New York Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What are Squatters' Rights in New York?

New York has some of the most permissive adverse possession laws in the country, allowing squatters to potentially gain legal ownership of property they occupy without the owner's permission. 

Squatters' rights fall under the legal principle of adverse possession. This allows a trespasser occupying someone else's vacant or abandoned property to gain legal ownership after a statutory period of continuous possession.

In New York, the continuous occupation period required for adverse possession is 10 years for properties with a record owner, and 30 years for properties that are deemed entirely abandoned with no identifiable owner.

The adverse possession laws apply to virtually all types of real property in New York, including residential homes, apartments, commercial buildings, and undeveloped land.

To make an adverse possession claim, the squatter must prove they occupied the property for the statutory period in an open, continuous, exclusive and notorious manner. They must also demonstrate paying property taxes during this time.

If the squatter meets these requirements, they can file a lawsuit to quiet title and become the legal owner. The previous owner forfeits all rights to the property.

Who Qualifies as a Squatter in New York?

In New York, a squatter is defined as someone who occupies a residential building or area of land without the permission of the owner. This is different than trespassing, which involves entering property without permission but not necessarily staying there. 

To establish squatter status in New York, an occupant must:

  • Occupy the property without the owner's permission or consent.
  • Live on the property continuously for 10 years (for properties with a record owner) or 30 years (for abandoned properties).  
  • Maintain the property as their primary residence.
  • Make improvements or repairs to the property.
  • Pay any property taxes owed during their occupation.

The squatter must meet all of these conditions to have a legal right to claim ownership of the property through adverse possession. Simply trespassing or staying on a property briefly does not qualify. The continuous, open, and hostile occupation is required.

In New York, squatters can gain legal ownership of a property through adverse possession by meeting specific requirements over a defined time period. 

Steps and Timeline to Make Ownership Claim

To make an adverse possession claim in New York, squatters must:

  • Occupy the property continuously for 10 years (if the property owner lives in the same county) or 30 years (if the owner does not live in the county). The occupation must be open and obvious.
  • Pay any property taxes or other charges associated with the property during that time. 
  • Make improvements or repairs to the property, such as fixing structural issues, landscaping, or adding onto the building.

The continuous occupation timeline resets if the squatter leaves or abandons the property for any period of time.

Paying Property Taxes

Paying property taxes on the occupied property can help squatters strengthen an adverse possession claim. Payment of taxes demonstrates the squatter is maintaining the property as if they were the rightful owner.

If the owner stops paying taxes on the property, the squatter may choose to pay them instead. This can indicate to the court that the property was abandoned.

Making Improvements

Making visible improvements is one way squatters can establish ownership of the property during their continuous occupation. Improvements demonstrate the squatter is investing time and resources into maintaining the property.

Potential improvements squatters make include:

  • Structural repairs and upgrades
  • Landscaping, gardening, tree trimming
  • Adding onto the existing building
  • Installing new utilities or increasing capacity  

These actions help squatters prove to the court they occupied and used the property openly and as a true owner would.

Protecting Property from Squatters

Property owners can take preventative measures to ensure squatters do not illegally occupy their land or buildings. Securing any vacant properties is crucial - owners should lock all entryways and windows. Posting "No Trespassing" signs is also recommended, as this establishes that any unauthorized entry is illegal.  

Owners of vacant properties in New York should check on them regularly, at least every few weeks. This allows owners to monitor for any signs of trespassing or unauthorized access. Any indications that someone may be occupying the property, such as lights, sounds, vehicles, or belongings, should be addressed immediately. The sooner unlawful occupation can be detected, the better.

Paying property taxes is another important step for owners of vacant buildings or land. If taxes go unpaid for a certain period of time, the property can be classified as "abandoned" under New York law. This makes it easier for squatters to claim ownership through adverse possession. Staying on top of property tax payments helps demonstrate that the owner has not relinquished rights to the property.

Taking preventative measures requires effort from property owners, but is worthwhile to avoid the lengthy process of removing squatters. Securing entryways, posting signage, monitoring the property, and paying taxes are key to protecting vacant buildings and land from adverse possession claims. Acting quickly at the first signs of trespassing can help nip squatting situations in the bud.

The Eviction Process in New York

To legally evict squatters in New York, property owners must follow the proper legal process. This involves serving the squatters with formal notice, filing an eviction lawsuit if they don't vacate, and seeking law enforcement assistance for removal if necessary.

Serving Proper Notice 

The first step is for the property owner to serve the squatters with a written notice to vacate the premises. The required notice period depends on the type of property:

  • 10 days for a property subject to a contract or lease  
  • 30 days for a property occupied for more than 30 days but without a lease
  • 10 days for a property occupied for less than 30 days

The notice should clearly state that the occupants are required to vacate the property by a specific date. Proper service usually involves having law enforcement or a process server hand-deliver the notice directly to the squatters.

Filing a Lawsuit 

If the squatters fail to vacate the property by the deadline in the notice, the next step is for the property owner to file a lawsuit seeking their eviction. This involves submitting a "petition" to the court, along with the notice that was served. 

