Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of curtilage


  1. The yard surrounding a residence or dwelling house which is reserved for or used by the occupants for their enjoyment or work. Curtilage may or may not be in closed by fencing and includes any outhouses such as stand-alone garages or workshops. It is a term one might come across in a search warrant which calls for a search of the residence its' curtilage of a particular person.

Definition of curtilage


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈkɜːtɪlɪdʒ/, SAMPA: /"k3:tIlIdZ/
  • (UK) enPR: kūrʹtəl-ĭj, IPA: /ˈkɝtəlɪdʒ/, SAMPA: /"k3`t@lIdZ/


curtilage (plural curtilages)

  1. (law) the area immediately surrounding a house. Contains either no roof, or areas within the roof to see inside.


  • (area around a house): grounds


  • Anagrams of acegilrtu
  • graticule

Further reading

In law, curtilage is the enclosed area of land around a dwelling.[1] It is distinct from the dwelling by virtue of lacking a roof, but distinct from the area outside the enclosure in that it is enclosed within a wall or barrier of some sort.

It is typically treated as being legally coupled with the dwelling it surrounds despite the fact that it might commonly be considered "outdoors".

This distinction is important in United States law for cases dealing with burglary and with self-defense under the "Castle Doctrine." Under Florida law, burglary encompasses the English common law definition and adds (among other things) curtilage to the protected area of the dwelling into which intrusion is prohibited. Similarly, under Florida's Castle Doctrine a homeowner does not have to retreat within the curtilage.

The curtilage (like the home) provides a reasonable expectation of privacy and hence in the United States is protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Open fields doctrine for how courts distinguish curtilage and "open fields," with the latter not providing privacy.

It may also be relevant in considering the extent of house arrest.

Listed Building protection

In the UK, Listed Building legislation depends on the concept of curtilage, as the protection afforded to a Listed Building may extend to other buildings within the curtilage of that building, if the second building is either old enough, or physically attached to the main building. This definition takes the concept of curtilage beyond dwelling houses, to all types of building, including churches, factories, public toilets, etc.

The listing for each building does not define the specific curtilage, and so the line of the curtilage can be a matter of contention. Various factors need to be taken into account, such as the ownership of the land, physical boundaries, such as fences, walls and hedges, and the historic use of the land. Some Local Planning Authorities (such as Bournemouth) publish provisional curtilages, to assist property owners; but frequently curtilages are left undefined until such time as they may be challenged.


  1. Long, Bill (2005-05-23). "cyborg and cuticular and cuticle and cutis and dermis and cutin and cutch and catechu and curvet and curtilage". A Speller's Diary. Retrieved 2009-07-19.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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