Calls for rent forgiveness have been answered, but with some caveats.
The City’s largest landlord, Veritas, has offered to forgive half of unpaid rent, but tenant organizers are cautioning against taking the deal.
Veritas’s property management arm, GreenTree, notified residents in an email on Thursday that 50 percent of their payments missed from April through July could be forgiven. Veritas declined to comment but did not dispute the authenticity of the email.
“Many have experienced hardship during this uncertain time,” read the GreenTree email. “Instituting this relief program is an important step toward helping struggling residents stabilize their finances, and we are extremely proud to be able to offer it.”
But tenants must enter into an agreement with the company by the end of the month in a “limited time offer” to repay the other half within a year.
This falls significantly short of requests from the Veritas Tenants’ Association, which has attempted to negotiate for 100 percent rent forgiveness for residential and commercial tenants from March 13 through August 31 or longer.
VTA also sought contributions to relief funds: a $3.6 million — the same amount received through the Payroll Protection Program — to a small business relief fund and $2 million for tenants who lost income but continued to pay through savings or retirement.
“People will think that 50 percent is good and can’t afford it and sign the dotted line before they are all informed,” said Libby Staub, a Veritas tenant and association member. “We’re deadlocked and we don’t have any sort of recourse.”
Staub and her partner have been unable to pay rent due to lost income from her sign painting businesses and unfulfilled unemployment payments. She knows she’s protected by San Francisco’s new protections that permanently prohibit evictions from unpaid rent during the state of emergency — but it’s unclear how many of her neighbors know they have this option.
Veritas also told tenants on Thursday that it had extended its own eviction moratorium while pausing rent increases and capital improvement passthrough increases through the end of 2020.
The unknown details of the agreement worry Staub and her fellow Veritas organizers, who volunteer with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. If they enter into a payment plan they can’t adhere to due to lasting economic fallout, they could potentially wave these rights and be evicted.
VTA members fear that Veritas’ time crunch on the offer may pressure tenants to enter in these agreements and lessen the pressure for the landlord giant to negotiate. But they can’t door knock or reach neighbors to caution against it.
“Most of us have lost almost all of our incomes,” said Eric Brooks, another Veritas tenant and association organizer. “If I don’t have the money to pay it, I don’t have the money. They’re trying to get rid of negotiations and trap people into deals that’s not good for them.”