What is a Forcible Entry?

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  • Written By: T. Webster
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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Forcible entry can refer to a criminal act such as a burglary, or it can refer to legal right of a property owner to forcibly enter and take back property. The property owner could have this right because of nonpayment of a home mortgage or apartment rental agreement, for example. Laws and property agreements vary, so the timetable for correcting a payment default can be different in different places.

For rental properties, the time between a lease default and forcible entry and removal of property by a landlord might be as little as several days or as long as several weeks or months. Different laws also can apply for residential and commercial properties. For home mortgages, the homeowner might receive up to several months to rectify a default, along with the possible option of refinancing the home.

Nonpayment is not the only case in which a property owner might seek forcible entry. This also can apply when a landlord or leasing company declines to renew a lease. If a lease is not renewed, then the tenant must vacate the property within a specified time frame.


There typically are legal procedures that must be followed by both the creditor and the tenant. For example, the property manager of a rental property or the bank that issued the mortgage must provide a written notice that eviction or foreclosure proceedings have opened. Generally, the owner must also provide a deadline for the tenant either to exit the building or to make full payment of any money owed.

A court hearing generally is required before an eviction proceeding can occur. This allows the court to decide who has the legal right to occupancy. Typically, the tenant will receive a court-issued time frame to vacate the property, if necessary. If a tenant does not leave by the deadline, it is then that a law enforcement agent can remove property and change the locks to the dwelling. Following forcible entry, the property owner can undertake other court action to recover any money still owed.

Legal definitions for criminal forcible entry also vary by jurisdiction and governing laws. In a broad sense, a criminal act of forcible entry involves unlawfully entering a home or other building or structure. This typically is done with the intent to commit theft or another crime, such as bodily harm to another person, for example. Entry to the structure often is gained by using tools or some other form of force to break down doors, windows, walls or roofs. It also can be accomplished by breaking locks, using unauthorized keys or even hiding in a building, then committing a crime.

Anyone who is involved in a civil or criminal court proceeding involving forcible entry should consult an attorney and clearly understand all related laws and procedures. Mortgage companies and apartment rental firms generally are well versed in forcible entry laws. Both sides should always maintain written documentation of all proceedings, in case the legality of any of the actions is challenged.


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