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A dragon came into town and a NPC was killed in the fight. I was able to looted his body and I found the key to his home (He seems to have no wife). So my question is, did I just gain a free home? Or is some long lost relative going to show up while I'm off questing and take over the house?

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+1 for misappropriating property. – ヴァイシャリ Dec 17 '11 at 7:59
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I just tested this by merciclessly slaughtering Sven and Hilde while they slept in their Riverwood home.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you have, you know, scruples), even after death all of their chests are considered "owned": you still get marked as a thief for attempting to open them, which is a sure sign the room is not safe to store belongings in.

So no, despite what Davy Jones or any salty seadog might tell you, it's not safe to use a dead man's chest and/or store rum in it.

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Is the stealing factor the only concern? The house I found has no locked chests, and all but 2 or 3 things were flagged red. I don't mind leaving them there. – KnotHeather Nov 17 '11 at 4:49
@KnotHeather If anything in the room is marked "Owned" or "Steal", it's not a safe room: the sweet release of death does not free it up. There are other rooms outside of your house that can be safe, but a dead man's home is not one of them. – user3389 Nov 17 '11 at 4:52

I've taken over a witches cabin in the woods near the first town (she saw me stealing through a hole in her shoddy hut and at attacked me, which did not end well for her). Since the hut had a fast travel spot right at the door, a bed and a basement with an alchemy and enchanting table, I decided to move in.

This was at the very beginning of the game, and I've been going back there regularly to sleep, use the tables and store things in a barrel in the basement. So far nothing has gone missing, and nobody is around to complain about me taking things out of storage either. Items that were not previously stolen do not get marked red (stolen) when I put them in there either, so I see no downside.

I'm still looking for a location that has all the crafting tools in one place though :)

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I know the one you'r talking about. i also found one that is an entry to some sort of thieves’ den that is a house. It’s got a main room and a basement with cooking and a bed. I cleared out the "den" and found lots of goodies. It was called Pine something or another, I forget. But I feel like I’m messing up quests I have not found yet. – KnotHeather Nov 18 '11 at 21:51
Oblivion taught me that TES games are really about having fun and not worrying too much. A lot of the fun I had in my second Oblivion replay was a result of NOT loading from a save game and just living with some of the things that happened to me, accidentally or otherwise. And there's always the next replay :) – Ingmar Nov 19 '11 at 0:38

I think it depends on the npc. Like there was this guy in Roirickstead(spelling?) the guy who's the father of twins. I did some farm work for him but I didn't like how he treated his daughters so when he when into the in I killed him using stealth so no one would know I did it I looted him and took his house key upon entering I was able to take everything I wanted. I even adopted one if his daughters when she was sent to the orphanage with her sister. But when I left the inn the courier brought me a letter telling me that I had an inheritance from the man I killed I think if it's a random npc then no but if it's one that trust you then yes

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