After months of public pressure and protests, including a huge march that shut down four blocks of mid-day traffic, tenants under SF’s largest landlord, Veritas Investments, won a key demand: the immediate cancellation of all 7% Operations & Maintenance (O&M) rent increases imposed by Veritas since the change in the law last year.
“It’s been an arduous fight, but I feel like we won a battle for the rights of tenants throughout San Francisco,” says Adrian McCarron, a long-term tenant at 430 Baker St. who spoke at the Sept. 24 march and tried to deliver a letter to Veritas CEO Yat-Pang Au. “It has been exhausting, and we will remain organized across the city to protect our homes.”
The victory includes a massive rollback of base rents at 10 or more buildings where the Rent Board Commission had already approved the increases. Tenants have also won full refunds of all O&M charges ever paid.
Veritas has been the top filer of O&M petitions at the Rent Board, and even after the law changed last year to ban the passage of debt service and property tax increases onto tenants, the multi-billion dollar real estate investment firm continued to pass the excessive rent increases onto long-term tenants. In total, the increases impacted 500+ units across 34 buildings in SF, many of which had pending Rent Board petitions.
“Veritas tenants fought long and hard for this victory,” said Brad Hirn of Housing Rights Committee of SF. “This is one of the single biggest organizing wins for SF tenants in recent memory, and I hope it inspires renters dealing with all kinds of passthrough rent increases to know that we can come together to stand up for our homes and WIN!”
The Rent Board Commission is still set to consider new guidelines for these types of rent increases, many of which have been filed by other large landlords as well. The proposed guidelines, which the Commission will discuss again at a special meeting on November 4 at 6 PM, would require landlords seeking to impose O&M rent increases to disclose their income to show that they truly need the increases to make a fair rate of return.
“Veritas doing the right thing here doesn’t mean we will let up on requiring landlords to disclose their profits when asking for any type of passthrough rent increase,” said Jean Buchanan, a long-term tenant at 1025 Sutter St., one of the impacted buildings. “We will continue to push for real transparency. Rents don’t have to be this high, and with this victory, we are showing that belief to be true.”
Stay tuned for the date on a public hearing at City Hall about all types of passthroughs, including captial improvement passthroughs.