Power of Officials to Enter Your Home

The powers of officials to enter your home are subject to different rules because each is usually covered by a different statutory source. There is unfortunately no general code which covers their conduct. Normally, any official must produce evidence of identity and authority before entering, and may not insist on entering without first giving you at least 24 hours’ notice. If, after such notice, you refuse to let him or her in, the Magistrates’ Court may often have the power to give the official authority to enter without your consent, by force if necessary. In general, if someone asks to come into your home, claiming to be an official, you should:

  • Ask to see the caller’s identity card.
  • Ask the caller what authority he or she has to enter your home.
  • If in doubt, refuse entry and contact the office from which the official claims to come, in order to check his or her credentials.
If you have a complaint to make about the way an official behaves, you should approach the appropriate authority. For example:
  • in the case of a local authority official, you should complain to your local councillor and then, if you remain dissatisfied, the Local Government Ombudsman;
  • in the case of a gas or electricity official, the Gas or Electricity Company, and then if still dissatisfied, the industry regulator Ofgem;
  • in the case of a VAT inspector, the collector in charge of VAT at the local office or, in the case of a tax inspector, the Commissioners for the Inland Revenue.
It is also important to remember that all public authorities seeking to exercise powers of entry under various Acts will still be required to act compatibly with Article 8 rights, as incorporated by the HRA. This means that whenever a decision is made that will result in an intrusion of your privacy – a decision to enter into your home without your consent – then the public authority must do so in accordance with the law, and for one of the legitimate objectives. Also the nature of the entry must be proportionate to the need for such entry. It may well be possible to challenge a decision to enter your home if the public authority concerned does not observe these principles.

An attempt has been made to regularise the legislation in this area through the “Powers of Entry etc. Bill”. This was introduced in the House of Lords during the 2007-8 Parliamentary session. But as it is a Private Member’s Bill without Government support it did not become law as an Act of Parliament. But it serves to emphasise the need for a more transparent and accessible source for the very many powers of entry that officials in a wide range of areas enjoy under as many as 150 or more different Acts of Parliament.

Below are just a few of the more common examples of different powers of entry and search. You should note that the police have particularly extensive powers to enter and search premises, and these are set out in Rights of Suspects

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