Watch CBS News

Legislation cracking down on squatters unveiled in Albany

Assemblymembers join landlords to put forward bill to crack down on squatters
Assemblymembers join landlords to put forward bill to crack down on squatters 02:13

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A bipartisan package of bills to crack down on squatters was unveiled in Albany on Wednesday.

The legislation aims to propose stricter laws and expedited eviction processes.

"Our state is currently facing a squatting crisis," said Assemblymember Jake Blumencranz.

Members of the New York State Assembly joined with landlords, putting forward a bill to try to close a legal loophole.

"Assembly Bill 6894 is simple. It would allow lawful homeowners to remove squatters by redefining squatters as trespassers rather than tenants under New York state law," Blumencranz said.

Elected officials say the legislation is urgent after a squatting case turned deadly last week.

Police sources say 52-year-old Nadia Vitels traveled from Spain to New York City to check on her deceased mother's vacant apartment in Kips Bay. She arrived unaware two squatters had been living there.

"She went to the apartment, encountered two squatters who tragically beat her to death and then stuffed her body in a duffel bag. Really horrific," Assemblymember Will Barclay said.

Currently, squatters in New York can legally be considered tenants after 30 days in a unit.

"Squatters cannot immediately be arrested for trespassing. Homeowners bear the burden of initiating a lengthy court process," Blumencranz said.

That's what happened to landlord Kim Emmitt.

"They broke in in 2016, and I did not get rid of them until 2019," she said.

She says her legal tenant had left a key in the door of her Bronx home to unload groceries. In minutes, she says someone stole the keys and moved in.

"He changed the locks. I couldn't even believe it. And so I called the police immediately. You know what he did? He took a can of paint and he wrote his name on the mailbox before the cops came in black ink, so when they came, he told them that he was always there," Emmitt said.

She hopes the proposed trespassing law could help current landlords but says it's too late for her.

"My dream has been squashed," she said.

A group of landlords demonstrated outside of Gov. Kathy Hochul's office Tuesday, saying they're stuck with squatters, too, but can't speak on camera in fear of jeopardizing their current years-long legal process. So until new legislation is passed, they say are struggling in silence.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.