Census workers can enter your apartment in your absence

Thousands of census workers, including many temporary employees, are fanning out across America to gather information on the citizenry.  This is a process that takes place not only every decade in order to complete the constitutionally-mandated census; but also as part of the continuing “American Community Survey” conducted by the Census Bureau on a regular basis year in and year out.

What many Americans don’t realize, is that census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.”  If the landlord of such apartment or other  leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.

That’s right — not only can citizens be fined if they fail to answer the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government under the guise of simply counting the number of people in the country; but a landlord must give them access to your apartment whether you’re there or not, in order to gather whatever “statistics” the law permits.

In fact, some census workers apparently are going even further and demanding — and receiving — private cell phone numbers from landlords in order to call tenants and obtain information from them.  Isn’t it great to live in a “free” country?

1,749 comments Add your comment

Greg in the Highlands

May 26th, 2010
6:37 am

And when they take any money, jewelery or credit cards lying about, you have no recourse. You have to PROVE they did it. If I weren’t taxed, feed, and surcharged to keep me under government control, I’d have enough money to leave this “FREE” country.


May 26th, 2010
6:40 am

But Bob, according to the commercials, the country would come to a stand still if gov does not know who to pass the money around to. Isn’t that more important than civil liberties ?


May 26th, 2010
6:40 am

You are soooooo right again Bob. It is obvious, the census worker is encroaching on our fundamental right,”Freedom Of Privacy.” A coupla of days ago the census worker came to my house, very pleasnt young girl. She said she had only a few questions to ask and I said sure come on in. During the questioning she asked my age and I told her and she said I looked much younger than that. I thanked her for that flattering comment. Now, if she had asked me how much money I had, we would probably be in a relationship now. But, let us get back to the “Freedom of Privacy”, when the landlord let the census worker in without the permission of the tenant, that is “constructive seizure of the apartment” when the landlord “pops” in at any time that is tatamount to “constructive eviction” of the tenant. Not good, and being threatened with a $500.00 fine besides, that is conspiracy. We have to have rights, that is part of the Constitution of the United States.

Jim in Ga

May 26th, 2010
7:19 am

Greg in the Highlands,

I remember watching 20/20 or something along those lines about nannies or housecleaners stealing and it was entraptment if it was just lying about and it had to be in a drawer or hidden away for it to be considered stolen. That just makes it even harder if they do come and and take something.

Byron Mathison Kerr

May 26th, 2010
7:23 am

Scary! Good incentive to take those few moments to fill out that simple census form.

Keep up the good fight!

May 26th, 2010
7:24 am

Bob you dont cite the law itself. I suspect however that your interpretation is overstated. The purpose is to allow census workers into “private” gated communities such as the one in Miami that denied access to all census workers. The intent and I suspect the wording does not provide entry into the actual rental units but rather into the rental or gated community.

E Masters

May 26th, 2010
7:28 am

This is a pretty liberal reading of the code! The relevant language is at Title 13, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, § 223 of the US Code. The section prevents the owner or manger of “any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building” from refusing to provide a list of the buildings occupants or providing access to “such premises”. This means a building’s owner or manger cannot refuse to let a census worker into or out of the building and cannot refuse to provide a list of occupants for the purpose of the census count. The penalty for refusal is $500. No where in the section does it authorize entry into individual apartments, lodgings, or “living quarters”.
The relevant code section is found at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode13/usc_sec_13_00000223—-000-.html

Not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
7:34 am

Oh man, I should’ve applied for a census job!

(in the background plays The Kinks, “paranoia will destroy ya…..”

Keep up the good fight!

May 26th, 2010
7:37 am

Thanks Masters! That is exactly what I thought. More fear-mongering by Barr.

Census workers do not ask to enter the home and do not “force” their way into actual homes. From the Census FAQ: If you are not at home, the census taker will make up to two return visits to try to reach you at home, and will leave a callback notice with information on how you can contact them to either schedule a visit for the interview, or provide the information on the phone. In some cases, the census taker might ask your neighbor for the best time to reach you at home, or if they could provide a telephone number for you.


May 26th, 2010
7:45 am

I found the Census form to be surprisingly unintrusive. Say in comparison to trying to buy a CD at a bank where they virtually want to count the hairs in my nose.

