asbestos would be disturbed during renovation or demolition of a building. Indoor air quality issues may also necessitate special investigation and remediation. These air quality issues can result from inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor or outdoor sources, or biological contaminants such as molds, pollen, viruses and bacteria. Asbestos or air quality remediation programs could be costly, necessitate the temporary relocation of some or all of the property’s residents, or require rehabilitation of an affected property.
It is generally our policy to obtain a Phase I environmental study on each property that we seek to acquire. A Phase I environmental study generally includes a visual inspection of the property and the surrounding areas, an examination of current and historical uses of the property and the surrounding areas, and a review of relevant state and federal documents but does not involve invasive techniques such as soil and ground water sampling. If the Phase I indicates any possible environmental problems, our policy is to order a Phase II study, which involves testing the soil and ground water for actual hazardous substances. However, Phase I and Phase II environmental studies, or any other environmental studies undertaken with respect to any of our current or future properties, may not reveal the full extent of potential environmental liabilities. We currently do not carry insurance for environmental liabilities.
Expanding social media usage could present new risks. The use of social media could cause us to suffer broad reputational damage. Negative posts or comments about us through social media, whether by residents or prospective residents, could damage our reputation or that of our apartment communities, whether or not such claims or posts are valid, which in turn could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Similarly, disclosure of any non-public sensitive information relating to our business or our residents or prospective residents could damage our reputation, our business, or our results of operations. The continuing evolution of social media will present us with new and ongoing challenges and risks.
Litigation risks could affect our business. As a publicly traded owner, manager, and developer of apartment communities, we may incur liability based on various conditions at our properties and the buildings thereon. In the past, we have been, and in the future may become, involved in legal proceedings, including consumer, employment, tort, or commercial litigation, any of which if decided adversely to us or settled by us and not adequately covered by insurance, could result in liability that could be material to our results of operations.
Risks related to properties under development, redevelopment, or newly developed properties may adversely affect our financial performance. We may be unable to obtain, or may suffer delays in obtaining, necessary zoning, land-use, building, occupancy, and other required governmental permits and authorizations, which could lead to increased costs or abandonment of projects. We may not be able to obtain financing on favorable terms, or at all, and we may not be able to complete lease-up of a property on schedule. The resulting time required for development, redevelopment, and lease-up means that we may have to wait years for significant cash returns.
Future cash flows may not be sufficient to ensure recoverability of the carrying value of our real estate assets. We periodically evaluate the recoverability of the carrying value of our real estate assets under United States generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”). Factors considered in evaluating impairment of our real estate assets held for investment include recurring net operating losses and other significant adverse changes in general market conditions that are considered permanent in nature. Generally, a real estate asset held for investment is not considered impaired if the estimated undiscounted future cash flows of the asset over its estimated holding period are in excess of the asset’s net book value at the balance sheet date. Assumptions used to estimate annual and residual cash flow and the estimated holding period of these assets require the judgment of management.
Complying with laws benefiting disabled persons or other safety regulations and requirements may affect our costs and investment strategies. Federal, state, and local laws and regulations designed to improve disabled persons’ access to and use of buildings, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, may require modifications to, or restrict renovations of, existing buildings that may require unexpected expenditures. These laws and regulations may require that structural features be added to buildings under construction. Legislation or regulations that may be adopted in the future may impose further burdens or restrictions on us with respect to improved access to, and use of these buildings by, disabled persons. Noncompliance could result in the imposition of fines by government authorities or the award of damages to private litigants. The costs of complying

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with these laws and regulations may be substantial, and limits or restrictions on construction, or the completion of required renovations, may limit the implementation of our investment strategy or reduce overall returns on our investments.
Risks related to joint ventures may adversely affect our financial performance and results of operations. We have entered into, and may continue in the future to enter into, partnerships or joint ventures with other persons or entities. Joint venture investments involve risks that may not be present with other methods of ownership, based on the financial condition and business interests of our partners, which are beyond our control and which may conflict with our interests..
