Leaving your parents’ house for your first apartment is a rite of passage. It symbolizes a time in life when you are old enough to have your own place and take the next step into adulthood. However, new tenants should understand that there are restrictions when it comes to rental leases for underage tenants. Not only do landlords generally avoid renting to young adults, but there are also laws in place that dictate who can legally rent an apartment and when. We’ll explain everything you need to know about renting an apartment at 16.
Understanding the Age of Majority
In the United States, the vast majority of states recognize 18 as the legal age of majority, in other words “the age of majority”. Simply put, “age of majority” is the threshold at which minors become legal adults and have all the rights, privileges and responsibilities associated with adulthood.
There are different rules depending on the state, you might want to do some research to find exceptions to the rule! For example, Alabama and Nebraska recognize adulthood at 19, and Mississippi at 21.
When you become a legal adult, you have the right to vote, participate in military service, the freedom to marry, and the right to sign contracts, among other rights. Leases are legally binding contracts, so when you turn 18, you have the right to sign a rental agreement and get your own space.
So what does the age of majority have to do with renting an apartment at 16? Well, the landlords are going to focus on the fact that minors can’t be held legally responsible for upholding the lease.
In other words, a minor could rent an apartment, sign the lease, not pay the rent or honor the rental agreement and the property management company could do nothing about it. It is a higher risk for a property manager to rent to someone under the age of 16.
Can you get an apartment at 16 or 17?
Technically, yes. You can rent an apartment if you are 16 or 17 years old. However, this is a complex situation and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. There are situations where a landlord may choose to rent to underage tenants. These scenarios include:
- Rent to an emancipated minor — An emancipated minor is a legally emancipated person who is now considered to be of legal age. In this case, an emancipated minor under the age of 18 could rent an apartment. Minors will need court approval to legally emancipate and will need to provide documentation to rental companies to prove their emancipation.
- Rent to students under 18 — Some students graduate from high school early and seek to rent a college apartment when they are under 18. Some rental properties will make minor rentals to students. This is left to the renter’s discretion.
- Rental to a 16 or 17 year old with parental consent — In some cases, a minor can rent an apartment if responsible adults agree to co-sign the lease. A co-signer is legally responsible for the monthly rent, the terms of the rental agreement and any damages incurred. Although the 16 or 17 year old is not legally responsible for the rental agreement, a co-signer is.
Ultimately, it will be up to your landlord and the apartment complexes you are considering to determine whether or not you can rent an apartment at 16.
Why a Landlord Can Refuse to Rent a Minor
Let’s talk about a few other reasons why most landlords don’t want to rent to a younger person.
No established credit history
A good credit report is one of the main factors that determine whether or not someone will qualify for an apartment. Many landlords examine a person’s credit history by performing a credit check. If a person has bad credit or no credit, it is an indicator that they are probably not financially responsible.
When you are underage, you don’t have a credit report and if you do, it’s a very short credit history due to age. The longer you are alive, the more time you have to build up your credit score and history. If you don’t have an established credit history to share, you may not qualify for an apartment.
Lack of work history
Most 16 and 17 year olds are still in high school. They may have part-time jobs or summer jobs, but usually they don’t have a consistent employment record to share. Many landlords look at a few months of pay stubs to determine if someone is in the right financial position to pay each month’s rent.
Landlords are in a business to make money and if a tenant does not meet the income requirements to pay monthly rent, security deposit and security deposit, they can deny rent to someone under 18 years old.
Absence of bank account statements
Most homeowners will also look at bank statements and a checking account to understand if someone has sufficient credit and a stable financial history. Again, landlords want to bet on their tenants’ ability to make rent.
Unfortunately, things like stable credit and a work history come with age. So you’ll build that over time, but you just don’t have time at 16.
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords and rental companies are not legally allowed to refuse accommodation because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status or disability. Age discrimination is illegal, however, the law does not implicitly address age discrimination. This means that housing authorities and potential landlords could deny rent to an underage person due to a lack of rental history, no financial support or other finance-related qualifications.
How to Pay Rent for an Apartment if You’re Underage
If you’re under the age of majority and can get an apartment or garage, here are some tips for saving money and paying the monthly rent.
Create a budget
Regardless of your age, it’s a good idea to have a budget and stick to it. A budget lets you see all of your expenses – rent, utilities, gas, groceries, insurance, and entertainment. Once you have calculated all your costs, compare them to your income. Keep your expenses below your monthly income. As a general rule, rent should not cost more than 30% of your income.
Find nonprofit organizations that can help you
There are non-profit associations dedicated to helping emancipated minors. If you fall into this category, seek financial assistance through nonprofit organizations.
Establish your credit score
Every time you pay a credit card or utility bill on time, you increase your credit score. As this increases, your chances of qualifying for an apartment also increase.
Build up your savings
It’s also a good idea to have a savings account or an emergency relief fund. It is recommended that you have at least three months of rent and expenses set aside in case you lose your income.
Renting your own apartment and paying rent
Now that we’ve discussed how to rent an apartment if you’re 16, you should have a good idea of the rules. Most laws recognize the legal age of adulthood at 18. But that doesn’t mean you can’t rent accommodation if you’re younger than that. It just means you have to do your research and find the right landlord and the right place to rent. Good luck, young people!
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice if they deem it necessary.