Steve Smith

May 26th, 2010
7:51 am

The title of this piece is blatantly false to the best of my knowledge. Mr. Barr is pretty careful to use access, but not entry. Does the AJC know this?

Not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
7:53 am

I don’t remember if I mentioned this in this forum or somewhere else, but it bears repeating.

It’s amazing to me how so many people claim our givernment is inept, while at the same time beleiving they are behind a massive well-run conspiracy!

Barr's blog

May 26th, 2010
7:54 am

The only defense against the Census Workers is to take a road trip on a donkey and escape into Egypt.


May 26th, 2010
8:29 am

Well, I’ve been working with the census this year and this is clearly false.

Maybe there is some high up rule giving census workers this ability, but it is NOT one I was trained to do. As a last resort I go to the landlord and they tell me how many people’s name is on the lease or listed as residents there. That’s it. Never have I been told to ever enter any residence.

As a general rule I really respect your blogs Barr, but in this case I can’t help but feel you’re feeding some kind of paranoia over the census.


May 26th, 2010
8:57 am

jconservative: The census form WAS instrusive. It asked not only for a head count, but also the relationship of individuals in the house to the owner. That may sound harmless, but that is irrelevant to counting. Who know how that information will eventually be used–shared with insurance companies, etc.

Junior Samples

May 26th, 2010
9:55 am

Bob’s simply paranoid.


May 26th, 2010
9:56 am

Mr. Barr is obviously just trying to stir people up with his blatantly false interpretation of the policies. The Census Bureau policies are very clear, as some have already pointed out. I am a manager with a local census office and am very familiar with the rules. Appartment building owners are required to give access to their BUILDINGS. Census workers are not allowed to enter apartments or houses – they are to interview people at the door, to protect the integrity of the process, and the privacy of citizens. Mr. Barr should check reliable sources before spreading false information.


May 26th, 2010
10:14 am

Hey Impeachable Bob, thanks for some more “sky is falling” drivel. Would you rather we not know how many people are living in this country? Get back under your rock.

M Percy

May 26th, 2010
10:30 am

I was pretty mad about the missing question on the form, the one that asks about citizenship. Since the primary Constitutional purpose for the census is to apportion representation, it seems that California may get an extra representative just for the illegal aliens. How about only giving a House seat to represent citizens (and possibly legal residents)?

Monroe Burbank

May 26th, 2010
10:35 am

Yeah, and they can also demand that conservatives stop being a bunch of paranoid nutjobs. That doesn’t work, either.

Fox News consistently uses half-truths to stir up the ignorant conservative masses, exactly what Barr does here.


May 26th, 2010
11:15 am

Bob…jeso this is low even for you. My wife is a census taker and we don’t need selfish moron-mongers like you titillating the masses with any more reasons for false resentment. This is not Rep or Dem–this is just dangerously inaccurate.

Real Athens

May 26th, 2010
11:49 am


You can’t have it both ways. You like privacy and freedom to not answer questions concerning the census — a Constitutionally mandated head count around since the days of George Washington.

However, in the Roe v. Wade decision (that you fervently denounce at every turn) that held a woman, with her doctor, could choose abortion in earlier months of pregnancy without restriction, and with restrictions in later months, based on the right to privacy

Unless, of course the right to privacy applies to you: As when your ex-wife Gail wanted an abortion in 1983 and you acquiesced and even paid for it.

It is so easy to beat you hypocrites like a drum.

Al Gore

May 26th, 2010
11:55 am

When I invented the Census, I intended for everyone to be accounted for. The census workers are honest people. Trust me…has anyone seen the keys to my new jet?

Cynthia Tucker, obozos other old lady.

May 26th, 2010
11:56 am

Hey Rick, I sent one of your morons packing yesterday. Perhaps you should train them in English better, She kept asking questions on the form and I kept answering 4 people live here. She just kept getting flustered and then said, Maybe you can help out the school system, how many underage children live here. At that point she was informed two things, one was that the only way to help the school system was to get government out and two was to get the hell off of my property. I told her as she got into her rusty junker, tell obozo anything more than the number of people living here was none of his business. Looking forward to the next visit, maybe it’ll be some johnny badass next time.

