Biden Admin Warns of Squatter Crisis Following Lawsuit by Squatters Who Took Over NYC Couple’s Home

By: Georgia | Last updated: Apr 05, 2024

The Biden administration has recently emphasized the need for local governments to take decisive action against the issue of squatters living in properties without ownership or permission. 

This call to action comes amid a surge of cases across the nation where property owners are battling legal headaches caused by these unauthorized occupants.

The Growing Debate Over Squatters' Rights

Across the United States, the issue of squatters’ rights has ignited significant debate.

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Homeowner in some states are running into roadblocks when trying to remove individuals who occupy their properties without permission. 

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The Squatter Conundrum in Queens

In Queens, New York, alleged squatters who unlawfully occupied a $930,000 duplex are now suing the legitimate homeowners for refusing to leave. 

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This case adds to the series of perplexing squatter incidents in the borough, showcasing the considerable challenges property owners face under the city’s lenient squatter laws.

Homeowner's Legal Battle and Frustration

Juliya Fulman, the distressed homeowner, expressed her frustration, stating, “It’s absolutely absurd. These people literally broke into my house.” 

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“These people literally broke into my house. It’s not fair to us as homeowners that we are not protected by the city,” she said.

Home Turned Legal Battleground

Fulman is now in the thick of a legal battle that’s costing her a fortune, with the bill already topping $4,000

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This situation has left her astonished and feeling vulnerable, due to city statutes that appear to extend protections to these uninvited occupants after merely 30 days.

The Unwelcome Guests

Denis Kurlyand, Fulman’s partner, can’t help but see the squatters as taking advantage of a system they argue is  practically handing them rights on a silver platter.

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The couple’s intention was simply to rent out their property, they didn’t expect to be thrown into a costly legal nightmare.

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Dreams Under Siege

Having invested $530,000 in refurbishing their Lakeside Avenue home and securing tenants, Juliya and Denis did not foresee being ousted from their own property by squatters.

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This discovery was made when their broker, Ejona Bardhi, noticed the locks had been changed, indicating unauthorized occupation.

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Facing Down Fear

The moment Bardhi tried to reclaim the property, she was met with intimidation tactics by several men who emerged, seemingly out of nowhere.

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It was a clear message: the squatters weren’t going anywhere without a fight, a daunting scenario for anyone trying to protect their property.

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A Warning from the Law

In a twist, the police warned Juliya, Denis, and their broker that taking back what was theirs by changing the locks could result in legal repercussions.

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This came after squatters claimed to have been living there since January.

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The Aftermath of Uninvited Guests

When Juliya and Denis finally stepped back into their home, the damage was heartbreakingly clear.

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The squatters had left behind scratched walls, scuffed floors, and the residual odor of marijuana, signs of the squatters’ disregard for the property.

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From Bad to Worse

The legal troubles escalated when Bardhi, the couple, and their real estate company were hit with a lawsuit by the squatters.

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At an emergency court hearing, their lawyer Rizpah Morrow made it clear, arguing that the squatters had “perpetrated a fraud” in their quest to claim the property.

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The Battle of Documents

In court, Denis couldn’t hide his disbelief at the squatters’ audacity to present forged documents as their defense. 

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“They found whatever they could and threw it all together,” he recounted to The New York Post.

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Brazen Faces in Court

Fulman was shocked to see the squatters show up in court, boldly presenting their case.

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“I don’t know how they had the audacity to show up in court,” she said.

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A Maze of Legal Hurdles

Caught in the gears of the legal system, Juliya and Denis faced a dilemma: proceed with letting their actual tenants move in and risk further complications, or wait on the court’s decision.

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Denis voiced his frustration over the apparent bias against landlords.

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On the Edge of Uncertainty

The couple finds themselves in a precarious legal situation, recognizing that the evidence they have might not suffice in court.

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Denis described this uncertainty as “scary,” highlighting the unpredictable nature of legal outcomes and the anxiety it brings.

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In Search of Fairness

Reflecting on their ordeal, Denis highlighted the broader issue at play: squatter laws that seem to tip the scales against property owners.

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He questioned the fairness of a system that allows squatters to challenge rightful owners, calling for a reevaluation of laws to ensure justice and protection for those invested in their properties.

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White House Response to Squatter Situations

During a press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “My understanding is that this is obviously a local issue, we are certainly tracking that issue.”

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“The rights of property owners and renters must be protected and we believe that ultimately, what needs to happen is the local government needs to make sure that they address this and they take action.”

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Definition and Impact of Squatting

According to the American Apartment Owners Association (AAOA), a squatter is defined as an individual who occupies land or a building without any legal right. 

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Squatters live in these spaces without paying rent and without any lawful documents proving their ownership or right to the property, creating challenges for legal property owners.

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Florida's Legislative Action Against Squatters

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation aimed at squatters, making it a “second-degree felony for any person who unlawfully occupies or trespasses in a residential dwelling and who intentionally causes $1,000 or more in damage.” 

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This signifies a strong stance against the issue, with the governor stating, “We are putting an end to the squatters scam in Florida.”

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Legal Experts Call for Stronger Measures

Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers and a former federal prosecutor, expressed that lawmakers need to take stronger actions against squatters. 

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He emphasized, “Squatters should be evicted then jailed if they break into a home and stay there because they provide a fake lease or other fraudulent documentation.”

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Polk County Sheriff's Perspective on Squatter Challenges

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd commented on the challenges of dealing with squatters through civil court, describing squatters as “a bunch of freeloaders.” 

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He supports using criminal laws as a more effective means of removing squatters quickly.

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The Efficiency of Criminal Statutes Against Squatters

Sheriff Judd noted that while civil actions against squatters can be lengthy and ineffective, using criminal statutes has proven successful in quickly removing squatters from properties. 

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This approach provides a more immediate solution to the issue, bypassing the slower civil court system.

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New York's Proposed Legal Changes

In response to the squatter dilemma, New York State Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz proposed a bill to redefine tenant rights, aiming to close loopholes that squatters currently exploit.

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This includes extending the occupancy requirement to be considered a tenant, which would offer more protection to property owners.

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National Response to Squatter Issues

The squatter issue presents a complex challenge that requires a careful balance between protecting the rights of property owners and addressing the needs of those living properties without permission.

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The Biden administration’s emphasis on local action, alongside state-level legislative changes, highlights the ongoing efforts to resolve this issue across the United States.

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