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Owner of NYC home that went up in flames says he can't get rid of squatters who 'have more rights' than him

A New York City man whose home he purchased for $1.1 million in 2017 says he cannot get rid of squatters, even after the home went up in flames late last year.

The New York City man whose million-dollar home went up in flames late last year says he cannot get rid of squatters who "have more rights" than homeowners.

Zafar Iqbal, 53, told the New York Post he has repeatedly tried to renovate the house but they "keep coming back." 

He pays $6,000 a month for the Brooklyn property after paying $1.1 million for it in 2017. He says the home is now causing him to go broke, and he also fears for his safety.

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

SQUATTERS BURNED NEW YORK HOME WHILE WREAKING HAVOC ON 'HARDWORKING FAMILIES,' OFFICIALS SAY

Residents say the cadre of squatters took up residence in the Dyker Heights neighborhood over the summer and quickly made themselves known by stealing security cameras and other goods from surrounding houses – and directly threatening neighbors.

"I got a couple of contractors, they started working on the house," Iqbal told the Post. "Next thing I know, I got a call from the fire department that the house is burnt out." 

BLUE STATE SQUATTERS PUT ON NOTICE WITH 'AGGRESSIVE' LAW AND ORDER BILL: 'PEOPLE ARE GETTING KILLED'

Cheng Chen, 46, was charged with arson and criminal mischief after the Nov. 29 fire at 1237 67th Street last year. He was saddled with a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty, according to court records. 

"The fire was caused by candles," Chen told police, according to a criminal complaint. "I was smoking a cigarette, lit a candle. While I had the stove on to heat up the water and to keep myself warm, [I] went downstairs to take a shower. When I came back, I saw flames and smoke everywhere."

However, the New York City Police Department told Fox News Digital that Chen started the fire "intentionally" and "recklessly." 

The inferno caused $900,000 in damage, the New York Post reported, and took dozens of firefighters an hour to extinguish, according to ABC 7. 

"Somebody got in there and torched my house," Iqbal said. "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."

Iqbal has been waiting for months since the fire for his insurance claim to go through, he told the Post. Once it does, he plans to fix the 8-bedroom, 4-bath home that has become a source of neighborhood complaints.

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New York, most notably in New York City, has been rocked by repeated instances of squatting cases, including a handful that have turned violent and even murderous. Republican state Sen. Mario Mattera pointed to one man on Long Island in 2021, plumber Thomas Buckleman, who was brutally beaten with a baseball bat by a squatter when he was hired to winterize a building in Blue Point. Buckleman was left with three fractures to his skull and blood on his brain, and told local media at the time he believed he was going to die.

Fox News' Emma Colton and Christina Coulter contributed to this report. 

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