Major landlord rebrands amid criticism from tenants, lawmakers

After facing criticism from tenants and city leaders over allegations of health, safety and quality of life violations, Veritas Investments is in the midst of a rebranding campaign focused on unifying its subsidiaries and improving its communications with tenants.

In recent years, Veritas has emerged as one of the largest landlords in the City, with over 250 rent-controlled properties that it owns and operates using its property management and apartments leasing subsidiaries, Green Tree Property Management and Rent SF Now.

The company is now consolidating its three operating entities under one name, Veritas, in what spokesperson Ron Heckmann called “a conscious effort to ease some confusion, strengthen internal cohesion, promote more efficient resident communication and generally be more transparent as to who we are to all our residents and partners.”

Heckmann said that rather than a “traditioanl rebrand,” the current efforts are more of a “focus on a consolidation of brands and recommitment to purpose.”

Last month, a hearing called by Supervisors Jeff Sheehy on the rise of so-called corporate landlords focused heavily on Veritas and gave the floor to dozens of the firm’s tenants. They alleged that complaints about exposure to unsafe construction conditions went unaddressed and that exorbitant rent hikes were forcing some long-term tenants out of Veritas properties.

Veritas was one of several real estate companies that earlier this year inspired legislation to restrict the costs — such as debt service — that landlords can legally pass on to tenants in the form of temporary and permanent rent increases. That legislation was passed unanimously at the Board of Supervisors on May 22.

Heckmann said that the ongoing rebranding effort and the company’s recent troubles are unrelated.

“Veritas started a brand process two years ago as a normal course of business like any growing company,” said Heckmann, adding the “coincidence is that the brand process culminated this year.”

Over the last two weeks, posters and lobby parties at which Veritas representatives were giving away company “swag, ” gifts that included branded apparel, pens and lip balms, have been met with skepticism by some tenants.

“I came home from work today to be greeted by this giant poster slapped on to the lobby elevator door. It’s difficult not to be cynical, all things considered,” said a Veritas tenant in an email shared with the San Francisco Examiner.

Flyers handed out to tenants stated that the company would combining names under the unified brand “Veritas” and is committed among other things to “communicating more” and to minimizing “inconvenience and [enhancing] the good stuff.”

Part of the promise is “reaching out to keep [tenants] informed about upcoming projects in advance.” The firm also stated that it was doing its best to “limit routine construction hours to weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

“We want to reestablish our commitment to our residents, which is to provide the best quality of living possible here,” a property manager at 520 Buchanan St. told tenants trickling in and out of the lobby.

Landra Tankha, a tenant of 520 Buchanan St., a Verita’s-owned building where she has lived for more than two decades, said that her building has been the site of persistent construction work over the last five years, and that complaints about health and quality of life issues have largely been ignored.

“They just kind of look at the buildings as a construction projects that they want to bring into a better state for their investors, but they are not considering all the needs of their tenants,” she said.

Security cameras were recently installed in the lobby at 520 Buchanan St., drawing the ire of some residents — Tankha said that she and several other tenants have received a round of capital improvement pass-throughs in the midst of the rebranding efforts, increasing her rent by $300.

“I’m not happy that Veritas simply announced that they will be in our lobby giving out corporate swag,” she said, calling the efforts “invasive.” “Meanwhile the tenants here just received a huge rent increase.”

Veritas Investments representatives have handed out branded gear to tenants in recent weeks as part of a company rebranding effort. (Courtesy image)

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

Laura Waxmann
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Laura Waxmann

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