In some instances, we and/or our partner may have the right to trigger a buy-sell arrangement, which 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. Our ability to acquire our partner’s interest may be limited if we do not have sufficient cash, available borrowing capacity, or other capital resources. In such event, we may be forced to sell our interest in the joint venture when we would otherwise prefer to retain it. Joint ventures may require us to share decision-making authority with our partners, which could limit our ability to control the properties in the joint ventures. Even when we have a controlling interest, certain major decisions may require partner approval, such as the sale, acquisition, or financing of a property.
Actual or threatened terrorist attacks may adversely affect our business. Actual or threatened terrorist attacks and other acts of war or violence could adversely affect our business. Attacks that directly impact one or more of our apartment communities could significantly affect our ability to operate these communities, thereby impairing our ability to achieve our expected results. Our insurance may not adequately cover all losses from a terrorist attack, and the ongoing effects of any terrorist attacks or threatened terrorist attacks could adversely affect the U.S. economy generally and our business in particular.
Potential changes to the financial condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and in government support for apartment communities may adversely affect our business. Historically, we have depended on the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) to provide financing for certain apartment communities. Although Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a mandate to support multifamily housing through their financing activities, there are current government proposals relating to the future of agency mortgage finance in the U.S. that could involve the phase-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Although we believe that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to provide liquidity to the multifamily sector, any phase-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, change in their mandate, or reduction in government support for apartment communities generally could result in adverse changes to interest rates, capital availability, development of additional apartment communities, and the value of these communities.
Employee theft or fraud could result in loss. Certain employees have access to, or signature authority with respect to, our bank accounts or assets, which exposes us to the risk of fraud or theft. Certain employees also have access to key information technology (“IT”) infrastructure and to resident and other information that may be commercially valuable. If any employee were to compromise our IT systems, or misappropriate resident or other information, we could incur losses, including potentially significant financial or reputational harm. We may not have insurance that covers any losses in full or covers losses from particular criminal acts.
Risks Related to Our Indebtedness and Financings
Our inability to renew, repay, or refinance our debt may result in losses. We incur a significant amount of debt in the ordinary course of our business and in connection with acquisitions of real properties. Because we have a limited ability to retain earnings as a result of the REIT distribution requirements, we will generally be required to refinance debt that matures with additional debt or equity. We are subject to the normal risks associated with debt financing, including the risks that:
our cash flow will be insufficient to meet required payments of principal and interest;
we will not be able to renew, refinance, or repay our indebtedness when due; and
the terms of any renewal or refinancing will be less favorable than the terms of our current indebtedness.
These risks increase when credit markets are tight. In general, when the credit markets are tight, we may encounter resistance from lenders when we seek financing or refinancing for properties or proposed acquisitions, and the terms of such financing or refinancing are likely to be less favorable to us than the terms of our current indebtedness.
We anticipate that we will need to refinance a significant portion of our outstanding debt as it matures. We cannot guarantee that any refinancing of debt with other debt will be possible on terms that are favorable or acceptable to us. If we cannot refinance, extend, or pay principal payments due at maturity with the proceeds of other capital transactions, our cash flows may not be sufficient in all years to repay debt as it matures. If we are unable to refinance our indebtedness on acceptable terms, or at all, we may be forced to dispose of one or more properties on disadvantageous terms, which may result in losses. These losses could have a material adverse effect on our business, our ability to make distributions to our shareholders, and our ability to pay amounts due

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on our debt. If a property is mortgaged to secure payment of indebtedness and we are unable to meet mortgage payments or refinance the debt at maturity, the mortgagor could foreclose upon the property, appoint a receiver, and receive an assignment of rents and leases or pursue other remedies, including taking ownership of the property, all with a consequent loss of revenues and asset value. Foreclosures also could affect our ability to obtain new debt and could create taxable income without accompanying cash proceeds, thereby hindering our ability to meet the REIT distribution requirements of the Code and impeding our ability to obtain financing for our other properties.
