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Caretaker-turned squatter blocks family from $2 million dream home with alleged legal loopholes

The case has played out in civil courts with accusations of intimidation tactics and demands for pay-offs as Brett Flores allegedly tries to exploit means of delaying the case.

A family of interior designers and a bankrupt former caretaker each lay claim to a $2 million house in a cushy New York City suburb, with many unaware that a squatter lived down the street. 

"Mrs. and Mr. Landa, or any of their representatives, do not under any circumstances have my consent to enter my residence here," a sign on the door of the house read. "I decline any contact request with the Landas, and any contact will be interpreted as harassment. Kindly forward all communications to my lawyer, Dennis O’Sullivan, whose contact info is listed below. Thank you." 

The Landa family, who live in Douglaston, bought the house next door for $2 million, per a Zillow posting, hoping that they could have their sons live there and help take care of their brother who has Down Syndrome, especially once their parents pass, according to ABC 7. 

The Landas own Interiors by J.C. Landa, which works with "many of the most exclusive homes and corporate offices in the country," including the curtains for the White House during the Obama administration, according to a post on Facebook, in which the company thanks the Obamas for the opportunity "to have served the White House throughout the past eight years." 


The homes in Douglaston can cost millions, and a security firm keeps watch over the neighborhood and responds to resident concerns. The neighborhood sits on a train line with direct and quick access to Manhattan – an attractive asset for those who want to commute. 

The house, however, came with a unique problem: A tenant who wouldn’t leave, who after a year of living in the house would first claim squatters' rights and then file for bankruptcy in a move the family’s lawyer argued would intend to activate a stay of action and protect him from litigation while keeping the house safely out of the Landas' posession. 

Brett Flores, a 32-year-old nurse, lived in the home as part of his duties as caretaker of the previous owner, Bernand Fernandez, who ultimately passed away at the age of 80 on Jan. 12, 2023. Flores, who received $3000 a month for his services, claimed that Fernandez gave him permission to remain, but has failed to produce supporting evidence. 

"We’re in the process of having the automatic bankruptcy stay lifted so that we can go back to court and proceed with a trial," Anthony Mordente, the lawyer for the Landa family, told Fox News Digital. "I think we’ll be successful. I don’t have any reason why the bankruptcy judge would have any reason to keep the stay in effect." 


"[The house] is not part of his bankruptcy estate because he doesn’t have a ten-year lease that would give him time to stay here, so without a lease and without an agreement to stay, the bankruptcy judge is going to say: What is this all about?" Mordente said.

Mordente, who first represented Fernandez's nephew, said that Flores and his lawyer had yet to produce an alleged recording or any supporting documentation by the end of February. The nephew ultimately washed his hands of the situation and sold the house to the Landa family in Oct. 2023, at which point the family assumed the task of evicting Flores. 

"They bought it subject to him being present in the property, and they continued the prior case that was commenced by the nephew as the owner under the trust, so they stepped into the former owner’s shoes, so to speak," Mordente said, noting the Landas requested he continue the case. 

Mordente rejected the notion that Flores had any basis for occupancy, either as a proper tenant or as a squatter: New York State law defines squatters as having lived in a property for 30 days, at which point the owner must prove a right to the property and proceed with judicial eviction. 


"A squatter is technically someone who breaks into a property, so he has entered without the permission of his employer, so he’s technically not a squatter in the legal sense of the term," Mordente said. "In my opinion, he doesn’t have any possessive interest in the space because, in point, his employment has been terminated by the death of his employer." 

Flores has now appeared in court nine times, over half of which have occurred since the Landas bought the home. Fox News Digital learned that Flores demanded a large sum of money, which Mordente said was "in excess of $100,000," to leave the property, and the family refused to pay him.

O’Sullivan, who represents Flores, said he had no comment on claims that Flores had offered to leave if paid, but said that his client’s position is that the family has used intimidation tactics to try and force him out of the home. Mordente denied that the Landas had engaged in any kind of intimidation. 

Flores did not respond when Fox News Digital knocked on the door of the property. An examination of the home revealed that several security cameras were visible around the property, some of which had been painted over. The lawn and side yard sit have been totally torn up: Mordente claimed the family did so after Flores caused a sewage back-up by clogging the pipes.


Pictures of the home on Google Maps through Street View show the home in its former state, which had a lush lawn and many bushes lining the sidewalk, all of which have vanished. 

A security guard, who arrived at the street due to the presence of journalists and photographers in the neighborhood, said that he had "no comment" on the situation between Flores and the Landas, but Fox News Digital spoke with individuals in the area who provided further information. 

Most strikingly, many residents did not appear to have known that Flores did not own the home and had lived there as a potential squatter. At a church within walking distance of the home, a patron said they couldn’t believe it would happen in such an affluent area. 

One individual, however, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had seen another person in the home. Mordente confirmed that his clients had witnessed several different people in the home, including a couple, various women and a "gentleman," all of whom the Landas said, "don’t belong there." 

Flores had posted on several rental sites – all of which have since been deleted – and advertised individual rooms, such as the "Prince Room," which he charged $50 a night, according to The New York Post

O’Sullivan said that he would offer further comments on Friday in response to the increased media attention on the case.

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