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Facing tenant protest at its headquarters, huge SF landlord waives renter fees

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Company will make it easier for renters to avoid improvement fees that tenants call de facto rent hikes

A very low-angle photo of high-rise buildings in San Francisco, including one in the center frame with blue windows.
One Bush, where tenants plan to protest Veritas Investments Tuesday
Via Google

Veritas Investments, a company that owns roughly 5,000 SF homes and calls itself San Francisco’s biggest landlord, announced Tuesday that it will waive new fees for many tenants, even as renters gear up for a public demonstration alleging that the company uses such fees to drive up rents.

In a a public statement released today, Veritas said it will employ a new “expedited hardship waiver program, which immediately waives [...] charges resulting from operating and maintenance expenses as well as from capital improvements” to qualifying renters, such as those with less than $50,000 in savings or who are rent burdened by paying more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.

In the past, some renters criticized Veritas for initiating upgrades in its building, charging tenants for the cost, and then forcing out renters who couldn’t pay.

Yat-Pang Au, CEO of Veritas Investments, said Tuesday, “We will continue to find ways to help residents who need additional support and preserve affordability in San Francisco.”

In what is almost certainly not a coincidence, today is also the day that tenants planned a public demonstration against Veritas over such fee-related shenanigans.

The San Francisco Tenants Union (SFTU), who organized the planned protest, characterize the fees as de facto rent increases, often used to pile on costs in otherwise rent-controlled buildings.

While City Hall has responded to complaints about Veritas, passing a ban on certain kinds of “increased debt service,” SFTU alleges this isn’t enough to stop what it calls predatory practices at Veritas-owned buildings.

“Veritas has said on the record in Rent Board hearings that they are doing these rent increases because they can, and that these buildings are investment properties. In an affordability crisis, this business model must stop,” the union writes.

Protesters will assemble at Veritas’ office at One Bush Street at noon.

In response to the corporate landlord’s announcement, Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Vallie Brown, both of whom the company cited as collaborators on the fee waiver, said in a joint statement, “We appreciate Veritas’s efforts to begin a dialogue with tenants about addressing rent increases fairly” but added that renters need a more binding solutions than just “benevolence.”