Can a landlord grant a tenancy to someone under 18?

It is not possible for an infant (minor) (a person under 18 years of age) to hold an estate in land [s.1(6) Law of Property Act 1925].

By virtue of 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 will operate as a declaration that the premises are held in trust for the minor.

If a landlord grants a tenancy to a minor, then any purported tenancy is held in trust by the landlord for the occupier who becomes the beneficiary to the trust. In order to end the occupation, the landlord must first end the trust which can be very complex. The landlord would have to evict himself!

The Court of Appeal had to consider how a tenancy given to a minor could be ended. In Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council v Alexander-David [2009] EWCA Civ 259, The claimant aged 16 applied to the local authority for accommodation under the Housing Act 1996 because she was homeless. The council discharged its duty and entered an agreement on its standard form for adults, where the parties were referred to as landlord and tenant, which gave her a tenancy of the premises.

It was held that a landlord with full capacity to grant a legal tenancy and who granted a tenancy without any express qualification to the effect that something less than a legal tenancy was being granted could not subsequently say that what he had granted was not a legal tenancy but an equitable tenancy. Paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1 to the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 therefore applied to the tenancy granted to the claimant.

For so long as the council held the premises in trust under that Act for the claimant it could not lawfully destroy the subject matter of the trust by serving notice to quit on her.

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