The restrictive terms of indebtedness may cause acceleration of debt payments and constrain our ability to conduct certain transactions. At December 31, 2019, we and our Operating Partnership had outstanding borrowings of approximately $651.5 million. Some of this indebtedness contains financial covenants relating to fixed charge coverage ratios, maximum secured debt, maintenance of unencumbered asset value, and total debt to gross assets, among others. Some covenants present new constraints as we navigate investments and dispositions with respect to our ability to invest in certain markets, add incremental secured and recourse debt, and add overall leverage. If an event of default occurs, our lenders may increase rates or declare borrowings under the loan agreements to be due and payable immediately, which could have an adverse effect on our ability to make distributions to our shareholders and pay amounts due on our debt.
Rising interest rates may affect our cost of capital and financing activities. The potential for rising interest rates could limit our ability to refinance portions of our fixed-rate indebtedness when it matures and would increase our interest costs. We also have an unsecured credit facility that bears interest at variable rates based on amounts drawn. As a result, any increase in interest rates could increase our interest expense on our variable rate debt, increase our interest rates when refinancing fixed-rate debt, increase the cost of issuing new debt, and reduce the cash available for distribution to shareholders.
Interest rate hedging arrangements may result in losses. From time to time, we use interest rate swaps and other hedging instruments to manage our interest rate risks. Although these arrangements may partially protect us against rising interest rates, they also may reduce the benefits to us if interest rates decline. If a hedging arrangement is not indexed to the same rate as the indebtedness that is hedged, we may be exposed to losses to the extent that the rate governing the indebtedness and the rate governing the hedging arrangement change independently of each other, and nonperformance by the other party to the hedging arrangement also may subject us to increased credit risks. In order to minimize any counterparty credit risk, we enter into hedging arrangements only with investment grade financial institutions.
Potential changes to LIBOR could affect our financing covenants. LIBOR has been used as a primary benchmark for short-term interest rates, including under our credit facility. Daily LIBOR interest rates have been published since January 1, 1986 and have become deeply entrenched into the global financial markets. Post-financial crisis, regulation has significantly reduced bank appetite to issue commercial paper and wholesale deposits, which means there is a very low volume of transactions upon which banks can base their LIBOR submissions. As a result, central banks around the world, including the Federal Reserve, have commissioned working groups of market participants and official sector representatives with the goal of finding suitable replacements for LIBOR based on observable market transactions. It is expected a transition away from the widespread use of LIBOR to alternative rates will occur over the course of the next few years. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates LIBOR, has announced it has commitments from panel banks to continue to contribute to LIBOR through the end of 2021, but it will not use its powers to compel contributions beyond such date. Accordingly, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the publication of such rates beyond 2021. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and various other authorities have commenced the publication of reforms and actions relating to alternatives to U.S. dollar LIBOR. Although the full impact of such reforms and actions, together with any transition away from LIBOR, including the potential or actual discontinuance of LIBOR publication, remains unclear, these changes may have a material adverse impact on the availability of financing. In addition, as it relates to future and derivatives contracts, ISDA master agreements between counterparties may need to be amended or replaced, including derivative contracts in which we are invested. There can be no assurance that a new global standard will be agreed upon or that any new rate will be reflective of the original interest rate and credit risk included within LIBOR, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financing costs as well as our business and results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Shares
Our stock price may fluctuate significantly. The market price and trading volume of our common shares are subject to fluctuation due to general market conditions, the risks discussed in this report, and several other factors, including the following:
regional, national, and global economic and business conditions;
actual or anticipated changes in our quarterly operating results or dividends;
changes in our estimates of funds from operations or earnings;
investor interest in our property portfolio;

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the market perception and performance of REITs in general and apartment REITs in particular;
the market perception or trading volume of REITs relative to other investment opportunities;
the market perception of our financial condition, performance, distributions, and growth potential;
general stock and bond market conditions, including potential increases in interest rates that could lead investors to seek higher annual yields from dividends;
shifts in our investor base to a higher concentration of passive investors, including exchange-traded funds and index funds, that could have an adverse effect on our ability to communicate with our shareholders;
our ability to access capital markets, which could impact our cost of capital;
a change in our credit rating or analyst ratings;
changes in minimum dividend requirements;
terrorism or other factors that adversely impact the markets in which our stock trades; and
changes in tax laws or government regulations that could affect the attractiveness of our stock.