The court will schedule a hearing where both parties can present their case. If the judge rules in favor of the owner, they will issue an eviction order directing the squatters to vacate by a certain date.

Law Enforcement Assistance

If the squatters still refuse to leave after the court-ordered deadline, the property owner can seek assistance from law enforcement to forcibly remove them. The local police or sheriff's department will typically accompany the owner to the property and ensure the squatters vacate the premises as ordered.

Resistance or refusal to comply could result in the squatters being arrested for trespassing. The owner is legally permitted to change the locks and take back possession once the property is vacated.

Squatters Rights vs. Tenants Rights

Squatters and tenants have very different legal rights and protections under New York law. While squatters occupy property without permission, tenants have a legal rental agreement and pay rent.

Comparison of Rights

Tenants have defined rights under landlord-tenant law, including the right to proper notice before eviction, habitable living conditions, freedom from harassment, and more. Squatters have no rights other than the potential to gain ownership after 10+ years of adverse possession.

Tenants have a legal right to live in the property as outlined in their lease. Squatters can be removed at any time and have no rights to live on the property until they potentially establish ownership.

Differences in Eviction Processes  

To remove a tenant, landlords must go through a formal eviction process which involves serving proper notices, going to housing court, and getting a warrant of eviction. This provides due process for tenants.

Squatters have no right to due process and can be forcibly removed by law enforcement without a court order if the owner requests it. The only requirement is for the owner to serve a notice to quit first.

Evicting a tenant can take months, while removing a squatter is much faster since they have no legal right to occupy the property. Overall, tenants have clearly defined protections that squatters lack.

Squatters Rights Laws by Region

There are some key differences in squatters rights laws between New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. This is because squatters rights fall under adverse possession laws, which can vary by municipality. 

New York City

New York City has its own adverse possession laws under the Administrative Code. In NYC, a squatter must occupy a property continuously for 10 years before they can make an adverse possession claim. The time period is shorter than the state requirement since NYC deals with housing issues like squatting more frequently.

To claim adverse possession in NYC, the squatter must also pay all property taxes on the land during those 10 years. And they must occupy the property continuously - the owner cannot shoo them away temporarily to disrupt the timeline.  

Long Island 

Long Island municipalities fall under the New York state adverse possession laws. This means a squatter must live on the property for 30 years before having a claim. 

For a squatter to gain ownership on Long Island, they need to prove their possession was "Hostile, Actual, Exclusive, Open & Notorious, and Continuous" for the full 30 years. Paying property taxes can help their claim but is not strictly required.

Westchester County

Similar to Long Island, squatters in Westchester County must abide by the New York state adverse possession laws. Most municipalities require 30 years of continuous occupation before squatters can make an ownership claim.

However, some Westchester municipalities like Mount Vernon shorten the requirement to just 15 years of continuous possession. Check with your specific municipality to confirm the adverse possession requirements.

Overall the timeframe is shorter in NYC compared to surrounding areas. But across New York, the key is continuous occupation over an extended period of time.

Role of Law Enforcement

Law enforcement plays an important role in removing squatters from private property and assisting property owners through the eviction process. Their involvement typically falls into three main categories:

Removing Squatters

  • Police can forcibly remove squatters from a property if the owner provides documentation showing they are trespassing. This allows for immediate removal without going through the full eviction process.
  • However, police will often advise property owners to pursue formal eviction to avoid complications down the road. Relying solely on police to remove squatters can be problematic if they return and claim residency.
  • If squatters refuse to leave voluntarily, police may remove them and charge them with criminal trespassing. But the district attorney must be willing to prosecute.

Trespassing Enforcement 

  • Police can arrest squatters and charge them with trespassing if the owner has posted no trespassing signs or directly told them to leave the property.
  • Trespassing is a misdemeanor offense. But again, the district attorney must be willing to prosecute. Relying on trespassing charges alone does not necessarily prevent squatters from returning and re-occupying the property.

Assisting in Evictions

  • Police can stand by to keep the peace if the owner executes a formal eviction with the sheriff's department. Their presence helps deter resistance from squatters being removed.
  • Police provide important protection to landlord's engaging in self-help evictions. Their supervision helps ensure evictions proceed safely and legally.
  • If squatters become uncooperative or violent during an eviction, police have the authority to step in and arrest them to prevent harm to the owner or sheriffs.

Preventing Re-entry after Eviction 

Once a lawful eviction of squatters has taken place, property owners will want to take precautions to prevent re-entry and re-occupation of the property. There are several steps owners should take:

Securing the Property

  • Change all the locks on the property. This will prevent squatters who were evicted from using a key to re-enter.  
  • Install new high-security locks on all doors and windows. Upgrade to high-quality deadbolt locks for maximum security.
  • Consider installing an alarm system on the property if one is not already present. Motion-activated security alarms may deter squatters from attempting re-entry.
  • Make sure all windows are closed and locked securely. Check for any broken windows that need to be repaired and replaced.
  • Close off any crawl spaces, attics or basements that could be accessed. Secure these areas to prevent entry.

