Having a squatter on your property is not a pleasant experience, especially if you are trying to rent it out. However, if you know what landlords should know about squatters rights in NY, you can respond correctly.
From a trespasser to a squatter
Before understanding what landlords should know about squatters rights in NY, it is crucial to learn how to differentiate squatters from trespassers. Essentially, this comes down to the property type in question and how they entered it. If a person is welcomed inside by a current legal occupant and then remains on the property past the point the occupant’s license expires, they are a squatter. Sometimes, squatters hop from property to property, and these are known as serial squatters.
If the building is considered ‘abandoned,’ the squatter can force an entry and begin living there. However, this is unlikely to be an issue for a landlord. On the other hand, any attempt to enter an occupied building or apartment in good condition without permission is trespassing.
Former tenants causing trouble
Former tenants are the most likely type of ‘squatters’ landlords who want to manage their properties peacefully. Technically, the term for them in New York is not ‘squatter’, but ‘holdover tenant’ instead. If a landlord has problems with such a scenario, they may either come to a deal and sign a new lease or need to serve the tenant a notice of eviction asking them to vacate the property within fourteen to thirty days.
The legal tenant clause
An essential thing landlords should know about squatters rights in NY is that they have thirty days to discover the problem. They became a legal tenant after thirty days without any reaction on the landlord’s part. You can’t remove them from the property with a simple call to the police. You’d need to go through the same process you’d use to deal with a holdover tenant instead.
Claiming a property as a squatter
Now, one of the things that landlords should know about squatters rights in NY that might be alarming is that a squatter can technically gain ownership of the building or apartment they’re occupying. However, we should preface this with the fact that it’s challenging for this to happen. It takes a lot of negligence on the landlord’s part, and the squatter needs to fulfill five requirements before it happens: a hostile claim, actual possession, open and notorious possession, exclusive possession, and continuous possession.
In other words, if you are just leaving your property alone for a month or two while deciding whether you want to sell or keep renting it, this isn’t a threat to you. We’ll explain the five requirements a bit better, regardless.
A ‘hostile claim’ simply means that the squatter is aware that they shouldn’t be on the property, and are doing it anyway. That is the simplest of the five requirements since it just shows intent on the part of the squatter.
That is another simple requirement that requires the squatter to live in the building or apartment. That is simply a clause that prevents people from trying to claim properties on a larger scale simply by locating abandoned ones and claiming they’re squatting there.
Open and Notorious Possession
That requirement prevents squatters from hiding their activities if they want to lay a claim on a property. In other words, they must live on the property openly without hiding their presence from neighbors or the owner. Squatters like this act and live like they own the place. They might even consider the traits of reputable moving companies in NYC and look for reliable professionals to relocate into the property. They are brazen in their actions, counting on the fact that no one will challenge or stop them.
This requirement means that there can’t be more than one group of squatters on the property trying to contest a claim. Existing tenants, the property’s owner, or other squatters disqualify the squatter from trying to claim the property. Of course, if it’s the settler’s family living with them, things are a bit more complex. Generally, they would still be eligible for a claim if it’s their spouse or children.
That is the final and most important requirement for a squatter to claim possession of a property, and it’s also why it’s unlikely to happen to a landlord who actively does anything with their property. Namely, the squatter has been on the property for ten straight years. And they’ve continued to pay taxes for the property for the whole duration.
Any activity on the landlord’s part, even letting parties interested in evaluating the property as an investment they’re thinking about purchasing check it out, would easily reveal squatters who also fulfill the open and notorious possession requirement and allow them to put a stop to the situation.
The way to remove a squatter from your property
The final thing landlords should know about squatters rights in NY is that they are legally protected. In other words, you cannot easily or quickly get a squatter off your property. You can also never do it on your own. Trying to lock them out of the property, physically throw them out, or turn off the property’s utilities all open you up to a lawsuit by the squatter.
You would need to serve them a notice of eviction as you would to a holdover tenant. These have a minimum grace period for the squatter to respond of ten days. Past that, you can have them removed from your property, but you’d need to involve the local sheriff. Note you cannot involve regular police officers since they respond to trespassers only.
Taking the smart way out of an unpleasant situation
Knowing what landlords should know about squatters rights in NY allows you to respond properly. If you determine the person is, in fact, a squatter, you need to react calmly. Do not attempt to use force or violence, or the situation can, ironically, turn against you. You do not want to get in trouble over what should be your right to evict a squatter. Additionally, you should consult legal professionals to help you navigate an eviction.
Note: This content is not intended to substitute, replace, or be construed as professional legal advice. It is for referential purposes only and not meant to replace the advice of your legal counsel, legal representation, and or lawyer. Please consult your professional legal representation or lawyer to ensure you are compliant with any local, state, and/or federal laws.