Thursday, 18 April 2024 15:17

Saratoga to Introduce Law to Protect County Property Owners from "Squatters"

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil Barrett speaking during the Board’s monthly meeting on April 16 in Ballston Spa. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos. Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil Barrett speaking during the Board’s monthly meeting on April 16 in Ballston Spa. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.

BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors during its monthly meeting on April 16 expressed its intent to create a Local Law that authorizes property owners to request the removal of unlawful occupants from dwellings. 

The potential law’s stated purpose “is to protect owners of dwellings in Saratoga County from unlawful occupants commonly referred to as ‘squatters’ and to protect lawful occupants of dwellings from unlawful evictions.”

“The unlawful property and intruder law is in relation to the stories we’ve seen publicized, both in New York State and around different parts of the country,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil Barrett. “Generally known as squatters, these are people that take over peoples’ homes, set up shop and decide to live there.”

According to a draft of the proposed law, an “unlawful occupant” is defined as “a person who knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling having entered the dwelling without permission of a party entitled to possession.” 

Barrett said he has asked county attorneys to draft legislation for supervisors to consider. 

Additionally stated, the draft explains the proposed law “does not mean a person who entered the dwelling upon consent of a party entitled to possession even if the consent is later revoked including: tenants whose oral or written lease has expired; family members who have been in the dwelling unit for at least 30 days; roommates or other licensees of tenants and occupants who have been in the dwelling unit for at least 30 days, or workers who have been provided housing as part of their job.”

To request the immediate removal of an unlawful occupant of a dwelling, the property owner would need to submit an affidavit to law enforcement that lists 27 points, including that they had directed the unauthorized persons to leave the dwelling, but the person(s) had not done so.

Once the claim has been verified, law enforcement may then take the unlawful occupants into custody and may bring them before a local court judge to face applicable charges, including trespassing.

“We’ve had instances of this in the past in the county, and it probably will become more prevalent,” Barrett said. “It’s become increasingly concerning because it’s clearly a coordinated effort. There are organizations working to identify vacant properties and they have people they send in to take over that property.“

A Public Hearing regarding the proposal will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 14, at the next county Board of Supervisors meeting. A vote may follow. Meetings are held at the county complex in Ballston Spa.     

If approved, the local law is slated to go into effect 60 days after being adopted. 

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