SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Landlords in San Francisco might soon have to disclose their finances to raise their tenants’ rent after the Rent Board Commission considered new regulations Tuesday night.
Dozens of tenants appeared before the commission protesting multi-hundred dollar rent increases and most of them share the same landlord: Veritas Investments.
Veritas is San Francisco’s largest landlord. Throughout 2019, KPIX profiled Veritas tenants who have filed lawsuits against the company for what they’re calling harassment in the form of construction and large rent increases that some say might force them out of their San Francisco apartments.
Tenants can dispute these rent hikes by requesting what’s known as a hardship exemption–to obtain one, tenants have to disclose their personal finances to the rent board to prove they cannot afford the new rent. This proposed change would put a step in place for landlords, requiring them to prove they need their tenants to pay the proposed rent increase to make ends meet.
Most tenants at the commission meeting were protesting rent increases from Veritas. The board of supervisors voted unanimously to urge the rent board to adopt these new regulations at its meeting last week.
“It’s unconscionable, Veritas. You need to listen or you’re going to wonder why you messed it up for everyone else in the industry,” said San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
Rent increases for the landlord’s debt service and property taxes were banned in 2018, but the law isn’t retroactive, so tenants are still being forced to pay. In the 18 months after the law passed, the rent board has approved 32 such petitions to pass along rent hikes for landlord’s mortgages, 17 of which were from Veritas.
“We’re working with supervisors to make sure we’re not passing on these pass throughs for people who need it,” said Veritas spokesperson Paul Rose.
As a response to the backlash, Veritas launched its own exemption program, saying it would take tenants at their word and not increase their rent if they claimed hardship. Tenants found the program confusing and the city doesn’t enforce it.
“It’s clear this is a big issue. It’s not just a few tenants or few buildings, it’s neighborhoods,” said Nick Gotthard, one of hundreds of tenants facing this type of rent increase.
Gotthard’s increase is $300. He’s holding on to hope that the rent board will take his side. “I haven’t been paying my increase, partially out of spite, partially because I’m hopeful I won’t have to,” he said.
The commission will hold a special meeting to discuss the proposed changes in November.