Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Stan Greene
Observer Staff Writer 

We Work Struggles to Keep Tenants At a Time When Many of Them Prefer to Distance Socially

Is the We Work collective concept a health hazard during social distancing, lockdowns and coronavirus?

 

April 29, 2020

We Work's office space on Broadway and 6th Street.

A contract is a contract... or is it? Tenants of coworking spaces are wondering if the intervention of a certain virus, means their contracts are null and void. Note that these are expensive contracts. At Santa Monica We Work, it's not at all uncommon for a tenant to pay $2500 a month for a room the size of a closet, or $1000 a month for a simple desk in a shared situation.

Ordinarily, it's worth it. Co-working spaces were seen as the wave of the future. They allowed younger people in smaller companies to have the social aspect of a much larger company. Tenants share copiers and common spaces, kitchens and Kambucha. They attend programming intended for all tenants at the We Work location. But that was the future prior to Covid-19.

Should commercial landlords, allow tenants to bow out of their leases in the age of Coronavirus? One local man argues that executive suites such as We Work, like gyms, have a special obligation to allow tenants out of leases, because the shared workplace environment can spread Covid-19.

Alex Wang says that his wife is a tenant at the WeWork in Santa Monica on Broadway. "We have been sheltering in place since March and thus my wife has not been using her office," writes Wang.

"She has requested rent relief from WeWork and they have refused on the grounds that because *some* of their tenants are essential service, they remain open and thus my wife (who is not an essential service employee) is free to use her space and thus they may rightfully continue to debit her account for her monthly rent," writes Wang.

Wang believes Covid-19 could spread in the We Work office environment. "My wife is forced to decide to venture out in public in defiance of the order and risk our family's healthy to use her office or otherwise lose money on her rent."

We Work's office space on Broadway and 6th Street.

What exactly can any landlord do to a tenant to enforce a lease agreement, when the courts are all closed? "These contracts are more like access agreements (you pay to use a desk or office) vs a conventional tenant/landlord arrangement," Wang says. And they have you set up on auto debit on your credit card. They very conveniently removed the ability to delete your payment information," he says.

Has Wang simply asked for We Work to let them out? Yes, he says. "They've waffled a bit - initially they were going to offer some concessions but their tone changed overnight. We're having a lawyer look into things but my wife also just got laid off so we don't really have the money to pursue legal remedies, whatever they may be," he says.

 

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