What are the implications of renting to a 17 year old or someone who is under the age of 18? We have an application from a 17-year old that is keen to rent but I’m not sure this would be legal?
Many landlords and housing providers would be concerned and therefore refuse to let to anyone under the age of 18. However, despite some legal complications, according to the homeless charity Shelter, it is possible to grant a tenancy to a 16 or 17 year-old. Shelter is very much in favour of landlords taking younger tenants as this helps both the homelessness statistics and the individuals concerned.
Under English law a minor (someone under the age of 18) cannot be bound by a contract unless they are deemed able to understand it, and it must be for necessities. Shelter maintains that the vast majority of 16 and 17 year-olds are well able to understand a tenancy contract and therefore able to enter into one, with all the obligations placed on them as tenant. Also, accommodation is definitely “for necessities”.
Therefore a tenancy would be enforceable in a court under common law and, for example, rent arrears could be claimed against the 16 or 17 year old minor in the usual way, though it is recommended that a litigation or McKenzie Friend (MF) be appointed.
A complication arises under the Law of Property Act 1925 which says minors cannot hold a legal estate in land, a tenancy being just that. However, Shelter argue this can be overcome, pointing out that it has been held on appeal that a 13-year-old can succeed a secure tenancy, albeit only as an equitable tenancy, where the title is held in trust by an adult. This can be a relative, friend, social worker or even the landlord.
Anyone contemplating this should seek legal advice and should be aware that a minor as a tenant may need more than usual in terms of supervision, help and guidance. The accommodation and occupant mix of the area should be suitable and the landlord should liaise closely throughout the tenancy with any organisation involved in placing the young person.
*A McKenzie Friend assists a litigant in person in court. The “friend” does not need to be legally qualified but offers guidance and moral support, e.g.: taking notes, helping with papers, prompting on questions. They cannot represent or cross examine.