On October 11, 2018, 68 tenants of Veritas Investments, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the mega-landlord alleging violations of the S.F. Rent Ordinance, State law, and housing codes. This is one of the biggest lawsuits ever filed by tenants in San Francisco.
Plaintiffs are alleging that Veritas and their founder/CEO Yat Pang Au have implemented a business plan designed to drive out long-term tenants, many of whom are senior citizens. Their illegal and unfair business practices come straight from the old playbook of the Lembi family and CitiApartments. Veritas acquired most of the Lembi empire in multiple sweetheart deals, after its collapse involving multple bankruptcies. Veritas is believed to own over 300 residential buildings in San Francisco and is its largest landlord. After CitiApartments failed, many of its employees moved to the Veritas-controlled entity, Greentree Property Management.
Some tactics employed by Veritas as part of their business plan include: attempting to buy-out tenancies after they purchase properties; attempting to raise the rent including with questionable cost pass-throughs; securing expensive loans with high interest rates (sometimes cross-collateralized among multiple properties) and passing the interest through to tenants; intentionally disruptive construction which is makes it unbearable for tenants to be in their units; regular disruptive electrical, water and gas shut-offs for extended periods of time, at times without notice; falsely denying receipt of tenants’ rent; requiring tenants to vacate without providing statutory relocation payments or definite dates they can return; claiming fraudulent late charges; and not showing up for scheduled repairs.
Veritas has failed to make necessary repairs, especially in rent-controlled tenants’ units, and their repair work is often entirely inadequate and done by unprofessional and unqualified personnel. For example, Plaintiff Doris Johnson lives at 320 Turk Street and is severely disabled. She has been stranded in her unit because Defendants failed to repair an elevator for more than 60 days and she was stranded at other times when the elevator was out for extended periods of time.
Three other lawsuits have been filed against Veritas by counsel for Plaintiffs, two which are now pending. One lawsuit has about twenty tenants who live in 15 units at 634 Powell Street and the other is for 15 units of tenants at 300 Buchanan Street. Plaintiffs are represented by S.F. law firms Bracamontes & Vlasak and Greenstein & McDonald.
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