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What is a Dwelling House?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By shell4life — On Sep 30, 2012

@giddion – I'm the same way. For years, I lived in my friend's house extension, and I so desperately wanted my own space.

I finally found a house I could afford that was just the right size for me. There is something so comforting about knowing you have a private place to go home to after work to shower and relax.

I also love cooking in my own kitchen. When I lived in the house extension, I ate mostly prepackaged food or fast food, because my friend's kitchen was a disaster area. Now, I can prepare healthy meals in my own house.

By giddion — On Sep 29, 2012

@OeKc05 – It depends on who you ask, but personally, I wouldn't call one room a dwelling house. Since you guys share a kitchen and a bathroom, you can't really call her room a separate entity.

I'm really glad I built my own house. I hated having roommates in college and in my apartment afterward, and now, I can totally appreciate having my very own living space.

I'm a very private person, and it is ideal for me to have the place all to myself. I feel inhibited when others are around, and I can only function fully when I have time to myself.

By OeKc05 — On Sep 29, 2012

My coworker rents a room in the house I share with my sister. Would her room be considered her dwelling house?

By seag47 — On Sep 28, 2012

I've never heard the words “dwelling” and “house” put together like that. I always assumed that a dwelling was a house, and vice versa.

I suppose in this sense, “dwelling” is an adjective. If it were used alone, it would be a noun.

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