A child's legal rights Bedroom sharing and moving out

It's important to make sure children are safe and comfortable whether they're sleeping at home or staying somewhere else. There isn't legislation in the United Kingdom on bedroom sharing but our guidance can help you to decide when it's appropriate for children to share a bedroom at home or on holiday.

As children grow up they may start thinking about moving out or be asked to leave home. We've explained the legislation that ensures children are safe and that support is available for young people who move out.

Bedroom sharing

Girl reading in bed

There is currently no law in the United Kingdom about children of different genders sharing a bedroom. We would not advise that children of the opposite sex over the age of 10 share a room.

Parents and carers need to decide sleeping arrangements in the family home to ensure that all children are safe and their needs are met. As children get older and their desire for privacy increases, sleeping arrangements may need to be reviewed.

If you're renting or your home is owned by a housing association there may be rules in place restricting children over 10 of the opposite sex from sharing a room. Your local authority should be able to give you more information and discuss any concerns. You can also contact an experienced advisor in housing matters at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or by speaking to the housing charity Shelter who can also advise on issues such as bedroom tax.

If the arrangement is for a short time parents or carers need to decide in advance where everyone will be sleeping.

Speak to everyone individually and if anyone feels uncomfortable with the suggested arrangements then an alternative needs to be found.

Before staying away from home it's always a good idea to speak to children about staying safe. For younger children remind them of The Underwear Rule and for older children you can see our tips on conversation starters. Tell them they can always speak to you or another trusted adult if anything makes them feel uncomfortable or is worrying them.

Moving out

Tree teenage girls in a parkAs young people get older they may start to think about moving out and finding a place of their own.

They may choose to live with friends or partners, to move for work or due to family conflict. Parents may even ask their children to leave the home.

At what age can a child leave home?

Parents of under-16 year olds are legally responsible for making sure their child has somewhere safe to stay. 

If a child under 16 is made to leave or does not feel safe in their home, local Children’s Services can help.

Children's Services can arrange for a child to live with another family member or friend, or provide emergency accommodation, such as a foster placement.

Young people aged 16 or 17 who want to leave home should get their parents' official consent first as well as proof that they can financially support themselves. If they choose to move out they are not legally entitled to have a tenancy agreement to rent a property in their own name.

Once a young person reaches 16 their parents can ask them to move out. We advise that parents consider the child's ability to support themselves as they are still responsible for their child until they reach 18.

16 and 17 year olds may be classed as homeless if

  • they decide to leave home as they feel unsafe there
  • they are forced to leave by a parent and have no other living arrangements.

A homeless child may be considered as a 'child in need' and are entitled to accommodation from their local authority Children's Services, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. Some may be able to live with family members or friends either on an occasional, temporary or more long-term basis.

Shelter provide further information and advice for adults and young people on their housing rights. Shelter also have a dedicated housing advice helpline which can be contacted on Freephone 0808 800 4444.

The Foyer Federation provide safe and secure housing, support and training for young people aged 16 to 25 who are homeless or in housing need and want to develop skills and independence.

When a child becomes an adult at 18 they can legally move out without their parents’ consent and are able to apply for a tenancy agreement.

The Foyer Federation provide safe and secure housing, support and training for young people aged 16 to 25 who are homeless or in housing need and want to develop skills and independence.

When a child in care reaches 16 they will make a plan with the local authority to help prepare them for independence.

When they reach 18 they are no longer in care but will be supported by the local authority until they are 21 (longer if they are in education or training). 

The local authority will help them decide where they are going to live, whether they’ll stay in education and what further support they might need. More information on leaving care can be found on Gov.uk.

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