DeStefano: ‘Finders Keepers’ Property Laws Must Change

Assemblyman Joe DeStefano (R,C-Medford) joined his Assembly colleagues at a press

conference today in the New York State Capitol with landlords and small property owners to address alarming squatting-related incidents and necessary fixes to the state’s property laws, including legislation that would protect homeowners by clarifying the term “tenant” to exclude squatters (A.6894).

Last week, Nadia Vitels—a woman traveling from Spain to prepare a Manhattan apartment owned by her late mother—was brutally beaten to death by two “squatters” who left her body in a duffel bag, according to police.

“Homeownership should not be ruled by the laws of ‘finders keepers.’ Currently, the law allows individuals who occupy a property for just 30 days to force property owners into lengthy legal battles to regain control. Even attempting to secure your property by changing the locks can result in your arrest. Squatters are taking advantage of loopholes in the law—this exploitation needs to stop today,” DeStefano said.

“Homeownership used to be the American Dream, but the degradation of respect towards property rights has allowed for trespassers to have more rights than homeowners. It’s now the Criminals’ Dream. The bill put forward today will bring common sense back to our property rights. It’s time to start treating criminals like criminals.”