Squatters are any landowner’s nightmare, more so because they don’t pay rent, yet their occupation of your land can be considered legal. If you own property in New York, understanding how to deal with squatters can save you the heartache of losing your land to a stranger. This post reviews Squatter’s Rights in New York and what they mean to property owners.
- Occupation period – At least 10 years
- Color of Title – Must be held during the 10-year continuous occupation
- Paying property taxes – Must be done during the 10-year continuous occupation
- Getting rid of squatters – Judicial eviction after 30-day occupation, charged as a criminal trespassed before 3-day occupation.
Squatting Vs. Trespassing
Most landowners would like to believe that squatting and trespassing are one and the same thing. However, the latter is a criminal offense and illegal, while the former is a civil matter and sometimes legal. Squatting is only illegal after the landowner proves that the squatter is unwelcome on their property. To help you better differentiate the two terms, here are some facts:
- A squatter automatically becomes a legal tenant in New York if they reside on a property for thirty days.
- A squatter that improves the land, e.g., trimming the hedges, can often not be charged as a trespasser.
- Squatters that occupy the land during an actual emergency may not be considered trespassers.
- A squatter or trespasser can claim ownership of a property by presenting falsified documents.
Tip: Getting rid of a squatter is easier within the first 30 days of their occupation when they can be considered illegal trespassers.
Who Is Considered a Squatter in New York?
The term squatter refers to a person who resides on a property that is unoccupied, abandoned, or foreclosed without the permission or knowledge of the owner. Squatters are not legitimate landowners and do not pay rent, but despite this, they are afforded some protection by the state. If they fulfill the adverse possession requirements, they can earn the right to remain on the property legally.
What Are the Squatting Laws in New York?
The laws in New York, as in all other states, affords squatters some rights. While they are not at the same level as tenant rights, they are significant enough that dismissing them could mean trouble for a landowner. One of these laws allows squatters who have met the adverse possession requirements to legally continue living on a property and even claim ownership.
How Can a Squatter Occupy Property in New York?
If a squatter resides on a property continuously for 10 years while holding the Color of Title and paying property taxes, they can become the legal owner of the property. The land must have been abandoned in some way by the original owner. A squatter that doesn’t meet the adverse possession requirements can be considered a criminal trespasser.
Understanding Adverse Possession in New York
As mentioned, squatters can claim ownership of a property in New York if they have lived on it continuously for at least 10 years. This is usually done through an adverse possession claim and provided under (NPA § 501, et seq). A squatter that meets these requirements can remain on the land legally without paying rent as they will be the new legal owner.
Adverse possession claims often come with several requirements. For example, a squatter’s occupation of a property must satisfy 5 elements for the claim to be considered valid. The occupation must be:
- Open and notorious
Do Property Taxes Have to Be Paid in New York?
Besides occupation, squatters must also have paid property taxes for the property they occupy during the full 10 years of occupation. An adverse possession claim loses validity if a squatter cannot prove tax payment for all the years.
Getting Rid of Squatters in New York
Squatters in New York are considered legal tenants if they reside on a property for 30 days. When this happens, they can only be removed from the premises through a legal eviction which begins with the landlord issuing one of the following eviction notices:
- A 14-Day Pay or Vacate Notice – This notice offers the squatter the opportunity to become a paying tenant of leave the premises within 14 days.
- A 10-Day Notice to Cure – Allows the squatter 10 days to cure a violation (by moving out).
- A Notice of Termination – If the squatter fails to comply with the above notices, this notice informs them that they must move out within 30 days.
If the squatter doesn’t move out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. Because a squatter going through a judicial eviction is considered a tenant, they can fight the case in court and even win. The landlord must put up a good case which often involves hiring an experienced lawyer.
If the landlord is successful, the court will issue a judgment permitting the sheriff to remove the squatter from the premises. The landowner must let the sheriff do their job as they could be sued if they try to remove the squatter themselves.
Once the squatter has been removed, the landowner can notify them to collect their personal property if they left any on the premises. However, there is no law regarding this in New York, and the landlord can dispose of the property as they see fit.
Important: Before the 30-day mark, a squatter can be considered a criminal trespasser, and you can contact law enforcement to remove them from your property. Past 30 days, the squatter is a legal tenant and can only be removed from the premises by the sheriff.
Tips for Protecting Yourself in New York
Squatting can be devastating and time-consuming to deal with. Consider the following pointers to protect your interests and property:
- Check on your unoccupied or foreclosed property regularly.
- Post signs on your property warning off trespassers
- Barr all the entrances to your property, including gates, doors, and windows
- Address squatters immediately you notice them on your property by sending them a notice
- Hire an attorney to defend your rights if you decide to file for judicial eviction
Squatter’s Rights in New York are well-defined and active, which means landowners must be careful about how they handle squatting on their property. The best approach is to keep a keen eye on your property at all times and address trespassers immediately you notice them. If you have to legally evict a squatter from your property, go through the proper channels and don’t take matters into your hands.