Ask a Cop? Can I break into my own home?

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—–Original Message—–
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:18 PM
To: info@coptalk.info

Subject: breaking and entering

If I am a co owner of a house and do not physically live in the house but the co owner does and changes the locks. If I return to the house and break in physically can I be charged with a crime?

Our Replies:

Let me preface this with we are not lawyers and would never pretend to be, so check this with one before you do anything. Civil matters like this are usually handled by lawyers then the street cops get to be there as a standby when the warring parties clash.

Yes, even if you co-own the home, you cant break in if you do not live there but someone else does. We run into that a lot with rental properties where the owner of a home feels they have a right to enter the home without the renters permission. If you DID live there and own the home, you can break in, break your own things, whatever you want to do. But NOT living there is where the problem is. Yes, you could be charged with a crime for breaking into a home where someone else lives, even if you co-own it. You do not live there and someone else does so you can not break in. If you did live there, had belongings there, and he changed the locks to keep you out, then you would have a right to break in (although it would be better to call the police to assist you). Again, the fact that you do not live in the house but he does is where the problem lies.   

You didn’t give many details about the arrangement of who was supposed to be living in the home; if the other co-owner just moved in without discussing it with you, if you were supposed to share the home, if it was supposed to be a rental etc…..This becomes more of a civil issue where you will have to go to court to settle any issues.

There are a lot of laws regarding landlord / tenant / property disputes so check with the civil department of your local courts or seek advice from an attorney that specializes in property disputes to see what your options are.

And Additional:

Its not against the law to damage your own property – but it is against the law to enter someone else’s residence even if you own it.

That’s why there are landlord / tenant laws in place. Even though you both own the house, the person who has established residency at the house will have more rights than the owner not living there. Although the other person changed the locks, you still should be given keys as a co-owner so that you can enter the house in case of emergency. If the other person isn’t agreeable to that – I’d contact a civil or real estate attorney and let them handle it for you.

Thanks for writing and good luck to you.

Jim Lambert

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi,

    I am separating from my wife & there was a recent incident at the house & I requested the police attend. Police advised one of us had to leave the property that evening which I eventually agreed to do, but police would not allow me back the next day & said I could only collect items with them present. I have been told by police I can return to the house now, but I explained to them that I do not have a key for the inner front door & that I would need to force the front door to gain entry. Police said if I do this they could arrest me!
    I know my wife would not willingly allow me access so I am now worried that I will end up in trouble.
    Currently there are no court orders in place although I am considering applying for occupancy & non molestation orders for when I do get back in.

    Any ideas?

    Many thanks

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