Rising interest rates could have an adverse effect on our share price. If interest rates increase, this could cause holders of our common shares and other investors to seek higher dividends on our shares or higher yields through other investments, which could adversely affect the market price of our shares.
Low trading volume on the NYSE may prevent the timely sale or resale of our shares. Although our common shares are listed on the NYSE, the daily trading volume of our shares may be lower than the trading volume for other companies. As a result of lower trading volume, an owner of our common shares may encounter difficulty in selling our shares in a timely manner and may incur a substantial loss.
Failure to generate sufficient revenue or other liquidity needs could limit cash flow available for distributions to our shareholders. A decrease in rental revenue, an increase in funding to support our acquisition and development needs, or other unmet liquidity needs could have an adverse effect on our ability to pay distributions to our shareholders or the Operating Partnership's unitholders.
Payment of distributions on our common shares is not guaranteed. Our Board of Trustees must approve any stock distributions and may elect at any time, or from time to time, and for an indefinite duration, to reduce or not pay the distributions payable on our common shares. Our Board may reduce distributions for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the following:
operating and financial results cannot support the current distribution payment;
unanticipated costs, capital requirements, or cash requirements;
annual distribution requirements under the REIT provisions of the Code;
a conclusion that the payment of distributions would cause us to breach the terms of certain agreements or contracts, such as financial ratio covenants in our debt financing documents; or
other factors the Board of Trustees may consider relevant.
Our future growth depends, in part, on our ability to raise additional equity capital, which will have the effect of diluting the interests of our common shareholders. Our future growth depends upon, among other things, our ability to raise equity capital and issue limited partnership units of IRET Properties. Sales of substantial amounts of our common or preferred shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales or issuances might occur, may dilute the interests of the current common shareholders and could adversely affect the market price of our common shares. In addition, as a REIT, we are required to make distributions to holders of our equity securities of at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined before a deduction for dividends paid and excluding any net capital gain. This limits our ability to retain cash or earnings to fund future growth and makes us more dependent on raising funds through other means, which may include raising additional equity capital.
We may issue additional classes or series of our shares of beneficial interest with rights and preferences that are superior to the rights and preferences of our common shares. Our Declaration of Trust provides for an unlimited number of shares of beneficial interest. Without the approval of our common shareholders, our Board of Trustees may establish additional classes or series of our shares of beneficial interest, and such classes or series may have dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption, redemption prices, liquidation preferences, or other rights and preferences that are superior to the rights of the holders of our common shares. In that regard, in September 2017, we filed a shelf registration statement with the SEC that

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enables us to sell an undetermined number of equity and debt securities as defined in the prospectus, including under the 2019 ATM Program. Future sales of common shares, preferred shares, or convertible debt securities may dilute current shareholders and could have an adverse impact on the market price of our common shares.
Any material weaknesses identified in our internal control over financial reporting could adversely affect our stock 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 were to identify one or more material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, we could lose investor confidence in our financial reporting and results of operations, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our stock price.
Risks Related to Tax Matters
We may incur tax liabilities as a consequence of failing to qualify as a REIT, which could force us to borrow funds during unfavorable market conditions. We have elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code. Qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex Code provisions, including income, asset, and distribution tests, for which there are only limited judicial or administrative interpretations. Even a technical or inadvertent mistake could endanger our REIT status. The determination that we qualify as a REIT requires an ongoing analysis of various factual matters and circumstances, some of which may not be within our control. For example, in order to qualify as a REIT, at least 95% of our gross income in any year must come from certain passive sources that are itemized in the REIT tax laws, and we are prohibited from owning specified amounts of debt or equity securities of some issuers. Thus, to the extent revenues from non-qualifying sources, such as income from third-party management services, represent more than 5% of our gross income in any taxable year, we will not satisfy the 95% income test and may fail to qualify as a REIT, unless certain relief provisions contained in the Code apply. Even if relief provisions apply, however, a tax would be imposed with respect to excess net income. We are also required to make distributions to the holders of our securities of at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined before a deduction for dividends paid and excluding any net capital gain. To the extent that we satisfy the 90% test but distribute less than 100% of our REIT taxable income, we will be subject to corporate income tax on such undistributed income and could be subject to an additional 4% excise tax. Because we need to meet these tests to maintain our qualification as a REIT, it could cause us to have to forgo certain business opportunities and potentially require us to liquidate otherwise attractive investments. The fact that we hold substantially all of our assets (except for qualified REIT subsidiaries) through IRET Properties, our operating partnership, and its subsidiaries, and our ongoing reliance on factual determinations, such as determinations related to the valuation of our assets, further complicates the application of the REIT requirements for us. If IRET Properties or one or more of our subsidiaries is determined to be taxable as a corporation, we may fail to qualify as a REIT. Either our failure to qualify as a REIT, for any reason, or the imposition of taxes on excess net income from non-qualifying sources, could adversely affect our business and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders and pay amounts due on our debt. New legislation, regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions could change the tax laws with respect to our qualification as a REIT or the federal income tax consequences of our qualification.
