Gray: Landlord Rights Must Be Reformed Following Increase in Squatting Incidents

Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown) 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.

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.

“For years, landlords have had their rights compromised by illogical housing policies that punish property owners. All across the state, squatters are tormenting homeowners. But the idea of strengthening landlord rights isn’t new. The issue is now gaining traction largely due to the inundation of news stories highlighting homeowners’ arrests, financial ruin and tragic loss of life while defending their properties. It’s disheartening that such extreme circumstances are necessary to promote calls for policy reform,” Gray said. “The bill put forward today aims to put an end to these tragedies once and for all.”

“As a landlord myself, I have experienced this issue. Because of adverse occupancy, the 20 units I used to have is down to 5. The exploitation of property owners is simply inexcusable. We have witnessed firsthand in our own area the struggles landlords face with adverse occupancy and property destruction caused by unwanted and non-paying occupants. People have worked to obtain their personal property and invested in our communities with financial resources and hard work. Strengthening landlord rights goes beyond individual protection; it’s integral to preserving our communities, curbing blight and upholding responsible property ownership.”