NEW BEDFORD — Terra Incognita Partners is quietly buying millions of dollars of local real estate, but the company’s owners are shrouded in secrecy.

The most recent acquisition was a 24-unit apartment building on Elm Street, where tenants were given a month to leave. It’s the sixth time in the last two years that the company has bought a building with plans to refurbish it.

Terra Incognita has spent almost $4.9 million on properties in New Bedford through a string of subsidiaries. It owns four newly renovated multifamily houses, the Elm Street complex, and one former industrial building that will be converted into 10 market-rate apartments.

Yet the investors behind these purchases have been able to keep their names hidden from the public eye, and even their own tenants, because of lax disclosure requirements.

Tenants of multiple Terra Incognita rental properties told The Light that they knew nothing about the company that owns their units.

Meg Ferrari, who lives in a multifamily house owned by Terra Incognita, said she has met the property manager, but she has no idea who really owns the company.

“It doesn’t totally seem like he has latitude to make huge decisions,” she said, describing the property manager. “So I don’t know who he reports to.”

Ferrari said she thinks it’s strange that she doesn’t know who her actual landlord is — she says it’s a sign of the times in this competitive rental market.

“I didn’t ask the questions before I signed the lease because, honestly, I was really desperate to find a place,” she said.


When tenants don’t know who their rent checks go to, it’s harder to fight evictions and hold landlords accountable for abusive practices, said Erin McElroy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has gathered data on corporate landlords.

“It’s sort of ironic that today, landlords and property management companies use all sorts of systems like tenant screenings to learn all sorts of data about tenants,” McElroy said. “And yet tenants don’t even know the names of their own landlords.”

Josh Amaral, assistant executive director of the New Bedford anti-poverty nonprofit PACE, said that it’s better when landlords are local. His organization owns properties that it rents out, and there are times when it has to raise the rent or renovate the units. 

“But it’s a little bit more difficult when you know that it’s John in unit 3, or someone that just had a baby in unit 1,” he said. “You have to try to balance being reasonable with people with the economics of running a housing operation. I think something is lost when investment comes from out of town.”

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Isaiah Osofisan manages the properties, and his name appears on all the official documentation for Terra Incognita and its subsidiaries. But that doesn’t mean the buildings are his — state law doesn’t require companies to list their true owners.

Osofisan has made contradictory statements about his involvement with Terra Incognita. He told The Standard-Times that it’s a local “one-man company.” But when he introduced himself in a letter to Elm Street tenants, he said he had been hired by the firm.

Terra Incognita appears to be backed by a group of speculators. Terra Fund I, a pooled investment fund with Osofisan’s name on it, was looking to raise as much as $5 million from investors last year, Securities and Exchange Commission documents show. The minimum buy-in was $50,000.

The investment fund, which is registered in Wyoming, lists a phone number for Premier Law Group, a California law firm that helps entrepreneurs “build your real estate empire” by raising capital from investors, according to its website.

Based on the size of the offering and the minimum investment amount, as many as 100 investors could have bought the securities, but the fund is not required to disclose how many shares they sold or who they sold them to. Osofisan declined to comment via email and did not respond to questions from The Light about Terra Incognita’s ownership.

  • 193 Elm street

Terra Incognita is able to keep its owners completely anonymous because it’s organized as a series of limited liability companies, or LLCs. Property records have long been public in the United States, but when someone buys a property through an LLC, the owner that gets listed on the paperwork is the company — not the person or people whose money was behind the purchase.

While LLCs do have to register with the state and list an agent to receive legal paperwork, that agent doesn’t have to be the owner, or even a human being. In the case of Terra Incognita, the legal point-of-contact is just another company. Osofisan and a lawyer for Premier Law Group are the only people whose names are publicly associated with the company.

Six of Terra Incognita’s properties are owned through a string of similarly-named subsidiaries that can easily be linked to the parent company. But it’s possible that Terra Incognita owns even more local properties under other LLCs because Massachusetts doesn’t require companies to disclose their subsidiaries.

Osofisan’s name appears on filings for several other Massachusetts companies, some of which own property in New Bedford. Public records don’t make it clear whether they’re linked to Terra Incognita, though some do business at the same address as the Terra Incognita companies. Osofisan did not respond to questions from The Light about these companies.

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There could even be other LLCs that Terra Incognita has used to acquire property with the help of different property managers, so Osofisan would not be a common thread among all subsidiaries.

McElroy, the evictions researcher, said that states should have policies that require companies to publicly disclose their owners. The U.S. Treasury already collects this information, but it has refused to make it public. 

“We’re talking about people’s homes, where people live and have families and communities,” McElroy said. “And yet investors just see it as an asset.”

Tenants of the Elm Street building were told they had until Nov. 1 to leave before eviction proceedings began. Some renters have found other arrangements, but they will have to pay hundreds more per month in rent. Meanwhile, some are stuck trying to find an affordable place.

Joe Quigley said he plans to fight the eviction in court while he applies for other apartments, though he hoped he wouldn’t have to.

Osofisan’s initial letter to tenants mentioned the option of “remaining at the property if you choose to do so,” and Quigley had heard that the company planned to charge as little as $1,000 in rent for the renovated units — his current monthly payment is $750. So he proposed a deal.

“If you cut $100 from the lowest priced rental bringing it to $900, things would be just fine,” he wrote in an email to Osofisan. “I stay without having to move away to possibly another city or state and can keep my community involvement intact.”

The company would even save on paying for his moving costs, Quigley added.

Osofisan rejected his offer. He said no tenants could stay.

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