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New bill calls for NYC agencies to collect data on squatters. Why lawmakers say it will help

Bill would require NYC agencies to make squatter complaints publicly available
Bill would require NYC agencies to make squatter complaints publicly available 02:54

NEW YORK -- A new bill introduced in the New York City Council on Thursday would require city agencies to publicly report instances of squatting in the city.

City Councilmember Susan Zhuang introduced the bill, which would require the police department, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and other city agencies to make squatting data public information. It's the first of its kind.

Because squatting is a civil matter and difficult to criminally prosecute, there is no data to show the scope of the problem.  

"For instance, if anyone call 311 about a squatting issue or call 911, we should have the data about those incidents. And also, we need to know where that happened and how long that happened, what issue they caused by squatter," Zhuang said.

She says right now, more than a dozen members of City Council have expressed their support for it.

Changes to squatters rights in NYC

The New York State Budget includes a bill that essentially clarifies the legal distinction between squatters and tenants

State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, a Democrat who represents Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island, introduced the bill, along with another that would make squatting a form of criminal trespassing. That bill is still under review in the Senate.

Zhuang says she plans to introduce a resolution next week to throw her support behind that legislation.

Currently, squatters in New York can legally be considered tenants after 30 days in a unit.

New York City Council Member Vickie Paladino told CBS New York she wants that changed to 180 days.

Brooklyn landlords fed up with squatting issues

Some landlords dealing with tenants who refuse to pay rent say the proposed legislation doesn't go far enough.

Madelina Wooding, a property owner in Park Slope, says she has a tenant who stopped paying rent 11 months ago and has refused to leave.

"[Zhuang's bill is] a start, but they should include holdover tenants like ours. I mean, she knows the system, she's working the system. Squatters and holdover tenants have more rights than property owners," she said.

Tom Diana, who owns an eight-unit building in Park Slope, says a tenant who was supposed to be a caretaker for an elderly resident has refused to pay rent for more than seven years. It's become a lengthy battle that's drawn out in housing court.

"I have to pay all the usual building expenses, I have to pay my attorney, and it also becomes very difficult for me to do repairs and upgrades and so forth because the cash simply isn't coming in," Diana said.

These landlords say their expenses mount as others take advantage of a situation that allows them to live rent-free.

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