Under 18 year old tenants, how risky is this option?

Scott asks:
(updated on Tuesday, February 26th 2008)

Hi, I have a couple of prospective tenants but both are under 18 - one will be 18 soon. What type of risk will I be exposed to if I proceed with tenants this young? Thanks

Our Experts Answer:

Tenancy agreements with tenants who are under 18 years of age and who are not married are subject to the Minors Contracts Act. Under that Act, the general rule is that agreements with minors are unenforceable. Once a tenant turns 18 (or marries), they will be bound by any tenancy agreement to which they are a party unless they apply to the Tenancy Tribunal within 10 working days for an order relieving them of any or all of the obligations under the tenancy agreement. You could ask your prospective tenants to complete a tenancy agreement and then ask for it to be ratified, which will confirm it as a legal binding agreement. To ratify a tenancy agreement, the tenant will need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal and you will need to support their application as the landlord offering them a tenancy. A mediator will go through the tenancy agreement with you and the prospective tenants, and once it has been established that the agreement is fair and reasonable, and is understood by the prospective tenants, the mediator can write a mediated order confirming that the tenants are to be held to the agreement as if they were 18 years of age at the time of signing it. If the prospective tenants are going to apply to ratify the tenancy agreement, then you may wish to make the agreement conditional upon it being ratified. The tenancy agreement should: • state the agreement is conditional upon it being ratified by a specified date (this specified date must be before the tenancy start date) and • state the tenancy agreement is void if it is not ratified by that date (otherwise the agreement may be binding on you, even if it is not ratified). Contact the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) for advice and information about making a Tenancy Tribunal application.

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