Homeowner Arrested In Squatter Standoff: A Fight for Property Rights In NYC

A New York homeowner by the name of Adele Andaloro was handcuffed in a squatter showdown at her family home in Flushing, Queens, after finding squatters had taken over the property.

Andaloro was trying to sell the $1 million home she’d inherited from her family when she found that the front doors and locks had been replaced. She discovered that squatters had moved into the building in February. Andaloro entered with her daughter – deed in hand – to find two men inside her home. She told them to vacate the premises, with one saying that he moved in two days ago. The home-owner tried to change the locks but ran into problems with New York’s squatter-friendly rules.

“It’s enraging…It’s not fair that I, as the homeowner, have to go through this,” Andalaro said in describing her experience.

Under New York City’s “Squatter’s Rights” laws, trespassers are legally entitled to remain in a home provided that they have lived there for just 30 days, making it a difficult hurdle for homeowners like Andaloro to evict intruders.

When Andaloro tried to enter the house, she confronted the squatters, who called the police on her. When the police arrived, they told her she could face jail time if she tried to change the locks, which was documented on camera by a local news crew. When she showed them her papers, the officers refused to remove people from the property and instead told her this was a “landlord-tenant issue”.

After being pressed for documentation of legal residence, the two men were escorted off the property. Within 10 minutes of Andaloro changing the door’s locks to defend her home, the men claiming to lease the property returned with the police and Andaloro was arrested for “unlawful eviction,” further complicating her efforts to reclaim her property.

When asked for proof of residence under the law, the two men failed to provide documentation of an kind proving they were tenants and were asked to leave the property.

Andaloro seized upon the opportunity to change the locks to defend her home, but within 10 minutes of doing so, the men claiming to be lease-holders returned to her front door with the police, who arrested Andaloro for the crime of “unlawful eviction” – making her position to reclaim her property even more precarious under the law.

“I’m really fearful that these people are going to get away with stealing my home,” Andaloro expressed her concerns.

The legal complications of squatter disputes such as in Andaloro’s case reflects a broader trend in New York City, where similar incidents have surged in the aftermath of COVID-19, exacerbating court backlogs.

“It’s incumbent upon the city to deal with the issue,” emphasized attorney Alan J. Goldberg. “There should be a fast-track court for squatters and licensees.”

Incidents such as Andaloro’s demonstrate the pressing need to fast-track the procedures for settling squatter conflicts, procedures which entrench homeowners rights and grant communities living with these disputes much needed peace of mind.

As the fight between property owners and squatters intensifies, Andaloro’s arrest serves as a stark example of the iniquities resultant from poorly conceived residential laws in New York City.

Neighbors expressed shock and concern at the sight of Andalaro’s arrest. “It’s horrible. It’s her home,” remarked one neighbor who preferred to remain anonymous. “They can just come and take your house.”

This is far from the first squatter-related conflict in the city. In another incident, a couple’s plans to move into a newly-purchased $2 million home in Douglaston, Queens, were thwarted by a squatter claiming to have agreements with the previous owner to reside in the property. In another, a Rockaways home became a disturbing scene when a squatter trapped numerous animals inside the building.

“It’s much harder to remove them now because the courts are so backlogged,” said New York-based attorney Alan J. Goldberg, advocating for expedited hearings to resolve squatter disputes efficiently. Goldberg emphasized the City’s urgent need to address the issue before it becomes more widespread.

Andalaro’s arrest highlights the broader challenges faced by property owners dealing with squatters taking over their properties in a city where the hurdles for evicting tenants are often difficult to overcome.

In the face of mounting frustrations and legal hurdles, Andaloro’s experience underscores the need for comprehensive reforms to protect property rights and restore a sense of security for homeowners across New York City. The resolution of her case will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for future squatter disputes and property rights advocacy in the city.

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