AskDefine | Define curtilage

Dictionary Definition

curtilage n : the enclosed land around a house or other building; "it was a small house with almost no yard" [syn: yard, grounds]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (UK): /ˈkɜːtɪlɪdʒ/, /"k3:tIlIdZ/
  • (UK): , /ˈkɝtəlɪdʒ/, /"k3`t@lIdZ/


  1. the area immediately surrounding a house


Extensive Definition

Curtilage is a legal term describing the enclosed area of land around a dwelling. 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 under US 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, a homeowner does not have to retreat within the curtilage under Florida's Castle Doctrine.
The curtilage (like the home) provides a reasonable expectation of privacy and hence is protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. See Open fields doctrine for how courts distinguish curtilage and "open fields", with the latter not providing privacy.

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.


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