NY Queens Family’s $2M Dream Home Occupied by Squatter

(Daily360.com) – A New York couple’s retirement dream home has turned into their personal nightmare thanks to New York’s squatter protections. Joseph and Susana Landa are both 68-years-old and planning for their future. The couple invested $2 million to purchase a home in Douglaston, Queens, last October after the previous owner died and the home went on the market. The Landas have an adult son named Alex who they care for because he is afflicted with Down syndrome. Alex is the primary reason they bought this house because it is next door to another of their sons.

Susana explained that the home’s location is of the utmost importance to her because she feels if something were to happen to her, Alex would be looked after. Their plan and lifetime of hard work seemed to align except for an unforeseen obstruction by the name of Brett Flores. The 32-year-old Flores claims he was hired as caretaker to the previous owner for a salary of $3,000 per week.

Flores claims that the now deceased owner “licensed” him to remain in the home after his death. The Landas say they were in disbelief when they found out Flores was in their home and that he had no intention of leaving. The Landas have tried to have Flores kicked off the premises but due to New York’s “squatter’s rights” law, they are unable to remove him.

New York’s laws allow for a squatter to remain in a dwelling if they have been there for at least 30 consecutive days. Flores was never a legal tenant, he pays no rent, and no utility bills. Those bills legally must be paid by the Landas, who say the heating bills are extremely high due to Flores leaving windows open “24 hours a day.”

To make matters even worse, Flores has listed rooms in the house for rent to travelers starting at $50 per day. The Landas have taken Flores to civil court but Flores is able to delay proceedings through various technicalities like not having legal counsel with him. Recently, Flores filed for bankruptcy which affords him more legal protections from New York State and will allow him to delay future court proceedings even longer while the Landas are forced to pay his utility bills. Susana Landa says “the system is broken” and laments that she has “no rights” in this scenario.

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