WeWork doesn’t want to hear about New York’s coronavirus lockdown — it just wants to know where your rent check is.
The cash-strapped subleasing giant is keeping all of its Big Apple office-sharing spaces open and refusing to give subtenants a break on the rent — even though most have been barred from going to work per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order last week, which shut down all non-essential businesses statewide under penalty of civil fines.
Lloyd Cox, a day trader who pays $675 a month for a private desk at a Manhattan WeWork space on West 29th Street, says the company denied him a partial refund on his March rent payment, arguing that the office has remained open. That’s despite the fact the WeWork space got closed last week for a daylong “deep cleaning” to address a coronavirus outbreak in the office.
“The office I’m in has seven desks right next to each other — you can’t even practice the 6 feet [of social distancing],” Cox told The Post. “Even if I felt comfortable from a safety point of view using my desk, it’s not worth the risk of getting fined $1,000,” he added.
To make matters worse, WeWork’s subtenants gripe that they’re paying full price for offices that are staffed by skeleton crews, as WeWork has told most of its own employees to work from home amid the virus scare. The normally bustling offices, which are popular with small startups and apps, are now mostly empty, tenants say.
Despite safety warnings from authorities, WeWork — which has grappled with numerous coronavirus cases at its Manhattan locations — has continued to give all of its customers keycard access to its workspaces. On Saturday, the day after Cuomo’s order, WeWork sent an email telling members to follow “federal, state and local government guidance,” without mentioning that doing so would mean avoiding the office.
In the email reviewed by The Post, WeWork also asserted that “many of our members operate essential businesses for our society,” advising them to reach out with a “support request.” Some subtenants said WeWork appeared to be ginning up excuses to keep charging everybody rent, despite the fact that only a small number of subtenants could be classified as essential.
Asked by The Post what percentage of its subtenant businesses are deemed essential, as well as how many of its New York offices are home to essential businesses, WeWork declined to comment.
“As we navigate the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to supporting our members and will continuously reassess our plans,” WeWork said in a statement, also declining to comment on specific member complaints.
The internal message board for WeWork subtenants is ridden with complaints about offices remaining open and customers continuing to be charged, despite more than half a dozen coronavirus outbreaks reported last week at WeWork’s Manhattan workspaces.
“[They aren’t] doing anything besides still collecting rent from all of us who aren’t supposed to be in there,” one member at a marketing firm wrote on the message board.
When another subtenant complained to a WeWork rep about his recruiting company being charged for space it couldn’t use, the company — which leases rather than owns most of its shared-office spaces — responded that it has bills to pay, too.
“As a rent-owing tenant in our buildings, WeWork is discussing all options with our landlords as many members are currently doing with us,” the company wrote, according to the poster.
After Cuomo announced the lockdown on Friday, Cox again asked WeWork to cancel his month-to-month membership for April. WeWork, however, responded that it was charging him for next month because his rental agreement required 30 days notice, adding that “since the governor’s statement, at this moment, we are remaining open.”
Ultimately, WeWork came back to Cox with a counter-offer: If he committed to a 12-month contract he would receive two months free. Cox turned it down.
“Right now, I think this company just cares about its survival,” Cox said. “And screw everybody else.”
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