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OPINION: Squatters’ Rights: Bad Policy Leads to Bad Public Safety

By Will Barclay


I [recently] joined small property owners and my colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference to call out New York State’s flawed and unfair squatting laws. Thanks to a perfect storm of bad lawmaking, an overflow of unvetted migrants, and unethical TikTok posts, New York homeowners have been subjected to an unprecedented assault on their private property.

The problem starts with the way our existing laws are written. In New York, squatters are given generous rights after 30 days of occupying a dwelling, and while this rule was presumably put in place to protect renters from unscrupulous landlords, instead it is being abused by those seeking a free ride. Homeowners from around the state have reported instances where their unoccupied homes, often on the market for sale, are being used as free lodging for opportunistic squatters who know how to abuse our laws. Making matters worse, thanks to the proliferation of social media, migrants who have been bussed here from the southern border are sharing tips and tricks to game the system. This must stop.

My colleague, Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz (R,C–Oyster Bay), introduced the Property Protection Act (A.6894) to protect homeowners from this scenario. His legislation extends the period to obtain tenancy rights from 30 days to 45 days and adds “squatting” to the definition of criminal trespass in the third degree. Simply stated, strangers invading our property should not be protected under the law, and allowing as much is a disservice to the rightful property owners who worked hard to buy their homes. At one point, the American dream was to purchase a home, own property to raise a family, or use as we please. We already have an outmigration problem, and protecting squatters will do nothing to stem it.

The squatting trend has reached a boiling point in recent weeks. Police recently reported that a woman traveling from Spain to prepare a Manhattan apartment owned by her late mother was brutally beaten to death by squatters. Every lawmaker should be outraged and seeking ways to fix the irrational policies that encouraged those two individuals to be there in the first place. 

The sad reality is that property rights in New York have been eroding for years. The state’s progressive wing has shown time and again a severe lack of respect for the idea of private property, and I often wonder what our state would look like if the socialists in charge had their way. Ownership of private property is a staple of American democratic and capitalist ideals. They are part of what made our state and our nation the beacons of prosperity they have been for hundreds of years. Sadly, it seems there is a movement to suffocate those ideals under the guise of opaque, misguided humanitarian goals that do far more harm than good.

The Assembly Minority Conference stands with small-business owners and property owners who do not want to see their life’s savings stolen by trespassers. Legitimate, legal renters facing financial hardship deserve assistance when needed, but giving thieves a free pass to invade and occupy a home for sale doesn’t serve the public interest. When enough homeowners and landlords leave the state, those looking for a place to live or rent will have a much harder time, thanks to these awful policies.       

William (Will) A. Barclay, 55, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.

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