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Renting to Minors – Can I Rent Under 18

The amount of young people who are independent and do not live in the family home increases year after year. In law a person under the age of 18 is named a ‘minor’.

Many landlords refuse to let to 16- and 17-year-olds because they fear that minors cannot be bound by a contract (and so cannot be held liable for rent) or believe that minors cannot hold a tenancy but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Minors cannot enter into a contract if they are too young to understand it. Although the most of 16- and 17 year olds will be able to understand a contract and will therefore be able to enter into one. These beliefs have some basis in law.

Law of Property Act 1925

Within section 1(6) it is not possible for a person under the age of 18 to hold an estate in land (i.e. hold a tenancy agreement in name). By paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1 to the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 any purported grant of a legal estate to a minor will not be effective to pass the legal estate, but it will operate as a declaration that the premises are held in trust for the minor. There are legal complications associated with the grant of a tenancy to a minor because the minor cannot hold a legal estate in land. Letting agreements are not generally binding on persons under the age of 18 years, except in circumstances where the minor is emancipated from their parents.

Therefore, if you're under 18, the law says you aren't legally allowed to hold a tenancy; however, there are ways that a landlord can work around this. A landlord might therefore grant a tenancy that will be held on trust for you by a third party such as an adult relative or social worker, until you turn 18, or issue a joint tenancy if a joint tenant is aged 18 or over.

A minor is not bound by a contract that is not for necessity. Accommodation, however, is a necessity and thus a contract for accommodation is enforceable. Landlords can recover any unpaid rent (provided that it is not an excessive rent) through the courts in the normal manner. This means that there is no legal necessity for landlords to seek a guarantor when letting to 16- and 17-year-olds. Also there are other means by which a minor can be enabled to occupy.

Also, you could sign an agreement with a landlord for a licence. A licence is different from a tenancy because it means you have the landlord's personal permission, rather than a legal right, to stay in the property. Then, when you get to 18 you can have a tenancy.

Landlords may require a guarantor before giving a licence to anyone and especially if you are under 18. If you move into local authority accommodation after leaving a children’s home, the social services department will often be the guarantor.

So, just because you are under 18 does not mean you can’t live in rented accommodation, you just have to approach it in a different manner.