Thousands of Brooklyn homeowners annually have face repeated—often predatory—solicitation from real estate sellers looking to purchase their homes for cheap and on the fly.

To combat the intense inquiries and fraudulent claims these homeowners continue to face, the Department of State has created “cease and desist zones”—areas protected from real estate solicitation. 

As Brooklyn’s population rapidly increases, so do incidents of deed theft and homeowner solicitation. From 2014 to 2019, around 45% of New York City’s deed theft complaints came from Brooklyn. 

“Our office has received reports of individuals who approach homeowners experiencing financial distress with offers of refinancing and other ‘too-good-to-be-true’ offers,” said Michael Barbosa, the assistant attorney general in Brooklyn.

Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith

A cease and desist zone protects residents from these solicitations. However, just living within the boundaries of the zone does not completely protect homeowners.

When an area becomes a cease and desist zone, its residents must register their address on the Department of State’s website. The process of registering a home on the website is simple and takes only five minutes. After registering an address, it is unlawful for real estate salespeople to solicit there.

If solicitations continue on registered homes, residents can mail a complaint form to the Department of State. Along with the form, residents must also include evidence of the solicitation they received. The complaint may trigger an enforcement action on the offender, like a fine. 

Brooklyn Cease and Desist Zoning Credit: New York State Department of State

Currently, Brooklyn’s only cease and desist zone circles East New York and Cypress Hills. Advocates are fighting to make the entirety of Brooklyn into a cease and desist zone.

Primarily, these scammers and land grabbers target communities of color in Brooklyn. At a hearing for cease and desist zoning on Thursday, June 9, a representative from the Center for NYC Neighborhoods said it receives four times more scam reports from black homeowners than white homeowners. 

“Homeownership is a vital way to stabilize these families,” Barbosa said.

In addition, solicitors also prey on the elderly and people with language barriers. People with little English fluency struggle to decipher the complicated language within fraudulent offers. Solicitors will also approach seniors offering to purchase their house for well under market value. 

Just in February, a case of deed theft made headlines after nearly forcing a Crown Heights family out of their home. The family alleged a landlord tricked their 92-year-old matriarch into signing over the deed to the home, which they had owned since 1951. 

Since 2019, the Brooklyn Regional Office has received over 200 reports of deed theft.

“We need to stop this,” Robert Camacho, a chairperson of Community Board 4 in January’s public hearing. “All the elected officials [here] need to step up to the plate and say ‘enough is enough!’”

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