Ed Graham

May 26th, 2010
12:01 pm

The purpose of a census is to COUNT the number of PEOPLE. That’s all that they need to know. As I live alone, I indicated “one”, and wrote in red ink across the questionaire that that was all they were getting from me. My color, religion, sex, income, number of bedrooms and bathrooms in my home, whether I own or rent, etc, is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. If we’re all supposed to be equal under the law, then all of that superfluous information is not needed.


May 26th, 2010
12:06 pm

I assume that if you are on this blog you can read. E Maters, Rick and others, did you not read the actual code with the link you provided? It clearly states that the census workers have the right to enter the buildings. No where does it say anything about a doorway, etc. How can you have an opinion when you don’t even read the facts. Bob is correct in his statements. Is he stirring it up? That’s his job. Why would he write about something that no one cares about.

Peter Haskett

May 26th, 2010
12:22 pm

Bob, why do you hate the Constitution? Census taking is an enumerated federal power to insure that there is proportional representation. “If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to worry about.” – Joe Rightwing, when justifying the Patriot act.


May 26th, 2010
1:11 pm

if they have the balls & spine to enter my house where my 120-lb police-trained German Shepherd lives – then enter at your own risk. We are locked and loaded for these ACORN thugs! There are over a dozen reports around the US of the Census hiring pedophiles, convicted rapists, and illegals who are forcing their way into homes and raping women in the home.
The 2nd Amendment applies before the 4th — if you enter my home, without my permission – good luck! I would especially love it if you do work for ACORN, SEIU, the black panthers, or the other thug groups OPovertyPimpDaddy pays!

Rational Person

May 26th, 2010
1:17 pm

… the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government …

Bob, were you born yesterday? The census asks hardly anything compared to what it asked 50 or 100 years ago. There used to be questions like “Are you a pauper?” or “Is there a feebleminded person in the house?” Now all they ask is whether you exist.

Horace the Hefty

May 26th, 2010
1:29 pm

Silly me! I was under the impression that if you completed and mailed back the census form, you wouldn’t get a visit. So I promptly completed it and mailed it back.

On Friday, when I got home, taped to the front door was a “Sorry I missed you” form from a census worker. Are some people who complete and return the form chosen for more detailed questions?


May 26th, 2010
2:05 pm

To Ed Graham at 12:01 pm, think I will sidle up next to you and feel the sense of empowerment flowing through your body, having boldly taken matters into your own hands by not answering those intrusive census questions. By the way, the census people will be back. Find another way to empower yourself without breaking the law.


May 26th, 2010
2:23 pm

I doubt they actually enter any apartments. What a scare-essay this is.

Bob, shave thar barbershop mustache. The 1890s are over.

Barr's blog

May 26th, 2010
2:28 pm

I think this board has reached a consensus about the census: it has incensed us because when you look for victims, they are, in a sense, us. Barr is right to expose this senseless abuse of big government.


May 26th, 2010
3:34 pm

Dear Cynthia Tucker, obozos other old lady.

11:56 am

“Hey Rick, I sent one of your morons packing yesterday…”

It might make you feel all manly and stuff to fantasize so pathetically, but no, you didn’t. You’re a liar.


May 26th, 2010
3:41 pm

Barr and his ilk need to crawl back under their rock


May 26th, 2010
3:42 pm

AHannah (”We are locked and loaded for these ACORN thugs! “).

If I see a toothless, tea-partying, Sarah Palin-worshipping cretin on MY porch trying to get in my house without my permission, remember this: EVERYBODY in America packs heat, Liberals, too!

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 26th, 2010
4:21 pm

My own experience:

Filled out my form a couple days after I got it and sent it in. Weeks later I get a visit from a census taker (very polite and professional, by the way). I told them I’d already sent the form in and turns out that weren’t wanting to talk to me but to whoever lived in the nearby vacant house. So, I told them that nobody lived there. They said ok and asked my name which I gave them and then asked for my phone number. I said, “Nobody is getting my phone number”. They said okay, they understood and went on their merry way.

Cynthia Tucker, obozos other old lady.

