Owner of $1.1 million NYC home torched by squatter declares squatters have more protections than he does

The owner of a $1.1 million New York City home purportedly set ablaze by a squatter declared squatters keep returning to the residence and “have more rights” than he does.

Squatters have caused Zafar Iqbal, 53, to pay a $6,000-per-month mortgage for a Brooklyn home he purchased in 2017 that he is now too afraid to visit, according to a Monday report.

“Every two or three weeks, I go there, but I don’t approach,” Iqbal said. “I don’t know if these guys have weapons or whatever. My safety is precious, too.”

For more than three months, the landlord has waited for an insurance claim to process that would allow him to renovate the Dyker Heights home, he said.

“I got a couple of contractors. They started working on the house,” according to Iqbal. “Next thing I know, I got a call from the fire department that the house is burnt out. Somebody got in there and torched my house.”

“That’s when I found out it was a squatter living there. The squatters have more rights than the homeowners. I’m the owner of the house. How much more can I do? I need help,” he added.

Squatters in New York City have become an epidemic following the skyrocketing in homelessness following COVID-19 and the migrant crisis under President Joe Biden, according to the report.

In Iqbal’s neighborhood, they have robbed neighbors, committed property damage, and set fires.

The squatter in Iqbal’s home, Cheng Chen, 46, was sentenced to six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to arson and criminal mischief, the report noted.

Chen lived in Iqbal’s house before the landlord had the squatter arrested after he started the fire after lighting candles and cigarettes, Iqbal said.

“The thing is, they keep coming back,” he said of the squatters. “What are they going to do, cook food over there? There is no heat, no hot water. There is nothing working over there. I got some safety guys [who] came and boarded up the house, but they still got in.”

Bills have started to pile up for Iqbal.


“I don’t make that type of money, and I’m paying all that money out of my pocket. … This is costing me. It’s not right. It’s stressful for everybody,” he said. “My wife is upset. Her health is not that good, and this is just compounding it more. This is not good for my neighbors. I treat my neighbors as a family. Your neighbors are an extension of your family, basically.”

“I do apologize for what’s going on, but there is nothing more I can do.”

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