Oakland, CA – On Friday, July 10, an Alameda County judge issued a court order under the Tenant Protection Ordinance and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act enjoining defendants Afamefuna and Anwulika Odiwe from retaliating against their former tenants. The court found that the City was likely to prevail on its Tenant Protection Ordinance and Tom Bane Civil Rights Act claims that the defendants, who are investors with a history of flipping houses for profit, engaged in an unlawful self-help eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic in violation of state and local laws. Among other things, under the guise of a fraudulent City notice, the landlords removed all of their tenants’ belongings from their home and changed the locks.
Defendant Anwulika Odiwe threatened to proceed with unpermitted construction work in response to the tenants asserting their rights, declaring that if tenants wanted to live “with no windows and no doors and no toilets … that’s on them.” After the City filed a lawsuit against the Odiwes, the moving company, and the master tenant, the City sought an injunction preventing the defendants from engaging in further harassment of the tenants. Defendants Pete’s Moving Company, LLC, and Rigomero Manzanarez, the master tenant, agreed to stipulate to such an injunction. Because the Odiwe defendants did not stipulate to the injunction, the City sought a court order against them. “Tenant harassment is on the rise as some landlords turn to unlawful actions to drive tenants out while the courts are closed to evictions,” City Attorney Barbara J. Parker stated. “There is no place in Oakland for these illegal and harmful self-help measures. We stand with tenants to prevent such appalling misconduct and secure their basic right to safely shelter in place during this pandemic.”
In late April, a counterfeit City of Oakland “red-tag” notice was posted on the front door of the property, telling the tenants that the house was unsafe for occupancy and that they needed to leave within ten days. The City never authorized a red-tag for the property. Yet in May, movers entered the property and removed the tenants’ belongings, including their beds, furniture, and clothing, without notice or the tenants’ permission—and despite their protests.
For over a week, the tenants remained without their possessions, forced to sleep on the floor and without locks on their doors. Defendants only returned the tenants’ beds, clothing, and other personal items after the City issued a demand letter and filed this case. The City’s lawsuit also seeks civil penalties, punitive damages, and fees, to be determined by the court.
This case was filed by the Neighborhood Law Corps and Community Lawyering and Civil Rights Unit as part of City Attorney Parker’s Housing Justice Initiative. The City Attorney launched the Housing Justice Initiative to significantly expand her office’s work protecting vulnerable tenants in Oakland’s diverse neighborhoods and holding abusive landlords accountable.