Under Maryland law, anyone under the age of 18 is a minor. Anyone 18 years of age or older is an adult. There are exceptions under certain state laws to this general definition of who is a minor but none of these apply to the landlord-tenant relationship. For a rental lease, a minor is anyone under the age of eighteen (18). Read the law: MD Rules of Interpretation § 24
Can a minor sign a lease?
Anyone can sign a lease. The question is whether the person can be held accountable to follow the requirements of the lease, such as paying rent. A lease is a contract. A minor is generally not bound by his or her contracts. This means that, if a minor enters into a contract, the law will allow the minor to "void" the contract. The law gives the minor the power to choose whether s/he wants to honor the contract or avoid the obligation.
However, there is an exception. If a minor receives any of the "basic necessities of life" under a contract, s/he is bound to pay for them at a reasonable price. Lodging is considered a basic necessity (Corpus Juris Secundum, Infants, § 240).
If a tenant is a minor at the beginning of his or her tenancy and continues to live in the premises after reaching age 18, s/he can then be held to the terms of the lease as an adult. (See Maryland Law Encyclopedia, Infants and Minors, §§ 43 & 48).
How can a landlord protect him/herself if a minor wants to rent an apartment?
If a landlord is reluctant to rent to a minor, s/he can protect himself by asking the minor to find an adult to co-sign the lease. If any problems occur, the landlord can pursue the adult for the unpaid rent or other problems.