‘We feel completely helpless.’ How squatters took over an LI family’s home
Under New York law, squatters become legal tenants after just 30 days. Homeowners cannot remove them from the property by calling the police.
This is the type of nightmare that a Patchogue family is living. They reached out to Team 12 Investigates because they are on the brink of homelessness.
Kimberly Copenhaver has been in and out of hotels, sharing a one-bedroom space with her 70-year-old mother and 13-year-old son. Less than 20 minutes down the road is her their family home—a well-kept, three-bedroom ranch that her mother has owned for 20 years.
For the past five months, though, strangers have been living in their home. Squatters moved in when the family left town for a few months.
“In February, I contacted my best friend who was watching my house to let him know we were coming home sometime, probably in the summer,” said Copenhaver. “My mother came home in the end of June, and she went to the house to see it and tried to get in and there were people there.”
Copenhaver said the friend who was watching the house started illegally renting it out while they were away. The harsh truth is that the family found out too late.
“Under New York state law, if a person is in the home for 30 days, they are considered a tenant with rights and you as the homeowner cannot take action on your own,” said attorney Ann-Margaret Carrozza. “You cannot turn off the utilities. You cannot get rid of their possessions. You would have to go through a court eviction process and anyone who's been through that process knows that it can take about a year.”
When Copenhaver and her mother finally got a court date to start the eviction process, the case was adjourned for two weeks—giving the tenants more time in the house.