What’s Inside New York’s Squatters’ Rights?

By: ROS Team September 24, 2021

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Squatters can be tricky and complicated to deal with in the state of New York. Dealing with them requires time and money. Additionally, even squatters have rights, so it’s essential that property owners have at least a basic understanding of those rights to ensure they’re not violated should the need arise to deal with a squatter.

NY Rent Own Sell has covered some of the basics here so that you can be mindful of how best to address squatters within the confines of state law.

Who Are Squatters?

If you are like most people, you probably think of a squatter as someone who moves onto a property and starts living there without the owner’s knowledge. While that’s partially true, there are various definitions for squatters.

Squatting can be both intentional and unintentional. Here are a few scenarios in which somebody can be defined as a squatter:

  • Someone who breaks into an abandoned or condemned building;
  • A tenant who refuses to vacate his apartment when his lease agreement has expired and stops paying rent; or
  • A property owner who creates and/or incorporates a barrier around land owned by someone else because they honestly believe they own part of it.

Is Squatting Different From Trespassing?

Squatting and trespassing are not the same things. The owner or landlord of the property may decide that squatting is not welcome, but the squatter is not necessarily breaking any laws by inhabiting land or property that’s not theirs.  Trespassing, on the other hand, has legal implications.

Is Squatting Different from Trespassing

Keep in mind that:

  • In the state of New York, squatters who live in a place for 30 days instantly become legal tenants. Therefore, it’s crucial to move quickly to evict squatters within the first 30 days.
  • Intruders can falsely claim possession of the property. Property owners or law enforcement can be defrauded by fake documentation.

What Are Squatters Rights?

Squatters have legal rights. To be eligible for adverse possession, they must meet all adverse possession conditions. Otherwise, they may be arrested for trespassing. A homeless person may use squatters’ rights in the state of New York to acquire property. As squatters, they would not have to pay rent.

What Are Squatters Rights

However, there are exceptions to this. Those exceptions include:

  • Trespassers may avoid prosecution if they’ve kept up and/or improved the area. This may include lawn maintenance, waste removal, and landscape improvements;
  • The person trespassing on the property can prove they are living there as the result of emergency conditions; or
  • A squatter must not be using the property to file an adverse possession claim.

Why Do Squatters Have Rights?

In the state of New York, a person may claim adverse possession if they’ve paid taxes and have lived openly on the property for at least ten years without the owner’s authorization.

But things get a bit different in New York City. In particular, the city has its own set of adverse property laws regarding apartments. When a squatter takes over an apartment in New York City, he has what is known as “squatter rights.”

In NYC, squatters are granted rights after only 30 days. Yes, you’re reading that right: only 30 days. Sometimes it is easier for property owners and smaller landlords to pay a squatter to leave the property instead of spending big bucks on legal fees to have them removed.

How Do Squatters’ Rights Work?

After a given period, squatters can become a property’s legal owners. A squatter in New York can claim adverse possession after occupying a property for ten years and not be charged criminally for doing so.

scwatters rights work

The United States has five specific legal conditions for squatters seeking adverse possession. They are:

1) Open and Notorious Ownership

The squatting must be evident. In order to meet this condition, even the property owner would have to have known that the person was living on the property without permission.

2) Hostile Ownership

In this example, the word ‘hostile’ does not suggest the assertion should be harmful or violent. Hostile in this context suggests a simple occupation; an awareness of infringement; or a mistake of good faith.

Let’s look at these more closely:

  • Simple Occupation: Most countries use this definition of  “hostile,” as it is defined as the occupation of land. The individual who occupies the land does not have to know in advance who the land belongs to.
  • Awareness of Intrusion: In this scenario, the individual who infringes must be conscious that their activities infringe. They must realize that they are violating the law by infringing on that property or land.
  • Good Faith Error:  In this case, the offender must not be aware of the legal status of the property or they are relying on inaccurate or invalid guidance. There are relatively few states that following this guideline.

3) Permanent Possession

With permanent possession, the squatter has to have remained on the land in question uninterrupted. In New York, that translates to ten years. It can’t be a situation in which they use the property for a few years and then leave.

4) Exclusive Ownership

The squatter must be the only one who claims ownership of the property. If you share the property with others, (i.e. squatters, tenants, or even the owner) your claim is invalid.

5) Existing Possession

The squatter must reside on the property and treat the property as if they were the actual owners. One example of how this may show up is if the squatter has planted a garden or cleared the property of debris.

Can You Switch Off Services on a New York Squatter?

Under New York City law and state law, removing a squatter without judicial action is prohibited. That simply means you can’t lock a squatter out of an apartment that they’re not paying rent for. This is true even after you successfully evict the squatter.

