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Should my sister's boyfriend be paying rent to my parents?
February 18, 2013 1:11 PM   Subscribe

My parents are now asking my sister's new live-in boyfriend to pay rent while he lives in her house, which they co-own and are paying the mortgage on. Is this right?

My middle-aged sister has a new boyfriend that she's been seeing since last summer.
After about 3 or 4 months of dating, he moved in with her and her young autistic son.

She doesn't work, and she relies on my parents for financial support for herself and her son. A few years ago they bought her house for her - the title is in both my sister's and my mother's name, but the mortgage is being paid off
by my folks. When it's paid off, it will be entirely in my sister's name (at least I think this is the deal).

The boyfriend works but doesn't earn much (this may change later in the year), and has previous marriages and a previous child that he pays child support on. I've met him
and he seems very nice and very straightforward, a decent guy, a good change from her ex. My parents like him, and he is apparently very good with my autistic nephew.

Financially, however (as I understand it), he seems to be paying little more than his share of the food bill, and my parents would like him to pay rent, either to my sister or (because they really don't
trust my sister on these kinds of financial things after some bad history) to them, something like 2/3 of what a studio apartment would go for in her area. It's a very nice, large house, nicely furnished, repainted, all new appliances, etc, and my parents and I have done extensive work on the house and yard since the purchase. It's nice.

My sister asked me to talk to my mom about this new rent requirement, which she believes that the boyfriend would not want to pay, and apparently the boyfriend feels that my parents dislike him and that they treat my sister like a child. And my sister feels that my mom is very controlling; which is true, she can be.
I suppose my sister is afraid that this will drive him away and this is one of her last chances at a good relationship esp. with an autistic son.

At first I felt that requiring him to pay rent was wrong, but after talking to friends I've had a change of heart, and am now uncertain.

I'd really like people's opinions on the situation.
posted by Auden to Work & Money (53 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your parents support your sister and her son, are paying her mortgage, and your sister is balking at the idea that her live-in boyfriend needs to pay rent?

I can't see how this is unreasonable to the boyfriend or your sister.
posted by xingcat at 1:16 PM on February 18, 2013 [50 favorites]


Whether he should be required to pay rent is a red herring. (If I were your sister, I'd ask him to pay something.) The problem is that your parents are trying to make that decision, when it should be your sister's. They are, as the boyfriend says, treating her like a child. It is manipulative and controlling to give someone a gift and then attach strings to it after the fact. No gift, no matter how generous, entitles them to run your sister's life in perpetuity.
posted by enn at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


apparently the boyfriend feels that my parents dislike him and that they treat my sister like a child

These positions seem to contradict one another. Am I reading this correctly that the boyfriend thinks (1) asking him to pay rent is an indication of "dislike" but (2) not asking your sister to pay rent is an indication of treating her "like a child"?

And why is this strictly a moral/emotional conversation? Has anyone asked your parents how much they can afford to do without compromising their own retirement/health security?

I don't know anything about your family but if anything is weird here it would be no more weird if the boyfriend started paying rent (discounted rent, to boot).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can understand where your parents are coming from; they agreed to buy your sister the house, but when they made that agreement it presumably didn't come with an agreement that your sister could have any roommates (romantic or otherwise) to live for free with her. Presumably her boyfriend would have been paying rent somewhere else if this situation wouldn't have come along, so I'm not sure why he should expect to be exempt from that obligation of adulthood. I understand that his financial situation doesn't seem great, but then the appropriate thing to do is to work out a rent arrangement that won't break the bank for him.

As for her fear that the expectation of paying rent would ruin their relationship: if paying rent drives him away, then that's not a relationship that's built to last, anyway.
posted by scody at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [34 favorites]


Until your sister is paying her own way in the world, she can't complain about the people who are paying her bills for her. That's just messed up and entitled and all kinds of unpleasant.

As for the boyfriend. I don't think they're out of line in asking for rent. He's a body in their house, using up extra electric, gas, water, heat, etc. Is the plan that your sister and her dude get to live in the house for nearly free while your folks pay for it?

I don't know any right-thinking adult who would think that was okay. He may be a nice guy, but he's a bum if he's not paying rent.

Let's flip the script somewhat. What if your sister were paying for the house all on her own. What would you think of a guy who moved in and let her pay all of the bills? A bum. Right?

Why would your sister move this guy in with her, if he wasn't helping financially? Sounds like another round of bad decision making on her part.

As for speaking to your mom on your sister's behalf. Hells no! If your sister has an issue, then she needs to put her big-girl panties on and deal with it!

How old is your sister? She's acting like a teenager.

I'd stay far, far away from this and let your parents and your sister work it out.

Here's what I'd say to your sister, "Sis, I love you, but I don't think it's right that you've let BF move in without an express understanding that he's got to support himself. Mom and Dad are helping your out financially and I think that you're taking advantage. If you were paying the whole mortage, no one would get a vote, but you're not. If you still have an issue with this, that's a battle you have to fight for yourself. But I think it would be better if your boyfriend would man up and pay a couple hundred bucks to mom and dad."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:20 PM on February 18, 2013 [30 favorites]


My sister asked me to talk to my mom about this new rent requirement, which she believes that the boyfriend would not want to pay, and apparently the boyfriend feels that my parents dislike him and that they treat my sister like a child. And my sister feels that my mom is very controlling; which is true, she can be.
I suppose my sister is afraid that this will drive him away and this is one of her last chances at a good relationship esp. with an autistic son.


