New York City: Couple Being Sued by Squatters Claiming Rights to $930K Investment Apartment

By Leira Aquino

Apr 01, 2024 01:33 AM EDT

A New York City couple is being sued by squatters who refused to leave their $930,000 investment apartment in Queens, New York City.
(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A couple in New York City finds themselves entangled in a legal battle after alleged squatters refused to vacate their $930,000 investment apartment in Queens. 

Denis Kurlyand and Juliya Fulman, the rightful owners of the property, are facing a lawsuit filed by individuals claiming rights to the residence under New York City's lenient laws regarding squatting.

Legal Battle Erupts Over Queens Property

The legal battle between the two parties began when a real estate broker, Ejona Bardhi, discovered on March 5 that the locks had been changed on the Lakeside Avenue property. She was supposed to inspect site before authorizing tenants to move in.

Upon investigation, Bardhi encountered Lance Hunt, Sr. and Rondie L. Francis inside, who claimed residency dating back to January but failed to provide evidence. 

Despite police involvement, the alleged squatters returned to the property a day later, brandishing what they claimed was a lease agreement signed by Bardhi. 

However, Kurlyand and Fulman, armed with ownership documents and timestamped videos proving the property was vacant, managed to have the individuals escorted from the premises by law enforcement.

The couple found their newly renovated home damaged by the trespassers, with scuffed floors, wall scratches, and a strong smell of marijuana lingering in the air, the New York Post reported.

The alleged squatters then filed a lawsuit against Bardhi, the homeowners, and the real estate company involved. 

An emergency lockout hearing was held on March 22, during which the homeowners' lawyer, Rizpah Morrow, argued that the individuals had committed fraud.

However, the case took another turn when one of the alleged squatters failed to appear in court, citing work obligations. 

This prompted concerns about the legitimacy of the claims made by the squatters' attorney, Dennis Harris, who argued that his clients had provided sufficient evidence of residency.

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Homeowners Call for City Protection 

The homeowners expressed frustration over the situation, highlighting the absurdity of being sued by individuals illegally entering their home. 

"It's absolutely absurd," Fulman told the New York Post on Sunday. "These people literally broke into my house. It's not fair to us as homeowners that we are not protected by the city."

Kurlyand, meanwhile, pointed out the vulnerability of vacant properties, especially those on the market, and told the Daily Mail his plan to press criminal charges and launch a class-action lawsuit against the city for its failure to safeguard homeowners in similar situations adequately.

According to the Daily Mail, Kurlyand and Fulman have already accumulated over $4,000 in legal expenses while contesting the lawsuit.

The next court date is scheduled for April 5. 

READ MORE: Mortgage Applications Fall 5.6% As Higher Rates Deter Homeowners and Buyer

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