Real Estate

Queens Squatter Faces 18 Charges, Up to 15 Years

Queens DA indicts squatter on 18 counts, highlighting legal battles and the need for reform in squatter laws.

By Doug Elli

5/15, 17:21 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • Queens DA indicts squatter Lance White-Hunt on 18 counts, including burglary and identity theft, for illegally occupying a duplex.
  • The indictment follows a legal battle where White-Hunt forged documents to claim tenancy rights; faces up to 15 years if convicted.
  • New York state law changes aim to exclude squatters from tenant definitions, addressing the rising issue of squatting.

The Squatter Challenge in Queens

In a recent turn of events that has captured the attention of Queens, New York, a squatter, Lance White-Hunt, has been indicted on an 18-count charge by Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. This case, stemming from a squatter's attempt to claim legal rights over a duplex in Jamaica, Queens, highlights the growing concern over squatter rights and the legal battles homeowners face. White-Hunt's charges include second-degree burglary, criminal possession of a forged instrument, identity theft, and attempted grand larceny, among others. This situation unfolded when a real estate broker, representing homeowners Denis Kurlyand and Juliya Fulman, discovered the locks changed and White-Hunt residing within the property, claiming to have lived there since January.

Legal Loopholes and Homeowner Nightmares

The indictment of White-Hunt brings to light the complexities and loopholes within New York's squatter laws. After taking residence in the Lakewood Avenue home, White-Hunt sued the homeowners to assert his legal right to remain, presenting forged documents as evidence. This legal maneuvering showcases the audacity of squatters exploiting the legal system for personal gain. The swift dismissal of White-Hunt's lawsuit by a judge, due to inconsistencies in the lease documents provided, underscores the challenges homeowners face in reclaiming their properties. This case is a stark reminder of the legal battles that can ensue from squatter claims, often leaving homeowners in a prolonged state of uncertainty and financial burden.

A Broader Look at Squatter Rights in New York

The issue of squatter rights in New York City has become increasingly prominent, with tales of squatters surging in recent months. The state's recent budget includes a measure aimed at addressing this issue by excluding squatters from the definition of a tenant under state law. This legislative change reflects growing recognition of the need to protect property owners from the exploitation of squatter rights. Squatters in New York City can claim legal right to remain on a property after just 30 days, a policy that has opened landlords and owners up to significant struggles and possible civil action. This legal backdrop creates a fertile ground for squatters to exploit, complicating the process for owners to regain control of their properties.

Implications for Property Rights and Legal Reform

The indictment of Lance White-Hunt in Queens is more than just a legal battle; it's a symbol of the broader challenges facing property owners in New York and the need for legal reform. District Attorney Melinda Katz's statement underscores a commitment to addressing these challenges, but the case also highlights the necessity for clearer laws and stronger protections for homeowners. As squatter tales continue to emerge, the need for legislative action becomes increasingly apparent, prompting a reevaluation of squatter rights and tenant definitions. This case serves as a critical example of the potential for abuse within the current system and the urgent need for change to ensure the rights of property owners are adequately protected.