My husband and I bought our neighbor’s home that went into foreclosure after he died.
I agreed to purchase the home with my husband if we both paid half. I paid most of the cost of the home. The plan was to fix it up, and rent or sell it. My husband did most of the work on the home himself. We wanted to separate 28 acres of land to add to our property. We have owned the home for two and a half years.
My stepdaughter wanted to rent the home. I told her she would need one or two roommates to be able to afford it. She said that would be no problem. She moved in March 2020, paid $600 a month and does not want a roommate. She now pays $800 a month. The home can rent for $1,500 a month and sell for about $200,000. She is 35 and is getting her doctorate in one to two years.
‘I am really angry. I want her to move out, and I want to sell the home.’
I am really angry. I want her to move out, and I want to sell the home. I said if she worked on landscaping and projects on the properties to make up for the rent I would be OK with that, but she said, “I’m not doing that.” It has caused many arguments. My husband riled me up when he stated, “All you care about is money.”
I do care about money, especially when it is mine. I am being taken advantage of. I want to sell the home. My husband can help his daughter pay for an apartment if he wants, but I don’t want to pay for her to live in a home. I have no debt and plenty saved for retirement. I am 62 and hope to retire at 64. I work full-time nights as a nurse. I would appreciate your advice.
Wife and Stepmother
She can move a roommate in — or ship out.
If she had a bad roommate in the past, get another roommate. It’s not fair or right to be precious or play loose with other people’s property, or their money. One person’s discomfort with a roommate does not void their responsibility as an adult living in someone else’s home to keep their word when they moved in.
Take emotion and personalities out of the equation. If your husband wants to subsidize his daughter, who broke her promise to him, that’s up to him. You receive half the $1,500 market rent of $750, and your husband gets the other $50. You had an arrangement with him and his daughter. It was not you who broke it.
Of course, that’s also $750 not going toward your joint retirement. If you both get angry, this messy situation will become about your feelings rather than the broken agreement. The subtext — “she believes I’m greedy/I believe she’s entitled” — will become more powerful than the facts. Stick to the latter, and keep your cool.
Stick to the facts, and keep your cool.
When family members move into properties and make promises to pay the rent, they often have two things in their favor: 1. trust, which usually means they don’t sign a rental agreement, and 2. leverage. They know the dynamics of the family and can play them like a neighbor who blasts their stereo at 3 a.m., leaving everyone feeling overwhelmed, confused and worn out.
Renting to a family member who uses their relationships as a way to reduce the rent and/or change the conditions of the tenancy creates a constant source of chaos. Exhibit A: the woman who rented to her niece before her sister moved in too, refused to pay the agreed-upon rent, and stayed on for years. Their motto is one of reverse hospitality: “Tu casa es mi casa.”
This is like a made-for-TV, failure-to-launch B-movie sequel to “Kramer vs. Kramer.” So what do you do now? Tell your husband and stepdaughter that it’s not a good idea to mix a business investment with family, and that your stepdaughter went back on her word to have roommates.
You cannot afford for her to play the role of Princess Ph.D.
Your stepdaughter is playing you off each other, relying on the old “evil stepmother” trope to wangle cheap accommodation. If she is allowed to renege on her word now, what precedent does that set for your family, and what lesson does this send to her about how the world works?
More importantly, who pays for this lost rent? You’re going to work to support your husband’s and your financial future. You paid most of the money for this home, and now you are working long shifts, part of which go toward supplementing your stepdaughter’s rent. You cannot afford for her to play the role of Princess Ph.D.
Yes, it’s about money. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also about keeping your word and showing your family respect, and now endorsing poor behavior. She has chosen not to accept a roommate in a house that she cannot afford. Give her a deadline to move out after your state’s eviction moratorium expires.
I don’t believe the current arrangement is respectful or a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. She may be a hardworking, kind, wonderful person, but you had an agreement, and her behavior acknowledge this home is a large financial responsibility, and she is benefiting from that and taking advantage of it.
Even in the absence of a lease, she broke the social contract — not you.
By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.
The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.
More from Quentin Fottrell: