An elderly couple’s plans to retire and move into their dream home to take care of their disabled son have been foiled by a squatter who refuses to leave the $2 million New York City property.
Susana and Joseph Landa, both 68, say they are facing a “nightmare” after purchasing their Queens home in October to be close to family living in the same neighborhood, ABC 7 reported.
Their son, Alex, has Down syndrome, so they thought the location would be great for his care.
“I just want to know that I can die tomorrow and he’s next to his brother,” Susana told the outlet Wednesday.
However, the Landas have been prevented from moving into their house because of a man named Brett Flores.
Flores, 32, claims he was hired as a caretaker by the former homeowner for $3,000 per week, before the man died in January 2023.
Court documents obtained by ABC 7 show the squatter also claims to have a “license” from the deceased previous owner to continue living in the domicile.
“It has become a nightmare, a total nightmare,” Joseph said.
“We couldn’t believe it, we could not believe it,” his wife added.
The state of New York has its own set of “squatters rights,” that uphold that it is “unlawful for any person to evict or attempt to evict an occupant of a dwelling unit who has lawfully occupied the dwelling unit for thirty consecutive days or longer.”
In response to the Landas giving Flores a 10-day notice to leave the property, the former “caretaker” called the cops on the couple once they attempted to enter the home with an insurance inspector.
The New York Police Department refused to evict the squatter, even though he has even listed rooms for rent at the property to other people.
An online listing viewed by the New York Post shows Flores advertising “The Prince Room” for $50 a night.
“If you have no lease and you’re not paying rent, what is your right?” Joseph said.
In addition to their mortgage, the couple has also been forced to continue paying thousands of dollars for utilities that they aren’t even using.
According to Susana, Flores has been “leaving windows open 24 hours,” which is reflected on her and her husband’s heat bill.
“It’s very crazy, our system is broken,” she complained. “I never would imagine we have no rights, no rights at all, nothing, zero.”
While the Landas have brought the case to civil court in five different hearings, Flores is holding up the process.
“He showed up for court without an attorney on January 9, 2024, preventing any legal proceedings,” the Post reported.
After recently filing for bankruptcy, Flores has continued to be allowed to stay in the home.
“When a residential tenant files a bankruptcy petition, an automatic stay prevents the landlord from bringing or continuing a case to obtain possession and from enforcing a judgment obtained before the commencement of the bankruptcy case,” city law states.
“It makes me feel completely forgotten in this legal system, unfair, and not able to do anything,” said Joseph.
The next court date is set for April.