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When can I rent a flat or house?


I'm 17 - when can I rent a house or flat?

Q. Hi my name is Emily. I’m 17 and live in Darwin.  I’m finishing school soon and thinking of moving out of home. How old do I have to be to rent a house or flat?

A. Hi Emily. In the Northern Territory, the law says that you must be 16 or older to rent a flat or house . This can be confusing because sometimes young people are restricted from entering contracts before they turn 18. However, it is possible for you to enter into a contract like a lease agreement before you are 18.   The contract will be binding if it is shown that the contract is to your benefit and you knew that it was legally binding when you agreed to it. 

Having enough money upfront

Renting can be expensive and it’s important to work out whether you will have enough money to pay the rent each week. You will need an amount of money upfront equal to four weeks rent for bond money   and at least two weeks rent to give to the landlord when you move in.  A bond is usually four weeks rent which you pay before moving into a rental property – it covers any damage that you may make to the property.

Submit a rental application

When you apply to rent a house the landlord will want to make sure that you are a suitable tenant. They will ask you to provide identification, references and proof of income. If you are under 18 you may find that it is difficult to find a landlord that will rent to you because you don’t have a rental history or people that can say that you have been a good tenant in the past.

It will help you to convince the landlord that you will be a good tenant if you can show:

  • proof of income – show that you receive a regular income and provide references who say that you are a responsible person who will look after the property.  The landlord will ask you to provide the details of your employer or of any Centrelink benefits that you may be entitled to.
  • ID – a landlord will ask you to provide identification like a driver’s license, passport or student ID.
  • References - you will also need to provide names of at least two references.  A reference is someone the landlord can call to see if you are a reliable person.    It would be helpful if your references came from older people who have a position of responsibility.   This could be an adult who is a teacher, doctor or someone else you know.

If your rental application is successful the landlord will ask you to sign a Tenancy Agreement (also known as a lease). A Tenancy Agreement is a written legal agreement between the person who rents the house or flat (tenant), and the person who owns it (landlord). The landlord may be represented by a real estate agent. The Tenancy Agreement sets out your rights and responsibilities when renting the property . 

You should definitely read the Tenancy Agreement very carefully before you sign it and get legal advice if you do not understand it or you feel it is unfair.

If you’re having trouble getting approved for a place because of your age

It is against the law for a Landlord to refuse to rent a house to you because of your age . It can be difficult to prove this as there can be a number of legal reasons why the landlord doesn’t want to rent their property to you such as:

  • not having a regular income;
  • not having a good rental history;
  • not being able to supply references who can vouch for you as a responsible tenant;
  • not having the money to pay for bond money and rent in advance.

If you believe that your rental application was rejected solely because of your age and you would like to do something about it you can complain directly to the landlord or real estate agent.  You can also make a complaint to:

Staying at home

Emily, there are also laws that say that your parents are responsible for you until you are 18. This means that they must take care of you and ensure that you have a safe place to live. While it is technically not against the law for you to leave home before you turn 18 your parents can contact the police or the Department of Children and Families and ask for their help to have you return home. Whether or not you have to return home is subject to a lot of factors however you won’t be made to go back home if it is not safe for you there.  If you have more questions about this, please send us a Lawmail.

If you have another question about renting a house or a flat, please send us a Lawmail


For more information on repairs and damage to a rental property, check out these videos:

1. What happens if I damage my rental property?


2. What happens if my landlord won't fix a repair?

I'm a co-tenant - how do I get my bond back?

Check out this video for more information:


When can I do if my co-tenant stops paying rent?

Check out this video for more information:



Can I sublet my room?

Check out this video for more information:


Further information you can find here:


This content was last updated on March 2015.

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