Blocking Re-entry

  • Install security screens or bars on lower level windows that could be broken into. 
  • Fence off and lock any external areas like storage sheds, garages or yards.
  • If feasible, install security cameras to monitor all entrances and capture any attempted re-entry.
  • Post “No Trespassing” signs around the exterior. Make it clear the property is secured and monitored.
  • Look for any exterior footholds or features squatters could use to gain re-entry and remove or block them off.

Monitoring the Property

  • Drive by and check the property frequently after an eviction. Look for any signs of attempted re-entry or damage.
  • Hire a house-sitting service to occupy the property immediately after eviction. Having the home monitored 24/7 will deter re-entry. 
  • Ask neighbors to be alert and report any suspicious activity at the home. Provide contact information for reporting issues.
  • If the home will be vacant for an extended time, consider installing a caretaker or having a friend or family member stay at the property. An occupied home is less vulnerable.

Squatters Rights in Other States

Squatters rights laws can vary significantly from state to state. Here's a look at how the laws in some nearby states compare to New York's adverse possession rules:

New Jersey

New Jersey has much stricter laws regarding squatters rights compared to New York. In order to make an adverse possession claim in New Jersey, squatters must occupy the property for 60 years. This is one of the longest time periods in the country. New Jersey law also requires the squatter to have a "reasonable belief" that the property belongs to them.


Connecticut also has stricter squatters rights laws than New York. Squatters must occupy a property continuously for 15 years before they can make an adverse possession claim. The occupation must also be open, visible, and exclusive during that time. If the owner lists the property for sale or pays taxes on it, that can be used as evidence against an adverse possession claim.


Pennsylvania has more generous squatters rights laws compared to New York. Squatters only need to occupy a property continuously for 10 years to make an adverse possession claim. The squatter does not need to pay property taxes or have a reasonable belief that they owned the property. This makes it easier for squatters to gain legal ownership.


Massachusetts has similar squatters rights laws to New York. Squatters must occupy a property openly, continuously, and exclusively for 20 years. The key difference is that the 20 year clock restarts if the owner makes any effort to eject the squatter during that time. This makes adverse possession more difficult compared to New York.

Key Takeaways

  • New York allows squatters to potentially gain legal ownership of a property through adverse possession after occupying it continuously for 10 years for properties with a record owner and 30 years for properties deemed abandoned with no identifiable owner.
  • To qualify as a squatter under New York law, an individual must occupy the property without the owner's permission, live on the property continuously for the required statutory period, maintain the property as their primary residence, make improvements or repairs, and pay any property taxes owed.
  • Squatters can claim legal ownership of a property in New York by meeting specific requirements, including continuous, open, notorious, and exclusive possession of the property for the statutory period, along with paying property taxes and making improvements.
  • Property owners can prevent squatting by securing all entry points, posting "No Trespassing" signs, regularly inspecting the property, and ensuring property taxes are paid to deter squatters from claiming the property as abandoned.
  • To evict squatters in New York, property owners must serve a formal notice, file an eviction lawsuit if the squatters don't vacate, and seek law enforcement assistance for removal if necessary, following the specific notice period requirements based on the situation.
  • Squatters occupy property without permission, aiming to gain ownership through adverse possession, whereas tenants have a legal rental agreement. Evicting a tenant involves a formal eviction process, providing due process, while squatters can be removed more swiftly as they have no legal right to occupy the property.
  • Adverse possession laws vary by region within New York, with New York City requiring a continuous occupation period of 10 years, while Long Island and Westchester County align with state laws, requiring 30 years for adverse possession claims, except for certain municipalities like Mount Vernon, where it's shortened to 15 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you evict a squatter in New York State?

Yes, you can evict a squatter in New York State. Property owners must follow a legal process, which involves serving the squatters with a notice to vacate and then filing an eviction lawsuit if the squatters do not leave within the specified time frame. Law enforcement can assist in removing squatters after a court order is obtained.

What is the burden of proof for adverse possession in NY?

The burden of proof for adverse possession in New York lies with the squatter. They must demonstrate continuous, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession of the property for the statutory period of 10 years for properties with a record owner, and 30 years for properties deemed abandoned with no identifiable owner. The squatter must also show they have paid property taxes during this time.

What is the adverse possession law in New York City?

In New York City, the adverse possession law requires a squatter to occupy a property continuously, openly, notoriously, exclusively, and hostilely for a period of 10 years, during which they must also pay property taxes to make a valid claim for ownership under adverse possession.

What is a 10 day notice to vacate in NYC?

A 10-day notice to vacate in NYC is a legal document served to squatters or tenants who are in violation of their occupancy without permission, informing them that they have 10 days to leave the property. If the occupant does not vacate within 10 days, the property owner can proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit.

How long does it take to evict a tenant in NY?

The time it takes to evict a tenant in New York can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances, such as the reason for eviction, court backlog, and whether the tenant contests the eviction. On average, the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months from serving the notice to vacate to obtaining a final eviction order from the court.

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