Can I legally break into a locked room in a house that I am a resident of?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Can I legally break into a locked room in a house that I am a resident of?

I was with my ex-spouse for 22 years; we are not legally married. He owns a house under his name and I am a resident now. He is currently upset for what happened in our relationship and has added a lock to a bedroom that I slept in for 3 years and only allows me to go into my closet when he’s home and the door is unlocked. Can I legally break that lock to get into my closet? Also, I want to know my legal standpoint while living in this resident because at the moment he is not allowing me to stay in the guest room or the main room but only in a room that has no bed or lock on the door. I believe their items from my closet that I’m missing. One of them was a digital camera and eventually he give it back to me but I know I’m missing other things. What are my legal rights with personal items from my closet going missing, such as a personal laptop that I am currently still paying for?

Asked on November 3, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You are entitled to your belongings, but you can't break the lock to get at that them: that would be a crime. You have to bring a kind of legal action in country court called an action for "unlawful distraint" to get a court order that they be returned to you. And if anything is not returned, you can sue for its value. You should be able to get instructions and forms/templates for an unlawful distraint action from the court, either in person at the clerk's office or online.
The home's owner cannot remove you entirely from the home without bringing a different kind of legal action, once called an action "for ejectment." However, since he, not you, is the owner, he can determine what room you may stay in. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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