This is How Old You Have to Be to Live Alone in the UK

This is How Old You Have to Be to Live Alone in the UK

In the UK, a person is considered a child until the age of 18. The more than 40 rights of children named in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) apply up to the age of 18. However, certain rights begin before that time.

Throughout the UK, the legal age to move out of your parents’ home and live alone is technically 18, but in most cases will be granted at 16. While in England and Wales, parental consent is required until age 18, the House of Commons Library states that it is unlikely any UK court would force a 16 or 17-year-old child to move back home.

If a young adult moves out at age 18, there is no need for parental consent and no legal grounds for parents’ opposition. However, before age 18, parents can petition against it, even if the government isn’t likely to decide in their favour.

Overall, while you can move out at age 16, living independently requires more than just the legal right to move from the home of a parent or guardian. Considerations like education, work and finances are an essential part of the decision. And some of these things are more easily accessible at the age of 18.

Legal Considerations of Living Alone Between the Age 16 and 18

Some teens make the choice to move or have no choice but to move because of issues in their current living situation. For instance, they may be homeless. Perhaps they have run away from a bad situation or were ejected from their parents’ home. Maybe their parents themselves have lost the family home and are unable to provide shelter.

Social service organizations like Childline provide information and advice for teenagers who need help with money, housing, education and other supports.

The legal age to rent a house or flat or apply for a mortgage is 18. So, even with ample financial resources, a child of 16 or 17 may need assistance finding an adequate living arrangement. For those youth without enough income, there is assistance available in the form of youth housing support options and financial assistance. Organizations like Childline or Shelter England can help.

Once a young adult turns 18, it is lawful for them to rent a home of their own. If they don’t have the money to do that, those same social service resources can also offer advice about housing support for those 18 and over. 

Finishing School When You’re Living on Your Own

You can move out on your own as early as 16. When you do so, there are still laws regarding your education. If you choose to leave secondary school in the UK, you may do so but not without some caveats. 

What age you can leave school depends on where in the UK you live. But there are still education obligations you are required to fill until age 18. Aside from the governmental requirement, getting a strong start on your own is going to require the furtherance of your education and/or job preparation.

Educational Requirements of the UK by Country

Country When You Can Leave What You Must Do to Until Age 18 to Lawfully Complete Your Education
England The last Friday in June, if you turn 16 by the end of that same summer. Stay in full-time education until
Start an apprenticeship or traineeship
Spend 20+ hours per week working or volunteering, while staying in education or training part-time.
Scotland In June, if you turn 16 by Sept. 30 of that school year or At Christmas holiday if you turn 16 by February 28 of that school year. Go to college or university
Get a job or apprenticeship
Start a business
Join the armed forces
Take one gap year 
Wales The last Friday in June, if you turn 16 by the end of that same summer. Stay in full-time education
Start an apprenticeship or traineeship
Northern Ireland In July if you turn16 by July 1 of the same summer.   Go to college or university
Get a job or work experience
Get an apprenticeship

Some Ways to Complete Your Education

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you can apply for EMA to help with studying costs.

Bursary Fund
In England, young people may be eligible to apply for a 16 to 19-year-old Bursary Fund to help with studying cost. A bursary is paid directly by the school, college or training provider.

International Baccalaureate (IB)
A program of education for 16-19-year-old students around the world and internationally recognized. This leads to an IB diploma that assists with getting into University.

Higher National Diploma (HND)
HND is a further education qualification for 14- to 19-year-olds in England. This less classroom-based program provides options for practical, hands-on learning, ideal for specialized trades and industries.

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)
An NVQ is a work-based award in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, achieved through assessment and training. In Scotland, they are known as Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

Apprenticeships offer the ability to learn while earning, by combining practical on-the-job training with study for one to four years. Young people have the chance to work alongside experienced staff and gain skills unique to the workplace. An apprenticeship is an increasingly well-respected qualification.

If you are not yet experienced enough to apply for an apprenticeship, you may be eligible to apply for a traineeship. A traineeship is a paid opportunity, specifically designed to provide you with the required training that will allow you to progress to employment or an apprenticeship.

Affordable Living Options for 16 to 18-Year-Olds

Brick house in Windsor, England

Especially on your first time out, navigating your way through housing options can be challenging. If you’re employed, you can count on housing costs to consume a fair chunk of your income. You need to know what you can afford.

Renting from a Private Landlord

Here are some options available as rentals through a private landlord, beginning with the most affordable:

  • Organizations like the YMCA rent out individual rooms
  • A bedsit may mean renting a bedroom or a small suite within someone’s home. Or it may mean a studio-type flat that has one single living space for bed, living room and kitchen.
  • A flat is a slightly larger rental unit with separate bedroom(s)
  • A maisonette is a flat split between two floors
  • Rental house or bungalow

Sharing the Rent

Of course, moving into your own rental will be more affordable with a roommate. Living with friends or relatives can also make the transition easier and halve the bills!

Online apps provide platforms for roommate searching but use them with caution. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • SpareRoom is one of the go-to websites for finding a flat. It’s free to use but you will have more success with the paid version.
  • Check Facebook Groups, Aussies in London, Kiwis in London and many others have weekly flat posts. These are London centric but there are plenty of Facebook groups out there.
  • MoveFlat is another flatshare option, it isn’t as popular as SpareRoom but use all the tools you have.
  • Gumtree is another option, I tend to stay away from this one as it is easier to get scammed.

Depending on where you rent in the UK, to save on cost flatshare may be your most affordable option.

How to find a flat in London article has tone of good information for you to consider. While this is based on renting as a shorthold tenancy and aimed at people renting in London there are so many good tips in the article. Some shared agreements will be under this agreement so it is good to know what you should expect.

Important Considerations for Renters

The cost of living is always more than rent alone. Being aware of the bills you can expect is important in knowing your budget before you start the rental hunt.

You can see my yearly breakdown of how much it’s cost me to live in London from 2018 until 2020. London is the most expensive place to live in the UK but it helps socialise the costs you can expect when you move out.

Know Your Bills

Woman looking at the house bills

There will be utility costs, such as gas, water, electricity and phone. Renters must know in advance who will be assuming these costs. Not doing so can bring some unwelcome surprises and additional stress. Most rentals request deposit money be put down when you sign a lease, too.

For Electricity, Gas, Wi-Fi and mobile phone you can choose your own providers.

Some of the big suppliers for electricity and gas are:

  • E. ON
  • British Gas
  • EDF Energy
  • Npower
  • Scottish Power
  • and SSE.

As there are more than 20 suppliers providing electricity and gas I find it easier using websites like Money Super MarketGo Compare or U-Switch will help you narrow which provider you should choose.

For water you will need to sign-up to the local supplier in the area.

More information about council rates check you will need to check with your local borough.

Know Your Rights

Resources such as the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Shelter England are important to look into. They’ll let you know your rights and can be of great help as you enter into the unknown.

Social housing

Social housing is the collective name subsidized housing owned by registered social landlords in the private and charity sectors. The demand for these homes generally far outweighs supply and is allocated based on need, so you’ll have to contact an agency to find out if you are eligible.

Housing Benefit

If you are paying rent and are on a low income then you may be eligible to claim housing benefit from your local council. Start with a local agency, like Citizens Advice to go over your current situations and weigh your options.

More Resources for Preparing to Live Alone in the UK

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