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New York Post: How to lock out the scourge of squatters in NYC and everywhere


Squatters pose a tremendous issue in New York City, where a person only needs to be on a property for 30 days to claim squatter’s rights. Squatters are provided with a wide array of rights once they have established “legal occupancy.” Once a squatter’s “legal occupancy” is established, New York law requires the property owner to jump through hoops to remove the squatter from his/her property. The property owner must first serve the squatter with a 10-day eviction notice, and once the notice period has expired, must then commence an eviction proceeding to evict the squatter. This onerous process does not only require the property owner to expend time and resources to remove the unwelcome freeloader from his/her property, but given the backlog in New York landlord/tenant court, the eviction process can take months to finalize.


Considering the flood of migrants coming to New York City, and the dearth of housing for them, we expect the number of squatters in New York City to rise significantly over the next few months. As such, it has never been more important to challenge the pro-squatter laws in New York. Luckily, a recent decision rendered by the Supreme Court, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, may provide the precedent we need to finally protect property owners in New York City against freeloading squatters. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a regulation granting labor organizations a “right to take access” to an agricultural employer’s property in order to solicit support for unionization constituted per se physical taking under the 5th and 14th Amendments. As the access regulation appropriated a right to invade the growers’ property, the Court found that it constituted a per se  physical taking, necessitating that the property owner be “justly compensated” for the taking.


It remains to be seen whether constitutional law experts can successfully utilize this seminal decision to combat the squatter issue we are facing. The question is whether squatter laws – which enable unwelcome freeloaders to access and remain on private property – are similar to the access regulation in Cedar Point Nursery, and thus constitute a per se  physical taking of private property requiring the property owner to be justly compensated. One major hurdle to this argument is that the Supreme Court specifically noted in the decision that its holding does “nothing to efface the distinction between trespass and takings.” “Isolated physical invasions, not undertaken pursuant to a granted right of access, are properly assessed as individual torts rather than appropriations of a property right.” “Unlike a mere trespass, the regulation grants a formal entitlement to physically invade the grower’s land.” In the end, property owners may still need to turn to tort law for redress against squatters. Stay tuned…