A Long Island man who hasn’t paid his mortgage in 23 years doesn’t qualify for pandemic housing protections because he’s been staying in the home illegally, a judge has ruled.
Guramrit Hanspal, 52, bought the three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home in 1998 for $290,000, making a single mortgage payment before the house was foreclosed upon in 2000.
But Hanspal stayed put, filing for multiple bankruptcies and lawsuits in various courts in a never-ending — and so far quite successful — bid to stave off eviction.
The free ride could finally be over if Nassau County Housing Court Judge William Hohauser’s Sept. 14 decision stands.
The East Meadow home is currently owned by a company called Diamond Ridge Partners, which had been trying to oust Hanspal before pandemic-inspired eviction moratoriums set in and created a historic housing court backlog.
“As this matter continued winding its serpentine meandering way through the state and federal court systems,” Hohauser noted, Hanspal and another resident, Bhagwant Srichawla, decided to use the pandemic as their latest tool to stay in the home: they filed COVID-19 Hardship declarations in April.
The forms, created by Albany legislators to help keep hard-hit tenants from being ousted due to financial hardship during the pandemic, have served as an automatic pause on most evictions.
Lawyers for Hanspal and Srichawla, who was killed in July in a car crash, contended Diamond Ridge shouldn’t get to move ahead of countless other small landlords waiting their turn in housing court, to which Hohauser noted “with some dismay … that Diamond Ridge and its predecessors have been waiting for more than two decades.”
While there’s “scant case law” on whether filing the hardship declaration alone can keep a landlord from evicting a tenant, Hohauser wrote, the form shouldn’t apply to Hanspal, because he’s not a tenant.
“The protections of the COVID declaration would inhere to tenants, but not to those who have no financial obligation,” Hohauser ruled, including people who illegally stay in a home despite a foreclosure who “could be considered occupants at ‘sufferance’ if not outright squatters.”
Hanspal’s behavior, “which reflects no payments of any kind for decades, augurs strongly against any protection,” Hohauser declared.
Diamond Ridge is “very satisfied” with the court’s decision, said lawyer Jordan Katz, adding, “we intend on immediately enforcing the court’s order and ending this illegal occupancy.”
An attorney for Hanspal didn’t return a message. An attorney representing Srichawla and other residents declined comment.