San Francisco’s biggest landlord Veritas Investments hoped to leave tenants on the hook for rent not covered by federal relief, but a tenants' group changed that with a five-month rent strike that ended Thursday.
Widely recognized as San Francisco’s largest landlord, Veritas Investments earned some well-deserved unpopularity by taking $3.6 million in PPP loans in 2020, even though they are a $3 billion company, and certainly not a small business. (They did not return the loans, though they said they would eventually pay the money back.) The company has also been receiving federal and state reimbursement for unpaid rent. And some tenants who took on debt to pay their rent, known in the business as “shadow debt,” figured they ought to be reimbursed too.
Veritas was unwilling to do that, so a group of tenants calling themselves the Veritas Tenants Association started a rent strike in September. That strike ended Thursday, as the tenants' association felt they’d won a significant enough concession on rent cancellation and forgiveness.
GREAT NEWS! Veritas Tenants Association reaches agreement w SF’s largest landlord to end 5-month debt strike in exchange for full rent cancellation.— Aaron Peskin (@AaronPeskin) January 28, 2022
Excellent work by the tenants to organize and earn a seat at the table. Now let's make sure all tenants have a #RightToOrganize! pic.twitter.com/9H42qLZdAx
“The Veritas Tenants Association announces the end of their 5-month debt strike and groundbreaking concessions from Veritas Investments,” their legal counsel the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco said in a Thursday release. “None of these concessions would have happened without the sacrifice and vision of the VTA. In October 2021, Veritas emailed tenants and said that any rent debt not covered by government rent relief funds must be paid by the resident. Because of the VTA, that is no longer the case.”
Veritas had offered tenants a more modest rent forgiveness deal in December. But as the SF Public Press reported a couple weeks later, the forgiveness was only available to tenants “who applied for the government’s rent-relief program by the end of January 2022 — not to all tenants, as the association had requested.”
The new deal, per the Housing Rights Committee, is that they’ve won “A written commitment from Veritas to cancel all remaining rent debt for Veritas tenants.” The committee also says they also won a “waiver of annual rent increases for 2022” as a sweetener in the arrangement.
Image: Property managed by RentSFNow, which is the residential business venture by Veritas Investments. (Photo: Courtesy of RentSFNow)