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In its most simple sense, the term dwelling house means home. It refers to one’s abode, domicile, or place of human habitation. It is the place in which one or more persons currently live. A dwelling house is a place where people generally return at night, sleep, prepare meals, bathe, and otherwise conduct their lives. There are many and varied definitions, both general and legal, that can be used to describe one’s home.
A room in a boarding house or hotel can also be considered a dwelling house, if it is considered one’s permanent residence and not just rented on a day to day basis. Each separate living quarter in a duplex, triplex, or other apartment building may also be considered a dwelling house. A dwelling house may be referred to as such if it includes its own cooking and bathroom facilities. In some places, this would exclude rented rooms that share one or both facilities with other tenants. In other areas, only a single family home fits this description.
For real estate purposes, the definition may be very different. Aside from the actual living space, an outbuilding, garage, shed, workshop or other structure on the same property may be considered part of the dwelling house. Other living quarters, such as a “Mother in law’s cottage” or old servants’ quarters may be included as well. In legal terms, such other quarters may be viewed differently.
The legal definition of a dwelling house tends to vary by location. In some areas, nearly any structure that can be occupied by human beings as living quarters can be included in this definition. The owner, renter, or occupant may not have to be present for the structure to be classified as his dwelling house, if he is away but it is considered his main residence. Often, structures such as mobile homes, trailers, campers, houseboats, or even tents may be classified as dwellings. A dorm room or a rented room inside a home may be considered the dwelling house of the renter, for search and seizure purposes.
While some definitions are rather vague, including most any space that can be occupied as a home — even on an irregular basis — others are a bit more specific. A vacation home, cottage, or mobile home that is not a primary residence may specifically be excluded. A time share condominium may be as well, since it is not the regular home of any person and because ownership is shared.