May 26th, 2010
4:36 pm

rita, you poor pathetic obamanite, still upset about losing acorn funding huh? Sorry to hurt your bedwetting feelings but yeah I did. She received the answer mandated by the Constitution, at least what’s left of it now that homie has been wiping his butt with it for 17 months. Oh well 31 months til we send him and his family back to the rock they crawled out from under. Then he can go back to his racist church with brother wright.


May 26th, 2010
6:22 pm

To Hillbilly Deluxe at 4:21 pm. Such mountain oysters you have, not giving a phone number and all. Shazamm!

[...] 2008 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate (and 2010 national convention keynote speaker) Bob Barr writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: [...]

Bill Dilworth

May 27th, 2010
6:46 am

The questions on the census – like asking the relationship of the people in the residence – is somehow intrusive and proof of creeping totalitarianism? I’ve been looking at census forms from the past as part of tracing my family’s genealogy, and questions about relationships, race, etc. have been part of the census for a long time. They also used to ask questions about employment.

Barr's blog

May 27th, 2010
7:30 am

Bob is ……CORRECT! If Census workers can just walk into a home uninvited, then whats to stop the Hari Krishnas and the Jehovah’s Witnesses from doing the same? Or the Girl Scouts and their cookies!

Our homes will be turned into Grand Central Station!! Duct Tape your homes shut people. Remember when Bush’s response to 911 was to duct tape homes against bio-attacks? Well, looks like he was…….. RIGHT!!

Jim Howard

May 27th, 2010
8:01 am

I worked during the 2000 census in Missouri and this is the FIRST I heard about this. I never heard of this happening. Has anyone else every heard of a census working forcing his way into a home or apartment?
Now yes the law does require people to give census information. I never heard of anyone fined for failing to do so.
“increasingly intrusive questions” WHAT intrusive questions? It is ten simple questions.
Our founding fathers put it in the Constitution of the United States! There is not very much they put in that document. But they demanded a census each ten years and it has been taking place since our founding.


May 27th, 2010
8:04 am

My house was built in 1925 so it first showed up in the 1930 census. I confirmed what I already believed, that my house was built as a duplex (up/down) and not chopped into one at a later date. However, I learned that my part of town (Atlanta, DeKalb Co) is Ward 9. It was the 499th family visited by that census taker and the 352nd family.

I learned that it was owned by Alonzo J Hollingsworth, who worked as a mail clerk for a railway company. He and his family live in the apartment that my husband, son, and I live in. Now, this is a 1100-1200 sqft apartment and we feel a little cramped in there with the 3 of us.

But Mr Hollingsworth, age 60, lived in that same space with his 43 year-old wife Frances C (they were 43 and 26 when they married, so they were on 20 years at this point), his two daughters Frances A and Margaret (ages 13 and 10, repectively), AND his widowed mother-in-law Etta Clark, age 77. They were all W(hite) and they were all literate. So, a family of FIVE lived in my 1100sqft apartment!

I also learned he paid $15,000 for the property, which was kind of a lot for that time. Especially since in the tax record of my property someone bought it for $30,000 in the late 70s (in contrast, I paid $400,000 for it – good school district).

I learned that Mr Hollingsworth was Georgia-born, as were his parents. Frances C Hollingsworth, his wife, was originally from Minnesota. Her father was from Vermont and her mother who was living with them, Etta Clark, was from Wisconsin, though HER parents were from New York and England.

The entire family spoke English.

Lastly, I learned that he rented out the upstairs apartment to 34-year-old Douglas M Horne and his 34-year-old wife Ruth for $60/mo., who at that point were married 10 years. Mr Horne was a special agent for an office equipment company.

So, see, 80 years later, these people are still alive in a way because of the census. I think that’s cool. I hope in 80 years my house is owned by a family (by then we’ll have converted it to a single-family home) and they will have a neat little record.

I really need to go get other census records for my house to see how long the Hollingsworth family stayed there and who else owned or rented it before we did.