If we were to fail to qualify as a REIT, we would be subject to federal income tax on our taxable income at regular corporate rates, could be subject to increased state and local taxes and, unless entitled to relief under applicable statutory provisions, would be disqualified from treatment as a REIT for the four taxable years following the year during which we lost our qualification, which would likely have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to our shareholders, and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. This treatment would reduce funds available for investment or distributions to the holders of our securities due to the additional tax liability to us for the year or years involved, and we would no longer be able to deduct, and would not be required to make, distributions to our shareholders. To the extent that distributions to the holders of our securities had been made in anticipation of qualifying as a REIT, we may need short-term debt or long-term debt or proceeds from asset sales or sales of common shares to fund required distributions as a result of differences in timing between the actual receipt of income and the recognition of income for federal income tax purposes, or the effect of non-deductible capital expenditures, the creation of reserves or required debt or amortization payments. The inability of our cash flows to cover our distribution requirements could have an adverse impact on our ability to raise short and long-term debt or sell equity securities in order to fund distributions required to maintain our REIT status.
Failure of our operating partnership to qualify as a partnership would result in corporate taxation and significantly reduce the amount of cash available for distribution. We believe that IRET Properties, our operating partnership, qualifies as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. However, we can provide no assurance that the IRS will not challenge its status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or that a court would not sustain such a challenge. If the IRS were to be successful in treating IRET Properties as an entity taxable as a corporation (such as a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation), we would cease to qualify as a REIT because the value of our ownership interest in IRET Properties would exceed 5% of our assets and because we would be considered to hold more than 10% of the voting securities and value of the outstanding securities of another corporation. The imposition of a corporate tax on IRET Properties would significantly reduce the amount of cash available for distribution.

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Certain provisions of our Declaration of Trust may limit a change in control and deter a takeover. In order to maintain our qualification as a REIT, our Declaration of Trust provides that any transaction that would result in our disqualification as a REIT under Section 856 of the Code will be void, including any transaction that would result in the following:
less than 100 people owning our shares;
our being “closely held” within the meaning of Section 856(h) of the Code; or
50% or more of the fair market value of our shares being held by persons other than “United States persons.”
If the transaction is not void, then the shares in violation of the foregoing conditions will automatically be exchanged for an equal number of excess shares, and these excess shares will be transferred to an excess share trustee for the exclusive benefit of the charitable beneficiaries named by our Board of Trustees. The Trust's Declaration of Trust also provides a limit on a person owning in excess of the ownership limit of 9.8%, in number or value, of the Trust's outstanding shares, although the Board of Trustees retains the ability to make exceptions to this ownership threshold. These limitations may have the effect of preventing a change in control or takeover of us by a third party, even if the change in control or takeover would be in the best interests of our shareholders.
Legislative or regulatory actions affecting REITs could have an adverse effect on us or our shareholders. Changes to tax laws or regulations may adversely impact our shareholders and our business and financial results. The REIT rules are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department, which may result in revisions to regulations and interpretations as well as statutory changes. 
