My 18-year-old son is doing nothing to gain independence. He doesn’t work or go to school. All he does all day is lie on the couch, watching TV and playing video games. He eats a lot of food and smells bad, too. I hate to do it, but I want to give him some tough love. Can I kick him out?
I know exactly what you are going through.
You have a duty to support your children until they are emancipated. A child is presumed to be emancipated as a matter of law upon reaching the age of 18. Some factors, such as school and disability, may delay emancipation. A child who is financially self-sufficient may hasten the emancipation.
From the facts you provided, it sounds like your son is emancipated, but not willing to embark on the journey that is adulthood. You are indeed entitled to enact your “tough love” plan and make him leave, but you must do so legally.
Your situation is governed under landlord/tenant law. In essence, you need to evict your son from his residence. I assume that you have no lease with him that allows him to reside with you or obligates him to pay rent. If that is the case, then your “agreement” is presumed to be month-to-month.
To evict a tenant on a month-to-month agreement, you do not need a reason to do so. However, you do have to provide written notice at least 20 days before the end of a rental period. Generally, a rental period ends on the last day of the month, but this is not always the case.
It might be a good idea to give your son written notice that tells him to vacate by the last day of the month following the month when you give him notice. That way, you are sure to have given him sufficient notice.
During the period between notice and when he has to move out, you are not allowed to do anything that would diminish the quality of enjoyment he has in living there. For example, you cannot change the locks, deny him access to the utilities or facilities or otherwise disturb his peace. Doing any of these things could subject you to liability and a claim by him for payment. Basically, you need to treat him as you would treat any tenant in a furnished apartment: in a businesslike manner.
One change that you can make immediately is denying him access to food he does not pay for. This may entail providing him his own space in the kitchen, such as a cupboard and a shelf in the refrigerator where he can put food that he buys for himself. You cannot eat his food, and he cannot eat your food.
If he is not out by the date on the notice, you need to take legal action to remove him. This is called an unlawful detainer action. Under no circumstances can you physically remove him or take the matter into your own hands.
Before you take any action, remember that there are consequences to legal actions.
I hope this helps,
John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org.