The California Attorney General’s Office has issued a $3.5 million judgment against Southern California real estate investment company Wedgewood Inc., which owned the Oakland home famously occupied by the unhoused mothers from Moms 4 Housing in 2019.
The financial penalty stems from how the large home-flipping company evicts tenants in homes it purchases at foreclosure sales and is not tied to the Moms 4 Housing action.
A 2019 NBC Bay Area investigation into Wedgewood’s business practices found the company operates through a sprawling network of more than 100 separate LLCs and has been accused in the past of violating Bay Area tenant protection ordinances. Wedgewood has been active in at least 28 states, and deed records from counties across California reveal the company has been involved in thousands of property transactions in recent years.
“Too many Californians live on the precipice of eviction, worried that they and their family might someday be kicked out of their home,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “While we have strong protections in place for tenants of this state, there are still those companies who would skirt the law to turn a profit.”
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The Attorney General’s Office accused Wedgewood of trying to fast track the eviction process by violating “just cause” eviction protections for tenants, failing to provide utility services to existing tenants, and “depriving lawful tenants of their right to continue living on the property under a preexisting least or for at least 90 days after foreclosure.”
In a statement provided to NBC Bay Area, Wedgewood said it denied all allegations and cooperated fully with the investigation:
"Following an investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office that focused on conduct from 2011 to 2015, Wedgewood and the CA Attorney General have come to a mutually agreed-upon settlement which includes no admission or finding of any liability. Wedgewood cooperated fully with the investigation. Wedgewood denies all allegations asserted. Ultimately, Wedgewood made the business decision to reach a settlement and move forward with our ongoing commitment to revitalize and recirculate residential properties back into California’s housing supply, creating thousands of homeownership opportunities across the state."
Wedgewood gained notoriety in 2019 when a collection of unhoused mothers calling themselves Moms 4 Housing illegally occupied a West Oakland home the company owned. The mothers, supported by hundreds of activists and community members, stayed in the home for months until they were forcefully evicted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in 2020. The company later agreed to sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust.
NBC Bay Area’s docuseries “The Moms of Magnolia Street,” which launched earlier this year, covered the moms’ stories at length.
If the judgment is approved in court, Wedgewood will owe $2.75 million in restitution for tenants who may have been illegally evicted, another $250,000 in civil penalties, and $500,000 to programs that benefit tenants or fight homelessness in California.
The judgment will also require the company to make a “Good faith determination as to any current occupants’ tenancy status,” respect local “just cause” ordinances, train employees on tenant rights, and regularly report to the Attorney General’s Office about the company’s compliance.
“As a result of my department’s work, Wedgewood will flip its business model on its head, ensuring that tenants of its homes are afforded full protections under the law,” Bonta said.
Last month, Bonta announced the creation of a statewide “Housing Strike Force” to address California’s housing crisis.