Tenants strike against Veritas in San Francisco, withholding rent

Tenants Engage in Rent Strikes in San Francisco

Tenants in 65 households, mostly owned by Veritas, have engaged in a rent strike for nearly eight months, the New York Times reported

This housing protest mirrors the strikes by auto workers in Detroit, Hollywood actors, and teachers in Portland. The tenants are withholding rent payments, alleging various issues that have adversely affected their living conditions.

The activists argue that corporations, rather than small landlords, are increasingly acquiring apartments and neglecting the tenants’ well-being. 

The strike is possible because San Francisco passed a groundbreaking legislation in 2022 called Union at Home, the first of its kind in the country. The law allows tenants to form their own associations and mandates landlords to engage in negotiations with them, similar to the process with unionized workers and employers. The legislation protects tenants’ rights to use common spaces for organizing activities and to invite advocates to discuss residents’ rights.

One tenant participating in the rent strike, Luisa Rodriguez, a 38-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who arrived in the U.S. in 2020, claimed her apartment has mold that hasn’t been addressed.

Rodriguez, who lives in a small studio apartment with her three children, showed the outlet doctor’s letters that she said she sent to her landlord, Veritas Investments, saying the conditions were affecting her family’s health.

Rodriguez has not paid rent since June. 

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Meanwhile, Veritas is facing financial challenges, defaulting on loans and selling parts of its extensive portfolio due to the pandemic’s impact. 

A spokesperson for Veritas acknowledged the aging infrastructure of its buildings, stressing the complexity of maintenance in century-old structures. The company said it spent millions on improvements but faced criticism from tenants for issues like cockroaches, vermin, mold, and broken facilities.

Tenant advocate Brad Hirn, who organized the tenant associations, dismissed Veritas’ claims as grandstanding.

He said tenants would end the strikes if the company addressed his allegations of code violations, improved health and safety protocols, and provided materials in multiple languages. 

— Ted Glanzer

Correction: This article has been corrected to change some language to tenants’ allegations