Without abandoned places, there would be no urban exploration. The very nature of our hobby drives us towards manmade places that have been forgotten. These places, although they appear to be completely abandoned, are still the rightful property of someone and are still protected by law.
Urban exploration attracts us to abandoned buildings, but are we allowed to enter these places without getting into trouble? Nobody lives, works, or even cares for abandoned buildings. So what is the problem with entering just to have a look around?
Here I will discuss if is it illegal to go into an abandoned house and if we urban explorers can safely enter and explore abandoned buildings for our own enjoyment without breaking the law.
Is It Illegal To Go Into An Abandoned House?
Yes. Going into an abandoned house without the permission of the owner is considered trespassing which is illegal. Especially if it is obviously filled with “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs all over. It doesn’t matter if the building looks completely empty and forgotten.
The house or building is still owned by someone and it is protected by trespassing laws in all states. Before you decide to enter an abandoned house to explore, you should first seek the permission of its current owner.
What Happens If You Get Caught Inside An Abandoned Building?
It’s not possible to say exactly what could happen to you should you be caught inside an abandoned building. Trespassing laws are wildly different all around the world. If you are caught exploring by the owners or the police, you could get lucky and simply let off with a warning and be told to leave and not come back.
If you’re not so lucky, you could get into serious legal trouble which could result in fines or in some cases incarceration. This is why it’s important that you do your own due diligence before venturing into an empty building you’re wanting to explore.
Familiarize yourself with your city’s trespassing laws so you don’t end up breaking them.
When Is Property Considered Abandoned?
A building that is completely left abandoned has no one to care for or attend to the property. This means there is no one that can tell you to exit the building. This doesn’t apply to the police.
They can still stop you and ask if you have permission to be on the property, even if it’s been deserted. What’s less likely to happen is that they will not bother trying to find the owner of the property and asking if they’d like to press charges against you.
They will most likely not want to deal with you in the first place and simply ask you to leave. To know when a property is considered abandoned, you will have to check with your local laws first. In some cases, the property is considered abandoned when it has been unoccupied for at least 3 years.
How To Legally Explore Abandoned Places
Urban exploring doesn’t have to involve breaking the law in order to explore abandoned places. Yes most people who urbex don’t usually ask for permission to enter abandoned buildings, but this is a big risk they are taking. As I stated above, abandoned buildings even if not cared for are still owned by someone and protected by laws.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to safely and legally explore abandoned houses. Many urban explorers choose not to break the law and instead seek permission before exploring an empty building. If this is the route you’d like to take, you should first find the owner/s of the property and directly ask them for permission.
Photographers, amateur historians, and even urban explorers have shared the many methods they use to find the owner of a property and how to best ask for permission. I wrote about those methods in a separate article.
Urbex tours are also a viable option for anyone looking to explore cool abandoned places without the fear of trespassing. Sometimes, taking one of these tours is the only way you can get to see the inside of some of the most interesting abandoned places in the world.
Places like the Waverly Hill Sanatorium, the Catacombs of Paris, and the Alcatraz Island in New Jersey. These are forgotten places with a fascinating history that many urban explorers wish they could visit. But the only way to do so is through a guided tour.
Should You Risk Entering Abandoned Buildings Anyway?
If the prospect of getting caught trespassing doesn’t scare you away from entering an abandoned house, then at least be conscious of what could happen if you do get caught. This could help you get out of some trouble should problems arise.
Know your state’s trespassing laws and make sure you don’t do anything that could get you into more trouble, like damaging a building. If you decide to take the safe route and seek permission to explore an empty building, there will be times when you do everything you can to find the owner of an abandoned building but you simply can’t find them.
If this happens and you still have the desire to go enter an abandoned house anyway, you should take every precaution possible to ensure you don’t get caught. I recommend you read an article I wrote where I outline the different methods you can follow to stay out of trouble if you get caught urban exploring.