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Tenant lawsuit alleges SF’s largest landlord trying to drive out residents with rent control

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Attorneys Ryan Vlasak, center, and Ken Greenstein, left, announce a new lawsuit against Veritas Investments on behalf of tenants in 30 Veritas-owned buildings throughout San Francisco including Madelyn McMillian, top left, Ray Sullivan, top right, and Doris Johnson, right, at a news conference outside City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Attorneys who represent more than 100 tenants of the largest landlord in San Francisco filed a lawsuit Thursday morning alleging the company is actively working to drive out rent-controlled tenants.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 68 plaintiffs, is the fourth the attorneys representing the tenants have filed against Veritas Investments, which they say owns more than 300 residential buildings in The City.

“This is one of the biggest lawsuits ever filed by tenants in San Francisco,” attorney Ken Greenstein said. “Veritas Investments has made it clear they want to get their rent-controlled tenants out.”

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“We have a message for Veritas Investments,” he said. “Leave your tenants alone, and stop trying to force them out, and make their life miserable so they will move out.”

The suit alleges Veritas takes over buildings and then deliberately targets tenants with rent control. Among other tactics, the company deliberately schedules disruptive construction that makes it “unbearable” for tenants to be in their units, fails to make needed repairs to units, and regularly shuts off utilities such as water and gas for extended periods of time, sometimes without notice, according to the complaint.

The suit also alleges Veritas has engaged in questionable practices of increasing rents through cost “pass-throughs,” by securing high-interest loans and passing the interest charges on to tenants.

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Greenstein encouraged tenants of Veritas who are being harassed or treated unfairly to contact the rent board, their supervisors, and the Department of Building Inspection.

Veritas COO Justin Sato said in a written statement that many of the buildings Veritas has purchased are in need of substantial improvements, which they “undertake with validly obtained permits, and all the speed allowed by San Francisco’s exacting building inspection process.”

“We have not been served, so we cannot respond to allegations we haven’t seen. However, we dispute all claims that we are hostile or negligent toward our valued residents in any way,” Sato said. “We are proud of our record as a landlord in San Francisco, and the data The City keeps about our work is contrary to these allegations. We look forward to refuting them.”

The City Attorney’s Office was not immediately available for comment.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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