Ask Gothamist recently got a question about an annoying neighbor (which is quite lengthy, and hence posted below) who now seems to be a squatter; that is, he doesn't have a lease for the apartment he lives in and seems to be there illegally.

This got us contemplating squatter's rights. If you don't have a lease to your apartment and you don't pay rent, do you have a right to be there?

From what we've been able to tell, the answer is no, unless you've been there for ten years. Squatting is referred to in the law as adverse possession. That basically refers to an old law that reverts the title of property that is not being used by the owner to whoever does use the property.

The actual laws on adverse possession for tenants are hard to find in our government resources. It's in the city's best interest to discourage squatting, naturally. If anyone does know the laws on this, we'd really like to know. It seems to us that someone who has lived in an apartment rent- and lease-free for only a month has no right to live in that space.

Now on to the question:

I moved into an apartment in after college and have loved the experience of living in my neighborhood until around late March. That's when the woman who lived above me, let's call her Betty, had her male "friend," Barney over a lot. As soon as Barney started visting, there would be noises and disturbances all the time into the late hours. Barney soon went from frequent visitor to permanent house guest...

My roomates and I would go upstairs to ask them nicely to quiet down. At first, they promised to quiet down, but pretty much went back to stomping around all night long, playing their music loud, and just being way more active than people should be at 3 and 4 in the morning.

We went to our landlord and filed a complaint. Our landlord told us that they were having their own issues with Betty and Barney was not technically allowed to live there. They told us that Betty would leave soon. This was back in late April.

That's when the drug dealing happened. Barney began to run what seems like a small scale drug dealing operation out of Betty's apartment. I would have many a stranger that I had never met try to walk into the building with me. Then Betty began to shut off the electricity to our apartment (the basement has access to the building's circuit breakers) until we caught her doing it. We also learned that Betty has not paid her rent for the last 2 months.

We called our landlord and filed another complaint. Our landlord says he spoke to the tenant and they'll be leaving on June 1st. We hoorah and cheer. But it's not that simple.

June 1st rolls around and Betty decides to toss Barney out after their millionth fight. The cops come over and tell Betty since she let Barney stay here for a month he's got squatters rights. He can't be kicked out. Then, later, for some unknown reason to us, cops show up to the apartment, brought by a woman who is clearly a social worker. We believe that Barney has finally crossed that line and beaten Betty badly. Ambulances show up and Betty is taken away. Barney however is not taken away and he remains upstairs, dealing and making more noise.

The landlords keep trying to reach Betty who has not come back since Sunday night. Barney's actions have caused us to call 311 and they gave us various numbers to call about Barney's behavior.

Last night Barney hit the trifecta and we called the drug hotline, filed a noise violation, and called the cops. The cops didn't even bother to check out what happened.

I'm writing this letter to partly get this off my chest. This is the most aggravating issue I've had to deal with. The other reason I'm writing this letter is to get some sort of advice on what I can do to have this guy at least removed from an apartment he doesn't even rent or technically live in and hopefully get him arrested for the countless of illegal acts that he commits right above me.

Fred, Bedrock NY.

So, back to squatter's rights. It seems to us that Barney has no legal grounds to stay in the apartment. It's remarkable that the Rubbles didn't get evicted a while ago.

The Rental Guidelines Board says the landlord can take our duo to court for non-payment to start the eviction process. (The criminal/abusive behavior is also grounds for eviction.) Actually, your best bet would be to talk to your landlord and tell him he should talk to someone affiliated with housing court and find out what his rights really are. (From the RGB: where to go for help.)

Another good idea would be to put your complaints in writing, so that you have documentation of Barney's behavior. Start keeping a log of his activities to show to the police, and include dates, times, and specific information. Then go to the police again, maybe even to the precinct in person, and see what they can do. Try to get other people in your building to keep a look out and also record incidents they see. See if other people are willing to file complaints. If more than one person complains, the police might be more inclined to investigate. Get your landlord involved, too.

This is a difficult situation. We wish you the best of luck.

More on adverse possession. How to evict a nonpaying tenant.