A Loophole Got Him a Free Hotel Stay For 5 Years — Then He Claimed He Owned the Building

For 5 years, a New York City man managed to live rent-free in a landmark Manhattan hotel by exploiting an obscure local housing law, but prosecutors this week said Mickey Barreto went too far when he filed paperwork claiming ownership of the entire New Yorker Hotel building — and tried to charge another tenant rent. Barreto, 48, says he moved to New York when he found out about a loophole that allows occupants of single rooms in buildings constructed before 1969 to demand a 6-month lease. Barreto claimed that because he had paid for a night in the hotel, he was considered a tenant. He asked for a lease and the hotel promptly kicked him out. That's when Barreto went to court and explained that he had lived there until July 2023 without paying any rent because the hotel never wanted to negotiate a lease with him. Because no one from the hotel appeared in court, Barreto won by default, with the judge ordering the hotel to give Barreto a key. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Barreto then tried to demand rent from one of the hotel’s tenants, registering the hotel under his name with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for water and sewage payments, and demanding the hotel’s bank transfer its accounts to him. That's when prosecutors went after him. Barreto said he has never hired a lawyer for the civil cases and has always represented himself, but now he has secured a criminal defense attorney. Located a block from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, the New Yorker has never been among the city’s most glamorous hotels, but it has long been among its largest.