Social Services have a duty to provide accommodation to a young person who finds him/herself homeless according to the Housing Order (Northern Ireland) 1988.
The social services have a responsibility to accommodate a child or young person under the Children Order (Northern Ireland) 1995 if: no-one has parental responsibility for her/him; or s/he is lost or abandoned; or the person who has been caring for her/him is unable, for whatever reason and whether permanently or not, to continue to provide suitable care and accommodation; or s/he is aged 16 or 17 and the housing executive considers her/his welfare would be seriously prejudiced if it does not provide accommodation.
Legally there is nothing to stop a young person under the age of 18 renting accommodation. However, landlords, including housing associations and local authority housing departments, usually require a guarantor (someone who guarantees the rent on your behalf. They are responsible for the rent on your home. If you don’t pay the rent, your guarantor will be chased for payment.), before giving a tenancy to someone aged under 18.
A young person (18+) who moves into rented accommodation may need to claim housing benefit.
A child or young person under the age of 18 will not be able to apply for a mortgage to buy accommodation. This is because s/he cannot own property in her/his own right also s/he is unlikely to have sufficient money for a deposit or the income to meet the payments.
In most circumstances, anyone over the age of 16 can leave home without the consent of her/his parents or anyone with parental responsibility. A parent or someone with parental responsibility could take you to court to get you back but it is unlikely that any court would order someone over 16 to return home if s/he did not want to.
A child or young person who is in conflict with her/his parent(s) may be forced to leave home. If the child or young person is aged under 16, a parent has a responsibility to provide her/him with care and accommodation. Once you are over 16 by law you are allowed to move out without parental consent. If a child or young person aged under 16 is forced to leave home social services department is likely to get involved if it becomes aware of what is happening. The local authority may want to discuss with the parent(s) the services it could provide to enable the child to stay at home. If this is not possible, the local authority may try to find a relative to look after/accommodate the child. If the child or young person appears at risk of suffering harm/neglect the social services may consider taking her/him into care.
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