Ben Carson Slams New York’s Squatter’s Rights After Family Discover They Can’t Evict a Man Living in Their Walls

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Mar 22, 2024

New York couple Susana and Joseph Landa discovered that they were not alone after moving into their newly purchased $2 million dream home in the New York City suburb of Douglaston, Queens in October 2023.

Within the walls, a man was squatting there, and, according to New York law, had a right to be there.

Who Is the Squatter

Brett Flores is the squatter who has been living inside the walls of the Landas’ home. The former owner of the house hired him as a caretaker and paid him $3,000 a week for his service.

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Unfortunately, the former town passed away in January 2023. Brett Flores insists the previous owner granted him a “license” to stay in the house.


Squatter’s Rights in New York City

According to New York City law, squatters are “classified as tenants and receive temporary rights as such” after occupying a property for 30 days.

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Evicting a squatter who has been residing in a space for more than 30 days is not as easy as many would hope. If a squatter can prove a right to the property, they are allowed to stay and proceed with legal eviction proceedings.

Dr. Ben Carson Warns Americans

This, unfortunately, is the situation the Landas have found themselves in. They quickly made headlines and captured the attention of the country on the strict rights that squatters have in New York City.

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Now, Dr. Ben Carson, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is warning the U.S. about the potential danger of situations like this.

Do Squatters Have Rights? 

Carson questioned the New York City law on Fox Business, saying, “Squatter’s rights? You’ve got to be kidding me. Squatters don’t have any rights. They have no right to be in your house. What are they going to have next? Trespasser’s rights? That makes no sense whatsoever.”

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Carson dismissed the rationale behind the law, saying that “We’ve kind of lost our minds,” by allowing squatters to reside inside homes with other paying tenants or owners.

Squatting Is a Complex Issue in the U.S. 

Squatting has been a long, complicated debate in the U.S., one that lawmakers have been reluctant to address as it tackles legal, social, and moral issues.

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Over 650,000 Americans experience homelessness, and the spike in renting and home prices has caused many more to experience housing insecurity across the nation.


Protecting Squatters or Property Owners?

Caron argues that America needs to find a way to address the issue of squatting to protect law-abiding citizens. “If you’re not going to protect the law-abiding citizens, why should they be law-abiding citizens? You’re encouraging mass chaos and anarchy,” he warned.

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Carson continues: “And it seems to me like somebody might be actually trying to do that because the United States is very strong militarily, but we can certainly be destroyed from within.”


Removing the Squatter Is Taking Time and Money

The Landas have already taken Flores to landlord-tenant court to evict him from their new home. However, it has been a long and tedious process for the couple and squatter.

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ABC 7 reports that the couple has already attended five civil court hearings, but the process has delayed several times (via Moneywise). Flores is allowed to remain in the property until the eviction is enforced.


Living With an Unexpected Roommate

“If you have no lease and you’re not paying rent, what are you right?” Joseph asks in light of the ordeal. Susana echoes her husband’s statement about the “nightmare,” saying the situation is “broken.”

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“I never would imagine we have no rights, no rights at all, nothing, zero,” she asserted. An unexpected guest leaves the Landas bearing the burden of utilities and mortgage payments while they live.


Other Squatter Issues in New York City

The Landers are not the only ones facing issues with squatters. Recently, authorities arrested a New York City property owner for changing the locks on her family’s home to keep alleged squatters out.

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“It’s enraging,” the homeowner said (via the New York Post). “It’s not fair that I, as the homeowner, have to be going through this.”


Homeowner Illegally Changed the Locks

The homeowner says that the ordeal with the alleged squatters started in February when she started the process of listing the home for sale. The squatters had replaced the front door and locks without her knowledge.

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The homeowner recorded her confrontation with the alleged squatters as she called a locksmith to change the locks, which is illegal under New York City’s squatter’s rights law.


The Complicated Situation

The authorities gave the homeowner an unlawful eviction charge because she changed the locks and did not provide new keys to the person staying at the property. “I’m really fearful that these people are going to get away with stealing my home,” the homeowner said.

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The homeowner initiates an eviction filing in court to resolve the landlord-tenant dispute, similar to the Landas. However, it remains unclear when or if the person will be removed from the property.