What are an resident’s right to privacy?

UPDATED: Feb 4, 2014

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What are an resident’s right to privacy?

My friend is 21 and lives with his aunt at her residence; he does not pay rent. He was at work and she heard from a mutual friend that he smokes marijuana. She searched his car and found some in the glove box, so called the police. They just confiscated the drugs but didn’t file charges. Can she do that?

Asked on February 4, 2014 under Real Estate Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

He is NOT a tenant--tenants pay rent. He is simply a guest in her house. As a guest, he has no rights IN THE RESIDENCE--the homeowner may go into room she wishes.

However, you write that the aunt searched his car--that she had no right to do, unless she was a permitted driver of the car; that is, if your friend had given his aunt the right to use/drive the car (even just to move it, so it didn't block the driveway or garage), then she was a permitted driver, could search it, and could let the police search.

If however she was not a permitted driver, then she actually committed a crime in entering  and searching his car. Your friend could potentially press charges against her and, if charges had been brought against him, may have grounds to have the search and the drugs thrown out of court. (He has no right to get the illegal drugs back.)

If your friend is over 21 and works, uses illegal drugs, and wants privacy, it is time for him to get his own place rather than being a guest in another person's home. If he paid rent somewhere, he would have privacy rights in the room(s) or apartment or house he rents--not absolute ones, since there are times when a landlord may legally enter (such as for emergencies; for maintenance or inspection after proper, 24 hour+ notice), but it would be alot more privacy than he currently enjoys.

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