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April 27, 2024 kHyal

Squatters can win triple damages if they’re pushed from your house, expert warns

Coffey Modica partner Paul Golden spoke exclusively to The US Sun about the two options open to New Yorkers looking to evict squatters.

SQUAT A JOKE: Squatters can win triple damages if they’re pushed from your house, expert warns – but alternative is months-long wait

Two real-life stories reflecting the risks related to both eviction methods

Emma Crabtree, Freelance US reporter
Published: 12:00 ET, Apr 27 2024

HOMEOWNERS have been warned about taking the law into their own hands when removing squatters as they risk harsh consequences.

Paul Golden, a New York real estate attorney from Coffey Modica LLP, has released a new book diving into the world of squatter’s rights and legal advice.

Golden’s book, Litigating Adverse Possession Cases: Pirates v Zombies, was released earlier this month when stories of squatters taking over propertiesstarted making headlines.

The U.S. Sun spoke exclusively to Golden whose book will help lawyers defend and prosecute in adverse possession cases.

Squatters are defined as people who move into a space that they do not own without permission or as current tenants who overstay their welcome, such as a tenant staying after their lease has expired.

However, he warns property owners in New York that the law “is a patchwork” regarding landowners and squatters.

Other than calling the police and hoping they remove the unwelcome guests, Golden detailed two actions landowners can take when it comes to removing squatters.

However, the attorney warned that one method could see them charged “triple damages” while the other could be a long drawn-out process.


Engaging in the “self-help” method is approved by at least one New York court, Golden explained, though only “in certain circumstances.”

This is for owners to “just physically remove a squatter,” but there are huge risks despite the effectiveness of this method.

“In New York, there is a statute (RPAPL 853) which indicates that if a person is put out of real property ‘in a forcible or unlawful manner,’ then the person who has been ejected can sue the person who ejected him and win not only damages but potentially triple the damages,” the author explained.

“In other words, in New York, the public policy is not to have people take the law into their own hands” but at least one court in the state allows owners to do so under certain circumstances.

Taking an example to the extreme, Golden said that if someone was living on their own property and a stranger came in and said they were living there “any normal homeowner’s reaction would be to just push the person out.”

“In such a case, then so long as the squatter was uninjured, no sane judge in the world would award damages against that homeowner, no matter how the statute might appear,” he explained.

As well as potentially paying damages for injury, Golden noted another New York statute that could come into play and cause issues with the self-help method.

The statute “indicates that it is unlawful to attempt to evict, through non-judicial methods, ‘an occupant of a dwelling unit who has lawfully occupied the dwelling unit for thirty consecutive days or longer.'”

Golden warned that those who fall foul of this statute “could be subject to a civil penalty, and be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“However, a clever attorney can argue that a squatter is not an occupant who ‘lawfully’ occupies a dwelling unit,” he added.


Meanwhile, the other option open to owners is to go to court to file a summary proceeding after issuing a 10-day notice to the people occupying their property.

However, Golden warned that “in New York City, it could take months before the court would finally issue a warrant.”

It may then take even longer for a date to be set for the city marshal to visit the property and force the squatter out.

In addition to these methods of eviction, property owners need to keep an eye on the calendar or they risk losing possession rights to their home.

People can become adverse possessors when they have lived on the property for a notable length of time in the same manner an owner would.

“In New York, that period of time is generally 10 years,” Golden explained.

I’m really fearful that these people are going to get away with stealing my home.

Adele Andaloro Homeowner With Squatters In Her Property

“In such a case, the occupant can, in certain cases, eventually become deemed the owner of the property.”

However, a squatter is “unlikely to eventually become a true adverse possessor,” he said.

“This is for many reasons, but the most obvious is that one would not expect such a person to last so many years in such a premises, without the true owner eventually interrupting the use.”


The U.S. Sun has previously reported on landowners who have been struggling to evict their squatters and their stories represent both sides of the dilemma set out by Goldman.

Adele Andaloro from Queens, New York, was arrested after squatters moved into the family home she inherited and changed the locks on the door.

While she was in the process of selling the $1 million property, Andaloro noticed that the entire front door and locks had been changed.

Squatters had moved into the vacant home and refused to leave.

“I’m really fearful that these people are going to get away with stealing my home,” the homeowner told local ABC news affiliate WABC.

“It’s enraging. It’s not fair that I, as the homeowner, have to be going through this.”

Andaloro took matters into her own hands by entering the property with the deed and calling a locksmith.

However, she was arrested for illegal eviction for changing the locks on her own property.

Meanwhile, neighbors in Georgia complained after a group of squatters moved into a vacant rental home in their neighborhood.

The rental company, Progress Residential, spoke out at the time that removing the individuals was difficult due to the laws in place.

As Golden warned, it took the police months to remove the squatters as they “can’t do anything.”