Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Laws of Eve | Adult children have no legal right to remain at home

Published:Monday | June 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Recently, the eviction of a 30-year-old man from his parents' home in New York made headlines in mainstream and on social media. After living with his parents for eight years, they gave him five notices to leave their home, offered him cash to find new accommodations, and even advice as to how to organise his affairs, but he refused to leave. Instead, he said that he was entitled to six months' notice, although he had been living in their house rent-free and without making a contribution towards any expenses.

Eventually, the parents commenced court action and the New York Supreme Court sided with them. On May 22, the son was ordered to vacate the home, and he did so on June 1.

One of the first tutorials we had as students at the Norman Manley Law School helped us to understand the distinction between various types of occupiers of property - from squatters, who have no interest in property at all, to registered owners, who have both legal and beneficial interest, and the various other types of interest in-between.

The tutor asked his class, comprised of adult students, whether they rented or owned the homes they occupied, or if they lived with their parents. One male student proudly announced that he lived with his parents and had no plans to leave, because he enjoyed all the luxuries, with no attendant obligations, and had done so for his entire life. The tutor calmly asked the student to confirm his age and whether there was any written agreement between him and his parents regarding his continued occupation of their space. When he responded that there was none, the tutor laughed and said, "Well, you are nothing but a bare licensee."

For the non-lawyers, who may not understand why that male student immediately recognised the tenuous state of his living arrangements, and that he remained in his parents' home at their will and not by his choice, let me explain.

The following three points lead to the conclusion that parents have the obligation to provide shelter for their minor children:

Section 27 (1) of the Child Care and Protection Act states that, "It shall be the duty of every person responsible for the maintenance of a child to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, lodging and healthcare appropriate to the age and needs of the child."

Under that act, a child is defined to be "a person under the age of eighteen years".

Section 8 of the Maintenance Act places the responsibility for the maintenance of unmarried minor children, or children who have physical or mental infirmity or disability on their parents.

Together, these sections mean that parents, therefore, have no legal obligation to provide shelter for an adult child, who has no mental or physical infirmity or disability, but resides in their home. That child cannot compel his parents to allow him to remain in their home and, based on the definition of a licence and its features, he may be nothing but a licensee.

The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Campbell v Brown, et al [2016]JMSC Civ 157 makes the point at paragraph 29. The learned judge stated that a licence in connection with property entitles the licensee to use that property for the purposes authorised by the licensor, but the licensee acquires no interest or estate in the property. The licence may be revoked by the licensor and does not bind anyone but the parties to the agreement that created it ... so adult children, beware.

Any adult child who still resides in his parents' home and wishes to remain there would be well advised to play by their rules, or risk eviction.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a Partner, Arbitrator and Mediator in the firm of Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.