Squatting is when someone is occupying an empty or abandoned property which they don’t own or rent, and without the owner's permission. This is often without the owner's knowledge and without any legal right to do so.
Simply being on another person’s property without their permission is not, of itself, a criminal offence.
But if squatters commit offences, such as criminal damage or theft, their behaviour is punishable under the general criminal law and the police can take action against them.
Empty Housing Executive or housing association properties are usually awaiting repair, redecoration or re-letting to other tenants.
The Housing Executive or housing association are keen to make sure they stay empty during this period so that they can be allocated to people on the Housing Executive waiting list.
The Housing Executive takes squatting very seriously as it prevents a property being allocated to those from the waiting list who need it most.
Where a Housing Executive property is illegally occupied, the Housing Executive will take immediate steps to recover possession of the property through the legal system.
Sometimes the first person to know that squatters are living in a particular property is a neighbour.
If you see someone breaking into an empty property you should call the police straight away and also the Housing Executive or housing association.
Getting squatters removed
The laws on squatting are quite complex. In some cases it may be difficult to evict someone who is squatting, especially if they have been in the property for a long time.
It may be several months before a property, that squatters are living in, can be let out again. This can be because of the time it takes to bring a court action to move squatters out, or the repairs that may have to be carried out when they have been moved.
Squatters’ rights when buying a house
Squatters are not eligible to buy a Housing Executive property. In the special circumstances where squatters are later granted the legal tenancy, they receive discount entitlement from the date the tenancy was granted.