What is a squatter? How trespassing can lead to homeownership in NY

Imagine returning from a monthslong vacation to see a stranger making breakfast, watching television, and washing laundry – in your home!

In some cases, this might not be considered trespassing. Instead, the intruder could be a squatter, and they have more rights to do this than one might think.

What is a squatter?

PropertyClub, a real estate consultant firm in New York, defines a squatter as "someone who moved into a property and lives there without the owner’s permission or knowledge."

It takes 30 days of occupancy for a squatter to be considered a legal tenant.  

The difference between squatting and trespassing is that a squatter has the intention of taking ownership or claiming the property as their own, according to the New York State Unified Court System.

In New York, trespassing is ruled illegal, while squatting is often considered a civil matter that relies on the courts for eviction, according to FOX News.

This could mean the squatter moves his or her belongings into the property and settles down. In some instances, squatters will even pay taxes to back up their possession claim. 

What are New York's squatting laws?

Squatter rights laws, known as "adverse possession," allow an individual to occupy a property without the homeowner's permission.

In New York State, anyone who lives on a property for at least 10 years can claim a legal right to stay, according to the New York Post.

Yet in New York City, a squatter can claim rights to occupy a property in just 30 days, according to PropertyClub.

This means the rightful owner cannot legally lock them out, move their belongings or cut off the lights, according to state law.

Recent headlines

In New York State, getting rid of a squatter can be difficult. If the police are called and the person claims to be a tenant, they, in most cases, can't be arrested for trespassing either, according to NY courts.

Last week, two teen squatters were wanted in connection to the murder of a woman whose body was found in a bag in her Manhattan apartment.


Teen squatters in police custody after woman's body found inside bag in Manhattan apartment

Police were previously searching for a pair of squatters they said fled across the GWB into New Jersey and into Pennsylvania where they ultimately crashed the victim's car.

In Queens, the saga over who has rights to live a family's "dream home" continues.

In a FOX News exclusive, lawyers said alleged squatter Brett Flores was part of a deal to help a family severely undercut the price of the home.

Flores' lawyer claimed that the family colluded with Brett to remain on the property so that the estate selling the property would have to offer a discount to anybody buying.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Alleged NYC squatter working with family as part of real estate deal, lawyer reveals

From squatter to owner 

Once a squatter becomes a legal tenant, they have the right not to be displaced without notice.

If the owner cannot be found for any reason, it becomes even easier for a squatter to become a legal owner.

To get rid of a squatter, the property owner has to go through New York's legal eviction process just to have them removed.


Caretaker, squatter blocks family from $2 million dream home in Queens via legal loophole

Many residents did not know that the man was squatting at the home down the street.

In New York, squatters have the ability to eventually take over the title of a property according to

If the squatter lives on the property for 10 years and pays taxes they can claim the land as their own.

It takes 10 years without interruption for a squatter to become a legal owner of the property they were once squatting on.

Protecting homeowners from squatters

New York State Rep. Jake Blumencranz, who represents parts of Long Island, is fighting to make squatting illegal.

Squatters' rights (also known as adverse possession) allow a squatter to occupy property if the true owner doesn't take action within a certain time frame. 

The legislation looks to amend the definition of a tenant to exclude squatters, and make squatting criminal. 

Blumencranz is seeking to extend the time period for tenancy rights from 30 days to 45 days of possession and also makes squatting considered criminal trespass in the third degree.

Assembly Bill A6894

A tenant shall include an occupant of one or more rooms in a rooming house or a resident, not including a transient occupant, of one or more rooms in a hotel who has been in possession for [thirty] FORTY-FIVE consecutive days or longer.