Stacy, U.S. Census Bureau

May 27th, 2010
8:30 am

To clarify, we specifically instruct census takers never to ask to enter a resident’s home. We certainly would not allow them try to enter a home if the residents are not even present.
The law does require the cooperation of building managers and gated communities to allow us to enter the building or neighborhood to conduct the census and other surveys. The Constitution mandates a count of everyone, including people living in these situations.
Regarding the “increasingly intrusive” questions, the 2010 Census is actually one of the shortest in U.S. history and the questions asked are very similar to the ones written by James Madison for the first census in 1790.
More information about census takers: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/preparing.php
More on the census in the Constitution: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/why/constitutional.php


May 27th, 2010
8:40 am

So Mr. Barr can tell blatant lies in a published column and get away with it. Bravo! I’m sure he’s proud.


May 27th, 2010
8:49 am

How can such lies be published and believed? Apartment complexes cannot deny census workers access to the property (in case there are no soliciting signs or locked gate), but NO ONE in the census can demand access into anyone’s apartment or home. If people invite census workers into their homes to complete the census, the workers are encouraged to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to come in.” So is Barr mentally disabled, really stupid or pandering to the anti-government tea bag movement?

Rational Person

May 27th, 2010
8:54 am

From today’s Washington Post:

Census takers targeted 113 times this month

Updated 8:18 a.m. ET
More than 113 census takers have been the victims of assaults or attacks this month, the U.S. Census Bureau said late Wednesday.

In response to inquiries by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Census Director Robert Groves said the bureau’s temporary workers knocking on doors to collect information have faced 29 threats involving a gun, four robberies and three instances of being held against their will or carjacked. Seven workers died in car accidents and one was killed while off duty.


Bob, could you please quit feeding the hatred? These are just people trying to scratch out a living, doing their constitutionally mandated job.

A real life census worker.

May 27th, 2010
9:41 am

IMHO, there are so many misleading statements in this short article I really don’t know where to start debunking it. First my credentials. I am a real life Census worker. And also note, that I am NOT a some life long gooberment worker. I have spent over 30 years working in the private sector, and only 1 month as a gooberment employee, so I am by no means a gooberment shill. Also note that what I am about to tell you are NOT to be taken as official Census statements. This is just my personal experience as a Census worker and nothing more.

I went through the standardized Census training, and none of us were ever told we had the right, or should/could enter some ones residence WITHOUT their permission, (period. end of discussion)! As a matter of fact they don’t even want us to open a storm door, that has a locked door behind it, so we can stick our notice of visit in the door jam so it doesn’t blow away. We are also told NOT to even LOOK in windows to see if the house is occupied or not.

As far as fines go, yes there is a statute that says you can be fined if you do not supply census information but as far as I know, and researched on my own, it is NOT enforced. As a Census worker, I have no way of giving out fines because I am NOT a law enforcement worker. We only rely on peoples sense of “civic duty” for compliance, and we all know how far that goes with some people.

We were never told we could/should “demand phone numbers” from landlords. The easiest way to get some ones phone number is to go out to the PRIVATELY run website whitepages.com and do a reverse address lookup and get the phone number that way.

Also one word of caution if you are called by a census worker asking if a house is empty. They should only be asking what the status of the residence was on April 1, 2010. If they call and ask if a house is empty now, or how many people live there NOW then there is a VERY good chance that this is not a real census worker.

One person here complained about being asked the ages of children. One reason this info is useful is for deciding on the size or number of schools needed. Should a locality experience a sudden increase in school age children they could find themselves short on classrooms for the kiddies. Of course because the census is only done every 10 years, and it only takes 4 or 5 years for a kid to become school age, a population spike could still be missed, but it is better than nothing.

In my personal experience 98% of the people I have visited were very polite and reasonable, which makes the very few that “know their constitutional rights” and refuse to cooperate look even more silly.

So those are the facts, but I have been on this planet long enough to know that there is a certain percentage of the population will NEVER let FACTS get in the way of their BELIEFS. So carry on, I know nothing I wrote here will bring true believers around, but I figured I should at least try.

Also on a personal note, IMHO, after reading this article, Bob Barr has lost ALL credibility with me. I wonder what his real purpose was to publish such an article with statements, which to me as an informed reader, appear to be quite misleading?


May 27th, 2010
10:22 am

and the instrusive question is… are you living here and what race are you. Gee, I feel s violated.