Desperately need help re: Evil Squatter (not in my house, this time)

I’m hoping some of our legal eagles can help us out.

My father-in-law had a squatter living in one of the apartments in his house. The squatter’s girlfriend had (lawfully) rented the place then moved out and her boyfriend moved in. He, of course, promptly stopped paying rent.

A few months ago, the guy left and my father-in-law changed the locks. I don’t mean that he left for the afternoon and came back to find the place locked in the evening – he left to France for a few months.

Last night, he came back and tried to get into the place. When he couldn’t, he called the cops, saying that he was only in France on vacation (if you can afford a multi-month vacation overseas then pay the rent!) – and my father-in-law was arrested for an illegal eviction!

My question is, when do “squatter’s rights” end in NYC? If I live someplace long enough to establish “squatter’s rights” and then leave, can I come back a several months later and say that I didn’t really move out? A year? Five years? What’s the limit?

He’s currently in holding awaiting arraignment later today. Any advice from the legal dopers? I’d appreciate any you have to offer.
Zev Steinhardt

[sub]Forgot that I wanted to get email notification on this one.[/sub]

Happy to bump this from page 3, but I suspect that all the ambulance-chasers are out in Seattle.


You need a lawyer, I think. A real one. Serious advice from Legal Aid, not just a WAG from the Teeming Millions.

Zev, please let us know what happened. Did your father-in-law make any attempt to evict him before he left for France? I would have gotten a lawyer lined up before he came back from his trip because one could have anticipated there would be trouble, especially if he left his possessions in the apartment. I hope things worked out.

post your question here…

Ugly problem there, Zev. I am a lawyer, but I do not specialize in this area. Your father-in-law would be foolish not to retain a criminal lawyer with experience in this area.

That being said, the only New York criminal law regarding this subject that I saw after a very brief search is Penal Law sec. 241.05, regarding “Harassment of a rent regulated tenant.” It provides:

The first issue is whether the squatter is a “rent regulated tenant” as defined in the law. Section 241.00 defines “rent regulated tenant” as:

shall mean a person occupying a housing accommodation which is subject to [any of the rent stabilization or control laws], and such person is either a party to a lease or rental agreement for such housing accommodation, a statutory tenant or a person who lawfully occupies such housing accommodation with such party to a lease or rental agreement or with such statutory tenant.


It is likely that the squatter would not be considered a rent regulated tenant, because he has no lease or other legal right to the apartment (and that is even assuming the apartment is regulated).

The second issue is whether your father-in-law intentionally or recklessly caused him physical injury. I’m guessing that he did not.

(If this not the section your father-in-law was charged under, let me know and I may have some other comments).

That all being said, there is little that would prevent the squatter from going to the police and swearing out a complaint accusing your father-in-law of all of that plus unnatural relations with his pet poodle. If the guy has the chutzpah to try to regain an apartment he was a squatter in without paying rent after leaving for several months, he’ll probably do anything.

If this guy swears out a complaint, the police would likely arrest your father-in-law, and leave it to the court system to determine the truth of the squatter’s allegations. Unfortunately, the law in this area is very tenant-favorable, so competent legal advice is a necessity.

Good luck, and feel free to e-mail me if there are other details I may be able to help with.