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The mayor of Southampton is a squatter, according to his landlord, who also happens to be a bitter political rival.
Zach Epley, 33, says his family served their tenant, Mayor Jesse Warren, with a 90-day vacate notice in October but he refuses to move out and isn’t paying rent.
“He has not paid any rent since December 7th. He is just packed in squatting. He has no excuse, no reason,” Epley told The Post. “He is abusing the system, is what he’s doing.”
Warren, 38, says the Epleys are lying and that his rent is up to date. He presented as proof a checkbook entry of a rent check dated Jan. 14 and a certified mail receipt a day later. He said the Epleys are deliberately not cashing his check so they can claim he’s a deadbeat. Zach Epley maintains no check was received.
While the mayor admitted he overstayed his lease, which ended on Oct. 15, he insisted the landlord has no right to demand his immediate departure, citing the eviction moratorium instituted by Gov. Cuomo in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This entire thing has been an effort to try and remove me from office and intimidate me and harass and simply that’s their entire goal,” Warren said. “Fortunately we are leaving soon. We can’t leave soon enough.”
Warren said he and his girlfriend have closed on a new place elsewhere in the village and he expects to be out for good sometime next month.
That, however, isn’t fast enough for Epley, and his father — former Southampton Mayor Mark Epley — who both showed up unannounced at the two-family home on David Whites Lane and demanded Warren leave in a dramatic caught-on-video confrontation on Jan. 16.
“Why are you still here?” Mark Epley demanded, standing in the doorway.
“Because we live here,” Warren shot back.
“No you don’t. You don’t have a lease … you need to leave,” said Epley.
Warren told The Post his landlords are engaging in “a Mafia style … shakedown,” and said he planned to file a police report. Warren has long insisted the Epleys bought his home in order to kick him out and make him a non-resident of the village, which would make him ineligible to run for office there. The Epleys denied this.
The Epleys and Warren have a long history of bad blood, stemming from Warren’s election as mayor in June 2019 when he unseated incumbent Michael Irving — a close Epley ally. Things escalated after Warren tossed Zach Epley off the village planning board. In October 2019 Mark Epley warned Warren in a voicemail message that it was “game on.”
The Epleys — a powerful and wealthy Hamptons clan — purchased Warren’s rental home in July 2020 from Citibank executive Brandt Portugal, placing a Sword of Damocles over their foe. With the pandemic turning the Hamptons rental market into a feeding frenzy, it was difficult for the mayor to immediately find a new place.
After promising in July they would leave Warren alone — and calling his fears of eviction “paranoid” and “ridiculous” — The Epleys changed their mind after Zach lost an election to a choice seat on the Village Board in September to candidates backed by Warren.
The family said Warren’s conduct during the race forced their decision.
“He was such a creep. He followed me and my wife around … to the point where we were like, we don’t want him on this property,” Zach Epley said. Warren said the Epleys “haven’t been truthful” to the media and that “people can judge for themselves.”
Warren said the contest with Epley has only stiffened his resolve and that he looked forward to running for reelection in June. “I hope to have two more years to help continue to serve the village,” he said.
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