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NY: Long Island Sen. Mario Mattera Tables Bill Addressing Squatting ‘Epidemic’

Published: April 9, 2024
A view of the Lower Manhattan Skyline with the Empire State Building in the center and the One World Trade Center in the back as seen on June 29, 2022 in New York City. (Image: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

New York Republican lawmaker Sen. Mario Mattera, who represents the 2nd Senate District on Long Island, has tabled a bill intended to address what he calls the state’s squatting “epidemic” and that would give police the power to immediately evict squatters

The legislation comes after several high-profile incidents involving squatters in the state that have left some people injured and others dead. Social media users have also expressed outrage over widely circulated television reports showing homeowners arrested on their own property after attempting to remove arrogant squatters from the premises.

“We need to fix this now, so we can stop the bleeding. The bleeding needs to stop. People are getting hurt. People are getting killed. And what are we doing about it? Guess what, my bill gives the tools to all law enforcement to do their job,” Mattera told Fox News Digital earlier this week. 

Senate Bill S8867 reads, “This legislation would enact an expedient method whereby a property owner, by the mere submission of a sworn complaint to a police officer attesting to certain facts, can immediately cause a squatter or other unauthorized person to be evicted from residential real property by a police officer without court intervention.”

“Just by complaint, calling police officers, prove that you are [in] ownership of that home, and you have the attesting to certain facts, can immediately cause a squatter or other unauthorized persons to be evicted from residential property by a police officer on the spot, without court intervention,” Mattera said of the bill.  


‘The squatter scam’

The bill mimics similar legislation recently signed into law in Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis that is intended to eliminate what DeSantis calls “the squatter scam.”

Mattera applauded the Florida legislation and called on New York State Democrats to rally around his bill, much like how Florida Democrats supported DeSantis’ legislation. 

“You know, the American Dream. Just think about it: life, liberty, and property. The American Dream, and you know what, it is shattered by bad laws of the land of New York State. This is a great law. Governor Ron DeSantis signed it. It was a bipartisan law. He signed it into law effective July 1 of 2024,” Mattera said. 

Under current New York State law, people can claim “squatters rights” after occupying an property for 10 years or more. In New York City, however, squatters can claim the same rights after just 30 days. 

Typically, squatters occupy empty homes that are either on the market or recently vacated, and in some cases squatters identify homes to squat in via online postings. 

In other cases, squatters produce fraudulent documents indicating they have legitimately leased the property. When such a thing happens, it’s usually considered a civil matter, meaning legal homeowners are forced to go to court, spending months, and thousands of dollars in legal fees, seeking to evict the fraudulent tenants. 

Squatters will often provide dubious proof that they have a legal right to occupy a property. In one case currently unfolding in Queens, a suspected squatter claimed they had a legal right to occupy a property because an UberEats receipt from a burger joint showed “their” address. 

Mattera explained to Fox News, “A married couple invested … in a home in Queens, Jamaica, Queens, several years ago. Now they’re forced to go to court right now. An alleged squatter hired an attorney. There it is. Imagine, this squatter hired an attorney. And there they are, they have a burger chain receipt that says that that’s proof that they live in that house. By a burger shack giving them a receipt with the address on it when they delivered it.”

Legislation provides protection for individuals 

Mattera says that his legislation also provides protections for individuals wrongly removed from a property, “including potential triple damages, restoration of possession, and attorney fees for the aggrieved party,” according to a press release issued by his office last week. 

The legislation also redefines the term “occupant” to exclude squatters and trespassers and seeks to clarify that criminal trespass in the third degree includes squatters. 

There is concern that with the influx of migrants into the state, more squatting issues could surface.

As of February this year, an estimated 175,000 migrants have arrived in New York City in just the last two years, many bussed to the city by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after being apprehended at the southern border. 

This issue came to the forefront last month when a migrant TikToker took to the platform calling on other migrants to “invade” Americans’ homes and explained how to exploit squatter laws.

The TikTokers account has since been deactivated but Mattera says the migrant’s message has already spread across the internet. “The damage is done already,” Mattera said. 

“Look at what just happened with the illegal migrant going on TikTok … and saying to everybody, ‘This is what you need to do. You could go do this. Go find vacant homes. Go do what you could do.’ … Yes, he got arrested, but the damage is done already,” Mattera told Fox News.

These concerns are not baseless. Last month, the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested eight migrant squatters who allegedly took over a Bronx property. Guns and drugs were found on site. 

“We just had another situation in the Bronx. It was another thing with the drugs, guns. … The owner of the property in the Bronx … he couldn’t get rid of them either. So this bill, S. 8867, will do the job, give the tools to our law enforcement to remove these people that do not have any permission to be on anybody’s property or in anybody’s property,” Mattera said.