‘We feel completely helpless.’ How squatters took over an LI family’s home

‘We feel completely helpless,’ says one. How squatters took over the house of a Long Island family

Squatters in New York become lawful tenants after only 30 days. They cannot be removed from the property by calling the police.

This is the kind of nightmare that a Patchogue family is going through. They contacted Team 12 Investigates because they were on the verge of becoming homeless.

Kimberly Copenhaver has stayed at a variety of hotels, sharing a one-bedroom suite with her 70-year-old mother and 13-year-old son. Her family’s home is less than 20 minutes away, a well-kept three-bedroom ranch that her mother has owned for 20 years.

Strangers, however, have been residing in their home for the past five months. When the family left town for a few months, squatters moved in.

“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,” Copenhaver said. “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 claimed that the buddy who was keeping an eye on the house began illegally renting it out while they were away. The awful reality is that the family learned 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 Carrozza, who is an attorney. “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.”

Copenhaver and her mother finally received a court date to begin the eviction procedure, but the case was extended for two weeks, allowing the renters extra time in the residence.

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