New York Governor Signs New Law Amid Series of High-Profile Squatter Cases

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 24, 2024New York
New York Governor Signs New Law Amid Series of High-Profile Squatter Cases
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at Antonio Delgado swearing in ceremony as N.Y. State Lieutenant Governor at New York City governor’s office on May 25, 2022. (lev radin/Shutterstock)

A change in state law makes it more difficult for squatters to take over property that doesn’t belong to them, according to New York lawmakers.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the portion of the New York 2025 budget bill on Monday after the State Assembly and the State Senate passed it over the weekend amid a series of high-profile squatting cases.

“I promised to tackle the tough issues and move New York forward. Our budget keeps that promise,” said the governor in a statement on social media platform X.

The change redefines tenant laws to explicitly exclude so-called “squatters” or those who reside on properties without permission.

“Squatters’ rights are out of sight in New York!” Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz wrote in a post on social media.

The modified law now makes it easier for law enforcement to intervene in squatting cases. Offenders were previously protected from immediate arrest and homeowners were forced to take the squatters to court in order to evict them.

According to a 2025 budget press release, it reinforces an “existing law to make clear that squatters are not tenants, and thus are not entitled to these and other tenant protections.”

Under prior New York law, an individual was able to occupy a property without permission and could claim rights to reside in a home in just 30 days, according to language written in the legislation.

“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 consecutive days or longer. No tenant or lawful occupant of a dwelling or housing accommodation shall be removed from possession except in a special proceeding,” the prior law states.

Just last month, homeowner Adele Andolaro was arrested after changing the locks to her one million dollar home in Queens after a squatter allegedly took over the property. Brian Rodriguez, 35, claimed he was a legal tenant and even rented out rooms in the home. He was eventually charged with burglary, grand larceny, and other crimes.

“You cannot just enter a home and claim you have a right to stay. You cannot first enter a home without permission, then stay without permission and later claim vested rights simply because the legitimate owner is unaware or has been unable to remove you for 30 days,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement.

“The defendant in this case is alleged to have entered and stayed in this home unlawfully,” she added.

In another high-profile case, two alleged squatters were accused of brutally murdering Nadia Vitels, 52, and stuffing her body inside a duffel bag. The victim allegedly discovered the squatters residing in a luxury Kips Bay apartment that belonged to her deceased mother. The two suspects fled the state but were eventually caught and charged with second-degree murder.

Despite the change to state law, the democrats’ solution falls short of being tough on crime, according to New York Senate Republicans.

“We did not go far enough on squatters. Our conference proposed legislation that would’ve given squatting a charge of criminal trespass. Democrats continue to enable criminals across New York State,” according to the GOP post on X.

The new law takes effect immediately.

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