Can a 16-year-old continue to live in a house alone if his father is in jail?

Q: If a single father is sent to jail for 6 months, is it legal for his 16-year-old son to continue to live alone at the home they rented? Does the child need to be emancipated? Are there any legal/liability implications for the landlord in this situation? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: The child is still a minor and therefore is without proper supervision or control of an adult. This would constitute “neglect” under the Juvenile Act. This probably should be brought to the attention of the police or CYF. They will likely place him with a relative or friend of the family and if none are available, place him in shelter until he could be placed in foster care. A “mandated reporter” would have a duty to notify CYF or the police of a minor in such a situation. As a landlord, I do not think you are a mandated reporter. However, given the well-being of the child, it would be wise to notify CYF or the police. If you want to go above and beyond, you can reach out to his family to see if someone can take him in or someone can live in the apartment until his father is released.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.