Squatters lose tenant rights under new state law following push by northeast Queens legislators 

A Bayside home was one of several recent cases in Queens of squatters taking over that were addressed in a recently passed state law.
Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

New York homeowners have one less thing to worry about after squatters were stripped of their tenants rights in the recently passed state budget.  

The law now reads “a tenant shall not include a squatter.” This will make it easier for police to remove squatters without forcing the owner to resolve the issue in housing court – a process that can take years and expensive legal fees.

The passage of the law in the state’s fiscal budget for 2025 can be attributed to two elected officials in northeast Queens, who introduced legislation earlier this month after seeing a rise in squatters cases across Queens. 

State Senator John C. Liu of Bayside and Assemblymember Ron Kim of Flushing both introduced laws in their respective chambers to formally define squatters as separate from tenants earlier this month. While their bills were just getting started, Governor Kathy Hochul took note and signed off on a housing law that included language from their legislation. 

“It was important that we acted with urgency to send a strong message to squatters who take over private homes that they are not welcome in our community. Scam artists who intrude on others’ homes should not have rights as tenants in state housing law, and this inclusion in the budget codifies that in simple, straightforward language,” Senator Liu said in a statement. 

The legislation defines squatters as those who take over private property without permission of the owner, the owner’s agent or another person entitled to possession of the property. The law previously allowed squatters to claim tenants rights after residing on the property for 30 days without needing proof of a lease. 

One Flushing homeowner was arrested last month for changing the locks to her house in an effort to kick squatters out of her home, as it is considered an illegal eviction. At a rally in Bayside last month, one landlord recalled how it took him two years in court to evict non-paying tenants.

“Our state needed stronger protections for law abiding property owners who are being victimized by squatters. Our new law defines these terms more precisely,” State Assemblymember Kim said. “Any occupant who unlawfully resides in a property owner’s home will be more easily removed.”

Senator Liu’s bill, which sought to clarify that a squatter is not a tenant for removal purposes, was also co-sponsored by fellow Queens State Senators Joseph Addabbo Jr., Leroy Comrie and Toby Ann Stavisky, among others across the state. 

“The state legislature took a hard stance against squatters who twist existing loopholes through acts that would, by any other circumstance, constitute theft. This change to the law is desperately needed, amongst our Queens residents, especially our seniors and homeowners, who have been living in fear and confusion as to how the law could possibly allow for such abuses,” Senator Comrie said. 

Assemblymember Kim’s bill was co-sponsored by Queens Assemblymembers Grace Lee, Edward Braunstein, Nily Rozic and David Weprin

“Trespassing individuals in these situations are abusing a law meant to protect lawful tenants, and they absolutely should not be afforded the same rights and protections,” Bayside Assemblymember Braunstein said. “I was proud to co-sponsor this bill, which sought to close this loophole and protect New York homeowners from these unlawful opportunists.”

Senator Liu noted that in pursuing stronger measures to protect homeowners in the future, renters should not inadvertently be put at risk. The overall budget package also included anti-price gouging measures for renters and efforts to combat discrimination against Section 8 households. 

Governor Hochul reinforced that this year’s budget included historic protections for tenants and homeowners. She signed the new squatter law into effect this week. 

“There are people illegally in other peoples’ homes and creating havoc, so we needed to make sure our budget, the laws we introduced just last week, would address this crisis,” Governor Hochul said in an interview with ABC. “We put them into state law because it makes sense.”