Do squatters have rights in New York?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2023 | New York City Real Estate Law Blog, Real Estate Disputes

Owning property in New York can be challenging. If you rent out your properties or ever leave your properties empty, you may worry about squatters, especially recently with several squatter stories going viral. This, in turn, has likely led you to wonder whether squatters have rights in our state.

Squatter’s rights generally

Squatter’s right, also known as adverse possession. They allow property occupants rights over the property they occupy without the owner’s permission, and they can lead to the property owner losing the property to the squatter.

Squatter’s rights in New York

In New York, if someone occupies your property without our permission, and they do so continuously, openly and exclusively for a specified period of time, they can take your title. To be clear, this is different than trespassing, which is a crime.

Specifically, in New York, the occupancy time required is at least 10 years without interruption, and they must pay property taxes during this time as well. The squatter must also have some documentation that appears to give them a valid property claim (color of title). Finally, the squatter must also act like the owner, like maintaining the fence, lawn, improvements, etc.

Property owner defenses

For property owners, this seems unfair. After all, in what other context can someone just come in and take your property and get to keep it, legally. If you can prove you gave them permission, this interrupts the squatter’s adverse possession. A valid reason to be absent from the property could be another defense.

Squatter tenancy

In New York, if the squatter lived in the property for at least 30 days, they are considered a legal tenant. This means you cannot unilaterally evict them or have the police evict them. You would be forced to get a judicial eviction.

The keys

As you can tell from this, actually taking your property is extremely hard for squatters, but establishing tenancy is not as difficult. This is why it is imperative that property owners monitor their properties, including setting up cameras in their vacant properties. This will make getting squatter out much easier or avoid it entirely.