east new york, housing, deed theft, street
Photo: MMZach for Wikimedia.

A program designed to stop deed theft amongst Brooklyn’s vulnerable homeowners has been expanded to protect the borough’s renters, Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports.

Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez have expanded the Protect Our Homes initiative, launched in January to combat deed theft, to add protections for renters facing eviction as a foreclosure crisis looms.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Photo: Brooklyn DA website.

“The impending housing crisis in Brooklyn will have devastating effects on our community,” Gonzalez said. “We must do everything in our power to protect homeowners and renters from unscrupulous actors.”

Protect Our Homes was initially launched to protect homeowners from deed theft scams through community education and outreach, enforcement, and policy and legislative proposals. It established a task force to educate New Yorkers across the five boroughs about the problems of deed theft and housing scams.

Gonzalez and James said deed thieves target elderly residents of color in high-demand housing areas. In 2019, 29-year-old Jordan Horsford was convicted of third-degree grand larceny after he convinced his 85-year-old neighbor to sign away the deed to his East New York home.

AG James. Photo: A. Leonhardt for BK Reader

At the time of sentencing, Gonzalez said: “I urge seniors and their family members to protect their homes, especially as property values continue to rise in Brooklyn, by taking care not to sign any documents pertaining to their properties without the advice of a reputable attorney.”

James said the COVID-19 pandemic had put New York on the verge of an acute housing crisis, with longtime homeowners already grappling with deed theft fraud and now economically challenged renters would soon be facing evictions.

She said the taskforce would discuss the emerging trends putting people at risk of displacement, review complaints and take appropriate action as needed. The taskforce would also work to educate renters facing eviction about their rights and connect them with lawyers through New York City’s Right to Counsel law, she said.

“I am committed to working with District Attorney Gonzalez and our other government and legal service partners to use a combination of education and enforcement to help our neighbors stay in their homes,” James said.


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