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Charging a Teenager Rent – Is it Right or Wrong?

One of the greatest debates between parents is whether charging a teenager rent is a reasonable course of action. Upon the age of eighteen, many parents begin enforcing a rent policy, while some parents feel that as soon as a kid in employed, rent should become part of the financial obligations. Some parents feel that rent is for people who are not family, and should never be charged to a family member. So how does a parent decide whether they are going to put a price tag on the things that your child is used to receiving for free?

Before charging a teenager rent, it might be prudent to not only take an honest look at your motivations but also the positive and negative consequences of taking such an action. The theory implored by living under your roof and thus living under your rules might actually be placed in jeopardy by enforcing a rent district in your home. Whether you realize it or not, charging rent can actually be subtly liberating for a teen. In most cases, the new level of freedom goes unspoken, but you have raised the status of the teenager paying rent. You have made them a contributor rather than a complete dependant. Even if the rent is small, the psychological aspects of paying rent are bound to rear up, and dealing with them promptly is the only way to negate the long term effects.

Invoking your right to rent can prove to be a valuable lesson. It can help teach responsibility, money management, and action—consequences relativity. However, are you prepared to respond if the rent isn’t paid? You are most definitely going to find out just how much your teenager respects your word when the rent doesn’t show up week after week and he shows no signs of being concerned. Perhaps he doesn’t believe there will be any real consequences for the behavior. If you are not prepared to enforce some sort of reasonable response for the non-payment of rent, then you are in effect teaching your child that you are a pushover and that there are many ways to get around being responsible in this life. While I do not advocate actually evicting a child who is unprepared to deal with the realities of the great big world, disconnecting televisions that are perhaps located in the bedroom, restricting car usage for work only, and of course, providing only nutritious meals and leaving the house completely devoid of snacks would be one method of explaining that the rent needs to be paid.

Extremism is never a good quality. If you plan on charging a teenager rent when he or she turns 18, you might need a little wiggle room on when the first installment is actually due. If, for example, your son’s eighteenth birthday is in the month of February, but he doesn’t graduate from high school until June, perhaps it would be prudent to expect the first rent installment two weeks after high school graduation. This gives him ample time to line up employment, if he doesn’t already have one, as well as explore his other options while he is not dealing with the extreme stressors that can accompany the senior year testing requirements. If you are demanding rent on his eighteenth birthday, you are really asking him to place emphasis on monetary gain, rather than studying, during the final year of school.

Over charging is another extreme position. You can expect an eighteen year old to be able to come up with mortgage every month. Allowing a little bit of financial flexibility is important. After all, he isn’t likely to be pulling in any more than minimum wage at the Shop ‘n’’ Bag, and if his studies are anywhere close to where they are supposed to be, he can’t work forty hour work weeks.

Not all experts agree with the notion of charging a family member to live in the family home. In fact, some experts cite that this once common phenomenon is actually detrimental to the teenage psyche. We tell our children that they are loved, that they can count on us, and that they are a part of a family no matter what. Turning around and expecting them to pay for the same privileges they had when they were 16 or 17 doesn’t always make sense. What, in essence, many experts believe you are saying in these cases is, ‘you had a home and a family that would always stand by you and welcome you and care for you. But you are now eighteen so the rules have changed and now you must provide financial assistance to the house hold in order to receive the same things you did before.’” Many kids in this age range believe that they are being treated unfairly and that the rent they are expected to pay is symbolism for the loss of family security.

Some experts walk a fine line in between which, for the record, is where your author stands as well. When a kid is going after an education, such as high school, college, trade school, or technical school, their time at home should be free. Their ‘job’” so to speak, and their ‘contribution’” is to themselves, their education, and their future. It is an extremely stressful world out there and there is no need to further complicate things by determining that rent paid to the parents is now appropriate based on age. High school drop outs, kids who choose to go straight into the workforce, or kids who believe that once high school is over their fun times takes priority might need a little wake up call regarding what life expects of all of us. Under these circumstances, not charging a teenager rent may be enabling a lazy lifestyle.

Each circumstance is different and every family is different. Charging a teenager rent might seem reasonable to you because your parents did to you on your eighteenth birthday. Before making a decision like this, review your reasons, what you expect to gain from it, and what your child will gain (or lose) from it. If you’re going to go ahead and go so far as to sign a lease or a rental agreement, make sure that as a parent you are able to follow through on the consequences set forth before ever accepting a penny in rent. After all, this is your child, and children, especially teenagers, make a lot of mistakes that require an adult to bail them out.

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