My cousin leased the apartment which he inherited from his parents. The lease contract is for one year, which began only last January. The truth is, he was only 17 years old at the time he signed the contract as he only turned 18 years old last February. He did not disclose this fact to the tenant who, up to now, thinks he is already 20 years old. He said that he only decided to lease the apartment, because he needed the money to pay his school loan. He was worried that the tenant might back out if the latter would know that he is still “under age.” So, he signed the contract which stated that he is already of legal age. He received the rental payments from January up to this month, but he now wants to terminate the contract. Can he do this? Can he claim minority in order to terminate the contract?
A contract binds the parties thereto and has the force of law between them. Consequently, the terms and conditions thereof must be complied with in good faith (Article 1305 in relation to Article 1159, New Civil Code of the Philippines). But it must be emphasized that a valid contract can only exist when the following essential requisites concur: (1) Consent of the contracting parties; (2) Object certain which is the subject matter of the contract; (3) Cause of the obligation which is established (Article 1318, Ibid.)
In the situation which you have presented, it is clear that the second and third requisites are present. The object of the contract is the apartment which your cousin inherited from his parents, and the cause or consideration thereof is the rental payment.
Insofar as the first requisite, it is evident that the parties consented to the lease agreement when they affixed their signatures in the contract. It bears stressing, though, that your cousin has no legal capacity to give consent at the time their contract was entered into considering that he was still a minor then. As provided under the law, minors cannot give consent to a contract and the same is voidable, even though there may have been no damage to the contracting parties. (Article 1327 (1) in relation to Article 1390 (1), Id.)
However, your cousin may no longer seek to annul the said contract on account of his minority, because he is already estopped from raising the same. For one, he agreed to such lease despite knowing fully well that he is still a minor. Secondly, bad faith can be inferred from his actions since he consciously concealed the fact of his minority to the other party as he was apprehensive that their contract might not materialize and he will not have the necessary funds to settle his school loan. Lastly, he continued accepting rental payments when he already reached the age of majority and thereafter. Thus, he cannot now avail remedy for his own misdoings.
In one case where the obligor only informed the obligee of his minority one month after he conveyed his share in the property and even accepted money thereafter, our Supreme Court ruled: “x x x The circumstance that, about one month after the date of the conveyance, the appellee informed the appellants of his minority, is of no moment, because appellee’s previous misrepresentation had already estopped him from disavowing the contract. Said belated information merely leads to the inference that the appellants in fact did not know that the appellee was a minor on the date of the contract, and somewhat emphasizes appellee’s bad faith, when it is borne in mind that no sooner had he given said information than he ratified his deed of sale upon receiving from the appellants the sum of P500. x x x”(Sia Suan and Gaw Chiao vs.Alcantara, G.R. No. L-1720, March 4, 1950)
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.