In 2017, Congress passed tax legislation (the “2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) that significantly changed the U.S. federal income taxation of U.S. businesses and their owners, including REITs and their shareholders. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 also contained provisions that may reduce the relative competitive advantage of operating as a REIT. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lowered income tax rates on individuals and corporations, easing the burden of double taxation on corporate dividends and potentially causing the single level of taxation on REIT distributions to be relatively less attractive. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 also contains provisions allowing the expensing of capital expenditures, which could result in the bunching of taxable income and required distributions for REITs, and provisions further limiting the deductibility of interest expense, which could disrupt the real estate market. Changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that could affect our shareholders include the following:
reducing the individual U.S. federal income tax rates on ordinary income (with the highest rate being reduced from 39.6% to 37% for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026;
permanently eliminating the progressive corporate tax rate structure, including dividends we may distribute to our shareholders that are not designated as capital gains dividends or qualified dividend income, which will allow individuals, trusts, and estate to deduct up to 20% of such amounts for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026;
reducing the highest rate of withholding on distributions to non-U.S. shareholders that are treated as attributable to gains from the sale or exchange of U.S. real property interests from 35% to 21%;
limiting our deductions for net operating losses arising in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 to 80% of REIT taxable income (determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction); and
eliminating the corporate alternative minimum tax.
We cannot predict whether, when, or to what extent the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and any new U.S. federal tax laws, regulations, interpretations, or rulings will impact the real estate investment industry or REITs. Prospective investors are urged to consult their tax advisers regarding the effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and potential future changes to the federal tax laws of an investment in our shares or Units.
Dividends payable by REITs may be taxed at higher rates than dividends of non-REIT corporations, which could reduce the net cash received by our shareholders and may be detrimental to our ability to raise additional funds through any future sale of our stock. Dividends paid by REITs to U.S. shareholders that are individuals, trusts, or estates are generally not eligible for the reduced tax rate applicable to qualified dividends received from non-REIT corporations but, under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, U.S. shareholders that are individuals, trusts, and estates generally may deduct 20% of ordinary dividends from a REIT (for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026). Although this deduction reduces the effective tax rate applicable to certain dividends paid by REITs, such tax rate is still higher than the tax rate applicable to regular corporate qualified dividends. This may cause investors to view REIT investments as less attractive than investments in non-REIT corporations, which in turn may adversely affect the value of stock in REITs, including our stock. Investors should consult with their tax advisers regarding the U.S. tax consequences of an investment in our stock or Units.

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We may face risks in connection with Section 1031 exchanges. From time to time, we dispose of properties in transactions intended to qualify as “like-kind exchanges” under Section 1031 of the Code. If a transaction intended to qualify as a Section 1031 exchange is later determined to be taxable, we may face adverse consequences, and if the laws applicable to such transactions are amended or repealed, we may not be able to dispose of properties on a tax-deferred basis. If we are unable to meet the technical requirements of a desired Section 1031 exchange, we may be required to make a special dividend payment to our shareholders if we are unable to mitigate the taxable gains realized. The failure to reinvest proceeds from sales of properties into tax-deferred exchanges could necessitate payments to unitholders with tax protection agreements.
Complying with REIT requirements may force us to forgo otherwise attractive opportunities or liquidate otherwise attractive investments. To qualify and maintain our status as a REIT, we must satisfy certain requirements with respect to the character of our assets. If we fail to comply with these requirements at the end of any quarter, we must correct such failure within 30 days after the end of the quarter (by, possibly, selling assets notwithstanding their prospects as an investment) to avoid losing our REIT status. This could include potentially selling otherwise attractive assets or liquidating or foregoing otherwise attractive investments. These actions could reduce our income and amounts available for distribution to our shareholders.
Even if we qualify as a REIT, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flows. Even if we qualify as a REIT under the U.S. tax code, we may be subject to certain federal, state, and local taxes on our income and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income, tax on income from some activities conducted as a result of a foreclosure, and state or local income, property, and transfer taxes, such as mortgage recording taxes. Any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
The tax imposed on REITs engaging in prohibited transactions and our agreements entered into with certain contributors of our properties may limit our ability to