Open House Party: Is It legal or Not? Learn More Here!

Traditionally, an open house party has been a party scheduled for a period of hours. It could be for an entire day. It has no set time of arrival or departure. Guests do not typically stay for the entire party.

Real estate agents often use open house parties as a marketing strategy. They attract many potential buyers. They view view the house within a short time.


I.   Newer Meaning

II.  Confusion

III. Bottom Line

IV.  Resources

I. Newer Meaning: Open House Party

More recently, open house parties often have a newer meaning. They may refer to one at which young persons drink alcohol. Youth might also take illegal drugs. Such open house parties are popular. But they may lead to problems. So some states outlaw them.


For instance, FL law deals with the matter. No one who has control of a residence “shall allow an open house party to take place.” That is, if  any minors possess alcohol or drugs. The person must “take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.”

A violations is punishable as a second degree misdemeanor.


open house partyAL law also addresses the matter. It states that no adult having control of a residence “shall allow the open house party to continue if all of the following occur.”

(1) Alcoholic beverages or controlled substances are illegally possessed or illegally consumed at the residence by a person under the age of 21.

(2) The adult knows that an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance is in the illegal possession of or is being illegally consumed by a person under the age of 21 at the residence.

(3) The adult fails to take reasonable action to prevent illegal possession or illegal consumption of the alcoholic beverage or controlled substance. (Alabama defines “reasonable action” as “ejecting a person from a residence or requesting law enforcement officials to eject a person from a residence.” So the law requires that possibly impaired persons be ejected. Thus they would promote impaired driving or riding with impaired drivers.

A violation of the open house party statute is a Class B misdemeanor.


In CA, it’s not illegal for a person under 21 to drink in a private place. (That’s a place not open to the public.) There has been a move to outlaw open house parties in that state.

II. Confusion

An ordinance of the city of Frankenmuth, MI, prohibits open house parties.

No adult having control of any residence shall knowingly allow an open house party to take place at said residence. If any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at said residence by any minor. And where the adult failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug at said residence.

The ordinance defines an adult as “a person 17 years of age or older.” It defines a minor as “a person not legally permitted by reason of age to possess alcoholic beverages.” That is, under age 21. So a person can be both and adult and a minor at the same time?

The ordinance also grants an exception to the prohibition of open house parties. It permits drinking by minors in the presence of their parents. Or in the presence of their legal guardians. Or “a person placed in the position of a parent by such parent or legal guardian.”

This suggests that parents can legally host an open house party for their own minors. Also for those of other parents or legal guardians. So long as they grant them permission to act in loco parentis. That is, in place of the parents.


Such a provision would be highly desirable. Parents could legally host open house parties. They could monitor drinking. This would ensure safe consumption levels. That would protect the health and safety of those at the party.

There is strong evidence that this would be a valuable harm reduction technique. It would reduce alcohol abuse by young people.

III. Bottom Line: Open House Party

Laws and ordinances regulating an open house party can be complex. The Frankenmuth confusion is but one example. In addition to statutory law is case law. That develops on the basis of court interpretations of a statutory law. In addition, police officers’ interpretations may be incorrect. But defense against an unfounded charge of violating at open house party law is expensive. It’s also time consuming and emotionally exhausting.

It can even be worse. A prosecutor charged a woman for having an open house party. But there was no law against having one. She had a jury trial and was innocent of the charge. However, she had tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Consult a lawyer in your city to learn if an open house party is legal.

Remember that law enforcement officers often make mistakes about open house party laws. And elected prosecutors may pursue a case without legal merit. The reasons may range from incompetence to personal advancement. No one deserves to be a victim of “Nifonging.”*

It can’t hurt to err on the side of caution. Better safe than sorry.

IV. Resources


AL Code. Section 13A-11-10.1: Open House Parties. City of Frankenmuth, MI. General Code. Chapter 126. FL Code. Chapter 856. Drunkenness; Open House Parties.

open house party
Mike Nifong

Mike Nifong prosecuted several Duke U lacrosse players. But he persecuted them when it became clear they were innocent. DNA proved it.

Durham is heavily Black. The players are White. The accuser of rape is Black. Nifong was up for re-election. He told his election manager this. “This [case] is worth millions in ads.”

He was criticized for, among other actions, these.

    • Went public with a series of accusations that were false.
    • Intensified racial tensions for personal gain.
    • Unduly influenced the police investigation.
    • Tried to manipulate potential witnesses.
    • Refused to hear exculpatory evidence (proof of innocence) before indictment.
    • Failure to include “dummy” photographs of anyone who was not at the party in question.
    • Never spoke to the alleged victim about the rape accusations.
    • Made misleading presentations of evidence in the case.

He was later disbarred.