We have previously discussed the problem of squatters and trespassers who take over homes and rely on legal delays to keep owners from forcing them out. However, few people could imagine the success of Guramrit Hanspal, 52, who has lived in a house for 20 years without paying a mortgage. What is equally astonishing is that he just succeeded in getting yet another postponement from Nassau County court Judge William A. Hohauser. Hanspal is now relying on Gov. Cuomo’s March 2020 eviction moratorium, saying that paying rent is merely “a moral obligation” due to the pandemic. If so, it appears a moral obligation that Hanspal has never felt particularly compelling.
Hanspal only made one payment on his mortgage in 1998. He then began a long pattern of evading eviction by filing lawsuits and declaring seven bankruptcies.
Hanspal has reportedly used changes in counsel to secure delays over the years and, this time, his counsel William D. Friedman reportedly requested more time to allow his co-counsel, David Gevanter time to familiarize himself with the case. The owner company’s lawyer Jordan Katz objected that “[t]his the last of approximately 40 attorneys who have appeared on the eve of a hearing.” Nevertheless, Hohauser gave Hanspal another continuance despite the fact that he has counsel and this was just co-counsel.
The eviction moratoriums have raised serious constitutional and legal questions. In May, a federal judge ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority on the ban. However, the Supreme Court recently rejected a case that would have ended the federal ban on evictions for tenants who have failed to pay all or some rent during the coronavirus pandemic. Justice Brett Kavanaugh cast the fifth swing vote with a concurring opinion that relied of a practical rather than a constitutional or statutory rational. He opted to preserve the program because the moratorium is set to expire on July 31, “and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution” of the funds that Congress appropriated to provide rental assistance to those in need due to the pandemic. The rationale seemed to discard the question of legality in favor of the question of practicality in ending the ban.