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New law strengthens NY’s ability to combat deed theft

By: Kevin Oklobzija//November 15, 2023

New law strengthens NY’s ability to combat deed theft

By: Kevin Oklobzija//November 15, 2023//

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Legislation signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday morning strengthens New York’s ability to protect property owners from being defrauded out of their homes through deed theft.

The legislation empowers the attorney general and local district attorneys to pause related eviction and ownership dispute proceedings. It also expands the list of crimes that allow prosecutors to invalidate fraudulent sale and loan documents.

Deed theft occurs when the title to a home is taken without the homeowner’s knowledge or approval. The most common means of theft is through forgery, when a signature is forged on a deed, which is then filed with a county clerk. Homeowners also can be duped into signing a deed over to a scammer.

Under the law, the attorney general, district attorney or law enforcement agency investigating deed theft can move to stay any legal proceeding where possession or title of property is at issue, and the court is now required to grant the stay if investigations are ongoing or if civil or criminal actions have been initiated.

The ability of prosecutors to move to void fraudulent instruments affecting property ownership is enhanced by adding tot he list of crimes that can be the basis for voiding those instruments.

“Deed theft cheats hardworking New Yorkers out of the opportunity to own and keep their homes and forces families out of their communities —particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods,” Hochul said in a news release. “With the protections enshrined in this legislation, however, we are empowering homeowners and law enforcement to fight back against deed theft and keeping families, homes and communities intact.”

In addition, when a party to the transfer has been convicted of deed theft or related fraud with respect to a property in question, the legislation creates a legal presumption that a deed transfer was fraudulent. The stipulation assists victims who are fighting in civil court to maintain ownership rights.

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