Leaving home is a natural milestone in a young person’s life, but it can still feel like a massive step into the unknown. Good preparation is key to avoiding problems further down the line.
Don’t feel obliged to move into your own place just because you’ve reached a certain stage in your life (unless, of course, you feel unsafe at home). While there are lots of positives to branching out alone, there are also some downsides, i.e. paying rent, Council Tax and utility bills, and being responsible for household chores.
Before you make your decision, why not talk to someone who has recently left home about their own experience?
When can a young person legally leave home?
Young people under the age of 16 are still legally the responsibility of an adult. This means you cannot leave home without your parents’ or guardians’ consent.
If you want to leave home because you feel unsafe or are being abused, contact your council’s Local Safeguarding Team. In an emergency, always call 999.
16 and 17 year olds
If you leave home without official consent (from your parent or guardian), you are unlikely to be ordered back against your will. 16 and 17 year olds are not legally entitled to a tenancy but they can still rent a property and are covered by certain rights. If you are worried about your accommodation rights contact Shelter Cymru or your local council.
If the reason you want to leave home is because you feel unsafe or are being abused, seek support from your council’s Local Safeguarding Team.
18 years old and over
Once you are 18, the law says you can leave home without your parents’ or guardians’ permission.
If you have decided to leave home, it’s advisable to talk to your family to explain and discuss your reasons why. They may be able to resolve any issues leading to the decision or may be able to help find you a new home or lend a hand in other ways.
The first thing to do before you look for your new home is to draw up a budget. This will help you work out what kind of accommodation you can realistically afford. If you are moving into rented accommodation you will probably need to pay a deposit and one month’s rent up front.
You may also need to buy furniture and household goods for your new home. If cash is short, why not consider buying second-hand from charity shops, furniture recycling schemes and car boot sales or from websites like eBay and Gumtree; you might even be able to get some items free from websites like Freecycle and Freegle. Many towns also have Facebook pages where members sell or give away unwanted items.
Help with housing costs
You can’t usually apply for benefits until you are 18. Care leavers under 18 are eligible for financial support from their local council, while specific benefits are available to disabled young people.
Since April 2017, there is no automatic entitlement to the housing costs element of Universal Credit for young people aged 18 to 21 who live in areas where the full digital service has been rolled out. In Wales, this ‘roll-out’ will be complete by the end of July 2018.
Some 18 to 21 year olds claiming Universal Credit will still be able to get help with their housing costs. Those who are claiming Housing Benefit will not be affected until they stop claiming it and later make a claim for housing support through Universal Credit.
Finding somewhere to live
Finding your new home may take longer than you think so it’s best not to rush into leaving home before you find somewhere to live. Think carefully about the type of place you would like, what you can afford to pay in rent and bills, and whether you are willing to share accommodation with others. Depending on your age and the reason you are leaving home, you might be considered to have a ‘priority need’ for social housing.
Shelter Cymru offers expert housing advice. Call 0345 075 5005 (9.30am – 4pm, Monday to Friday).