Should You Charge Your Teen Rent?

Collecting rent from a teen may be a kind thing to do.
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Many parents wonder whether it’s ever appropriate to charge a teenager rent. While you shouldn’t charge rent while your teen is attending high school, there may be times when becoming a landlord is appropriate. In fact, charging your teen rent might be the kindest thing you could do in some circumstances.

When to Charge Rent

As long as your teen is attending school full-time (whether it’s high school or college), don’t charge rent.

But, don’t let him continue the free ride if he’s not furthering his education.

Here are a few examples of when you should expect your teen to contribute to his room and board:

  • Your 16-year-old drops out of high school and says he wants to get a job.
  • Your 17-year-old quits school and says he’d prefer to just get his GED.
  • Your 18-year-old wants to live at home after he graduates from high school. He plans to find a job, rather than go to college.
  • Your 19-year-old drops out of college after one semester.

The Dangers of Not Charging Rent

There’s nothing wrong with allowing your teen or young adult to live at home for a few extra years while she earns money or gains the skills she needs to live on her own. But allowing her to live rent-free could be harmful to her—as well as your relationship. Here are a few dangers of not charging rent:

  • Your child will miss out on learning skills. Independent living teaches valuable life skills, ranging from budgeting skills to self-discipline. The longer your teen delays paying rent, the longer it will take for her to gain those skills.
  • Your child’s emotional growth could be stunted. Independent living requires young people to face their fears, step outside their comfort zones, and deal with stress on their own. Charging rent could be instrumental in helping your child build mental strength.
  • Not charging rent could be taxing on your income. Helping your child out financially could be harmful to your nest egg. Many parents delay retirement or give up things so they can continue supporting their children beyond the age of 18.
  • You may fuel your child’s fantasy about independent living. If your teen doesn’t pay rent, he’ll be free to spend his money however he wants. He may buy expensive things that won’t be able to afford once he has to pay rent.
  • Your teen may grow more dependent on you. Your teen should be gaining independence over time. But as long as he’s living in your home rent-free, he may grow increasingly dependent on you to take care of him. He may doubt his ability to live on his own.

How Much Rent Should You Charge Your Teen?

Research local rental advertisements to get a good idea about what your teen might pay for a one bedroom apartment. Charge a little bit less for his room and board in your home.

Decide what other expenses you’re going to make your teen responsible for paying. Car insurance, gas money, and entertainment are a few of the bills he could start to cover on his own.

Make sure he knows that he’ll have added expenses when he moves out. Utilities, cable, and groceries, for example, may be more expensive than he anticipates.

What Should You Do With the Money You Collect?

Some parents feel uncomfortable collecting rent from their children. They feel guilty about spending it or putting it in their own bank account.

If you don’t want to use the money for yourself, you could set the rent aside in a special account. Then, invest it into a retirement account for your teen or use it to help pay for your teen’s education if he decides to take classes at a later date.

But, you are certainly free to use the money however you want. Use it to cover your expenses, go on vacation, or save it up for retirement if you wish.  

Teach Your Teen Valuable Money Lessons Early

It’s important to start teaching your teen valuable lessons about money as soon as possible. Assigning chores and giving an allowance at a young age will teach your child basic money skills.

As he grows older, make your child responsible to pay for some of his own clothing or his entertainment. Teach him about budgeting and assist him in setting aside money for savings. No matter how old your teen is, it’s never too late to start teaching him to be financially savvy.

When your teen pays rent, he’ll learn how to start being more responsible with his money. If he’s late on the rent, or he’s struggling to manage his money, turn his mistakes into learning opportunities.

With practice—and more guidance—he will be able to be successful at paying his own way when he’s on his own. Your goal should be to ensure that he’s able to be independent once he moves out of the house.

Establish Healthy Guidelines

If you’re going to charge your teen rent, establish some guidelines that will help you live together more comfortably. It’s important to ensure that your rent collection serves as a worthwhile practice for both you and your teen.

Create rules that will ensure your teen learns from the opportunity you’re giving him. Here are a few examples of expectations you might set:

  • We’ll review your budget together. Tell your teen he needs to sit down with you once a week to assess his budget. Help him figure out how much he needs to set aside to cover his bills.
  • Late rent will lead to interest charges. Allowing your teen to be late on the rent every month won’t do him any favors. Hold him accountable by charging interest—even if it’s only a few dollars. His next landlord likely won’t be as kind so it’s important to teach him to pay on time.
  • In six months I’ll help you find an apartment. Make sure you have an end goal in mind. If your teen thinks he can live with you forever, he might not save up any money to money to move out.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Talk about rent-related issues as they arise to prevent them from damaging your relationship.

Remember, that you are still in charge. So even when your teen pays rent, he doesn't have the right to break your rules, behave disrespectfully, or do whatever he pleases. You still own your home or pay for your apartment, so you get to set the rules.

When used appropriately, collecting rent from your teen could enhance your relationship and may better prepare your teen for the future.

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