Privacy in your own home

Who can enter your home?

Law enforcement and other officials have the right to enter your home in certain circumstances. However, few are allowed to execute a forced entry to someone’s property. Any official seeking entry must have a legitimate reason for entry, produce evidence of identity and leave your property secure after forcible entry.

In most cases, officials must give you notice that they will visit at a reasonable hour.

The police

The police can enter your home (by force if required) if they have a search warrant. A warrant is a court document authorising the police, or other law enforcement officials, to carry out certain actions, such as the search of a property, seizure of documents or items, or to take samples. If they have no warrant and ask for your permission to enter your property, such permission must be given in writing for the search to be lawful.

Police can force entry to your home without a warrant if a serious or dangerous incident has taken place. They can also enter your property if they have just arrested you, for the purposes of searching evidence.

The fire service

The fire service can force entry into a property where there is (or where they believe to be) a fire. Firefighters can also enter neighbouring premises. Where access is refused, the fire service must summon the police to assist in a forced entry.

Local authority housing officers

Local authority housing officers can enter for various reasons, such as to enforce a compulsory purchase order, enforce notices to repair or demolish, or to inspect housing conditions. Housing officers need written authority and must give 24 hours’ notice. It is a criminal offence to get in their way.

Private landlords

Private landlords cannot usually enter a rented property without prior agreement with the tenant, except in an emergency.

Gas and electricity companies

Gas and electricity companies can enter your premises with your consent. Otherwise, they can enter with a warrant; for example, to disconnect your supply because of non-payment of bills or to fit a prepayment meter.

Water companies

Water companies can enter your house with your permission, or with a warrant for the purposes of exercising its powers, or to decide how to exercise its powers – for instance, to inspect water meters, investigate illegal use of water or in the case of emergencies.

Planning officers

A planning officer has the right, without warrant, to enter the land at a reasonable hour to see if there has been a breach of planning control if there are reasonable grounds.

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For more information on:

  • Rating officers
  • Tax/HMRC officers
  • TV licensing officers
  • Bailiffs
  • Discrimination