A New York City landlord has faced intense backlash after posting a video to TikTok in which she claimed to be stealing her tenants' packages until they pay rent. Abbe Awosanya's video has since been taken down and most if not all of her public social media has been deleted.
In the video, which is still viewable on Twitter, Abbe dances while bringing an Amazon package into her home. The text throughout the video reads, "My tenant is late on rent... And is avoiding me... But has money to order... So I take all their packages... Until they pay up... I'm so petty."
When the TikTok was posted, it garnered more than 200,000 views there, and it reached true viral status when it was reposted by others to Twitter, according to BuzzFeed News. The video clearly struck a nerve with thousands everywhere who are struggling to pay rent during this crisis and dealing with landlords who won't budge on their policies, even though millions are currently out of work.
Twitter and TikTok users criticized Awosanya's message and quickly found and posted her contact information. She even threatened legal action against one of the first Twitter accounts to repost the video... which she herself had publicly posted.
Commenters reassured this Twitter user that the Awosanya had no legal leg to stand on. She posted the video publicly, and in any case, stealing someone else's mail, which she admits to doing in the video, is a federal offense in the United States.
Many others pointed out that not only is what she did in the video illegal, it's also cruel. It's not crazy to think that someone could afford to order $20 or $30 worth of medication or baby formula or some other essential product yet may not be able to pay their $1,000 rent in full.
This landlord has no idea what was in that package; she could have been preventing her tenant from keeping up with their medication or feeding their kids. When landlords don't have sympathy for their tenants and post about it on social media, they're going to receive backlash for their actions. It's that simple.
In comments on TikTok and in an interview with BuzzFeed News, Awosanya has claimed that the video was a complete joke and that the package in the video is actually hers. "Thanks for the concern," she wrote in response to a TikTok comment, according to BuzzFeed News. "All my mail but it's nice that y'all only care about renters, like landlords don't have bills."
She told BuzzFeed News that even though her video was a joke, people should have compassion for landlords during this time. "Compassion should be for everyone because we are all going through the pandemic together," she said.
She also told BuzzFeed News that she doesn't "rely on anyone's rent money," that she has "a few jobs that sustain" her. All the more reason to be flexible with tenants and to not even make a joke about holding their belongings hostage until they pay her money she doesn't actually need.
Awosanya said she would be understanding if her tenants couldn't pay rent in full but that this video was not in any way about her current tenants. This is even more of a reason to refrain from making a video like this in the first place!
This pandemic has prompted a rental crisis in the United States. According to BuzzFeed News, about one in four Americans were unable to pay their rent in full or on time in April.
And landlords already have a bad reputation. They're seen as exploitative and cruel to renters. This TikTok video "joke" exacerbated that perception at exactly the wrong time.