In other words, property owners can’t physically remove squatters themselves; they must rely on the court and law enforcement to do it. Along those lines, landlords can’t deactivate utility services in an attempt to get the squatter to leave or make the squatter uncomfortable since they are deemed tenants after a certain time.

New York Squatter Evacuation Guidelines:

  • Notify any squatters who have taken up residence on your property as soon as possible. It is required that the notice be written.
  • Consider leasing the property to the squatter.
  • If a squatter refuses to meet your demands as the property owner, call local law enforcement.
  • When all else fails, hire an attorney or property management company.

What Should Landlords Know About Squatters’ Rights in New York?

Squatters can be a unique issue to contend with as a landlord in New York. It can be challenging dealing with them properly. With that in mind, it’s a good idea for NYC landlords to become familiar with laws governing squatters and their rights.

Squatters Rights in New York

Squatters are more than people who live in a property without the owner’s permission. Squatting can also happen accidentally. Possible scenarios in which a person can be deemed a squatter include:

  • Breaking into an abandoned house or a foreclosure and living there;
  • Remaining in a house or apartment after the lease has expired or after you’ve been evicted; and
  • Making someone else’s place your own by illegal encroachment.

Some people equate trespassing to squatting. This is not the case although both can be illegal.  In the state of New York, anyone who lives on a property for 30 days or more becomes a legal tenant. Therefore, eviction becomes critical prior to the 30-day threshold.

Squatters Rights in New York

What often happens is that squatters and trespassers can falsely claim a right to reside on a property. They forge documents to make it appear as if they are legal tenants of the property to buy some time until they can take full advantage of squatters rights in NYC.

New York’s Squatters Law

Squatters in the State of New York have rights, albeit not the same rights as tenants who have acquired an apartment or home legally.  New York’s squatters’ law allows homeless people and anyone else who attempts to establish residence on someone else’s property, limited rights that will help them avoid a trespassing charge. In addition, squatters help their case to remain on the property properly maintain it while they are living there. Squatters can also avoid a trespassing charge if they can prove that they inhabited the property due to an emergency.

How Can Owners Protect Themselves?

It may seem like squatters are big winners here, but homeowners can still protect themselves against squatters. Here’s how:

How Can Owners Protect Themselves

  • If your rental property is vacant while you’re actively advertising it, make sure the property has your house appropriate security in place that will deter someone from breaking in and living there.
  • Visit your property regularly. Since it only takes 30 days for squatters to establish residence in an unoccupied property, you should visit at least every 20 – 25 days. If you are unable to visit your property because it’s in another city, ask a member of your family or a friend in the area to visit on your behalf. You can also invest in a property manager to frequent the property if you don’t live nearby.
  • Become familiar with local property laws related to the eviction process and squatters’ rights. In NYC, you are supposed to give a 10-day notice to quit. If a squatter is not ready to comply with your notice, then you must file a holdover petition with the court to initiate the eviction process.
  • Have backup homeowners insurance and liability coverage if you need some time to get the squatter off the property.

How to Evict a Squatter in New York State

New York State’s eviction process is fairly complicated and lengthy, so you’ll want to avoid it if at all possible. If you’re inexperienced in real estate and/or real estate law, work with an experienced real estate agent or property manager to evict the squatter.

  • 10 Day Notice Requirement

You can send this notice to someone who’s lived on the property for less than 30 days. In the notice, you will need to notify the squatter that they have ten days to vacate the property along with the reason they must do so.  If the squatter does not leave the property after ten days, you can file suit against them.

How to Evict a Squatter in New York State

  • 14-Day Notice Requirement

A 14-day notice is considered the standard notice period for evicting someone. In this notice, you inform the tenant that they must pay the full amount of rent due or quit the property in 14 days.

It usually works when a person is a former tenant and living in the property even after termination of the lease. In such a situation, you can charge them rent. After the notice expires, you can pursue the case for eviction in court.

  • 30 Day Squatters’ Rights Notice

You will send this notice when the squatter has been living on the property for more than 30 days and are now considered a legal tenant of the property.  This notice notifies the squatter that they have 30 days to move out. If the tenant does not leave the property after 30 days, you can initiate the eviction process. If the squatter has been living on the property for a year or more, you will have to send them a 60-day notice.

Bear in mind that the squatter is likely to fight the case in court to stay on the property as long as possible. Landlords can prepare for these court proceedings by becoming familiar with the State of New York’s eviction laws.

Conclusion

Squatters are people who live on land or property that they do not own or formally lease. Anyone who neglects to keep an eye on their property runs the risk of getting a squatter, that is why it is essential to conduct proper oversight of your property.

Prevention is always the best strategy when it comes to dealing with squatters. If you encounter a squatter on your property,  don’t try to evict them on your own. Instead, ask for assistance from a property manager or an attorney to avoid breaking any laws or violating the squatters’ rights.