Well, of course he wouldn't want to pay. Given the option, who would want to pay rent? You pay it because it's an obligation.

The truth is that him being there costs them money. They're obviously more than happy to support their daughter and grandchild, but someone else? Well, that's more than they signed on for. I don't like your sister's apparent sense of entitlement. She does realize that it costs more for a house when another person is in it, right?

Nothing in life is truly free. For living in this house rent free, there are strings. If she doesn't like them, she should start finding another place to live.

As long as your parents aren't soaking him on rent, then it's fair to ask him to pay his fair share.

As for you...stay out of it as much as you can. Only pain can come from being in the middle.
posted by inturnaround at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe a healthier way to look at it, for your sister, is that the parents are now asking "the sister's family" to pay rent, now that they have two adults in the family. Since only the boyfriend is working, he is the one on the hook for the rent, no?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


When my boyfriend and I moved in together, we split our bills - he didn't get to move in with me rent-free. Living expenses are a bill that your parents are currently paying for your sister - it's not free. I can understand how your parents feel put-upon. By supporting their daughter, they are now also supporting someone whom they may like, but who is unrelated to them in any real way. By not paying for his living expenses, he's freeloading. Whether or not he's a nice guy doesn't really factor in to the economics of the situation.

Personally, this whole thing seems drama-rific even before the boyfriend is included (what happens to the sister if the parents can't make the payments, for starters?) and I would try to stay out of it if I were an uninvolved party, like a sibling.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can the live-in boyfriend do things like pay cable and electric? Because on the one hand, adding strings after the fact is not good, but on the other hand, staying in your girlfriend's house and refusing to pay anything but half the food sounds very moochy and if your sister has a history of choosing bad boyfriends your parents could be (very poorly) trying to use this as a test.

But this isn't your fight, so you should just avoid getting in the middle.
posted by jeather at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If your parents are paying the mortgage, they absolutely are within their rights to ask any adult who lives there to pay rent.

It does kind of sound like they treat your sister like a child, if she pays nothing toward the mortgage. But then, it's within their rights to make a gift of housing to their daughter, too, and that has nothing to do with whether they want rent from another person living there.

I understand why your sister would be nervous about doing anything to put off this new boyfriend, but really, a grownup who is put off by having to pay something toward his own housing is not worth keeping around.

I do think your parents should ask for the rent to be paid to them, though, and not your sister. It doesn't make sense for her to be paid rent for a building she is not invested in (even if she's on the title), and it would just be weird to require her to collect when she doesn't want to.
posted by torticat at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's a shame that he has already moved in as most likely any discussion over rent payable was through your sister and he prior to his moving in, he may not have understood the complexity of the situation with the mortgage and now, later enforcing him to pay rent could come across as upsetting for him if he & your sister had a different arrangement. Did your parents know he was moving in prior to him doing so? Was anything mentioned then re rent?

There's a few other complications, notwithstanding what the "right thing to do" is: because your sister owns half the house on title is your mother then only legally allowed to charge him half of the market rental? (or less as you describe, which seems fair). The other complication being if he spends alot of his outside of paid work hours taking care of your nephew, essentially unpaid carer work, is that a consideration in all of this?

In my opinion, he should pay some rent to your parents to reduce the stress on them, whatever the amount is almost arbitrary and more a gesture of good will, if it's too high he has every right to look for other options on the market & that will really upset your sister. But he is an adult & should be responsible too. Saying your parents are treating her like a child is manipulative considering how generous they are (have) been to date re the house (obviously to assist also with their grandson).

If your parents are actually more concerned about the money and reducing the financial stress on your mum then they can also consider renting one of their rooms out at market rate, obviously to the right person.
posted by Under the Sea at 1:27 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would charge him rent if I were them, and I would tell your sister and her boyfriend not to be a pair of whinging mooches - if they don't like the deal they're getting here, they can move out into their actual own place like adults.
posted by jacalata at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can see where your parents are coming from. The boyfriend kind of looks like a freeloader when he should be a partner to your sister. Even if he can't support your sister, the boyfriend should at the very least be paying his own way. Otherwise, your parents are subsidizing the boyfriend. This is especially problematic if they are doing so at the expense of their own retirement.
posted by payoto at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of course they treat her like a child. She's acting like a child. She's not paying her own way, and she wants you to intercede with mommy and daddy for her.

So long as she lives in mommy and daddy's house (whether they live there or not), then she is, in a real sense, a dependent child. Adults pay their own way.

I would be super pissed off if I were supporting my adult child, and his employed girlfriend moved in, and took umbrage at the thought of paying rent. Now I'm supposed to support her, too? No thanks.
posted by musofire at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's ham-handed but I think your parents are concerned about protecting their daughter and grandson from a freeloader. Freeloaders are often very nice people and good with children, but a guy who moves in with a woman and a kid after 4 months of dating and doesn't contribute any more to the household than a bit of food money is a freeloader. From your parents' perspective, they may be worried about going from 2 dependents to 3. It's not unreasonable to ask a non-family member to kick in with some rent. Sheesh. And if a bit of a rent "drives him away" she is better off without him!
posted by stowaway at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


Your sister is way out of line, sorry.

They're paying the mortgage = he's living in their house. They can and should charge him rent.

And, not that you should say this to her, but: far from "driving him away" by making this basic, obvious requirement, they are eliminating the otherwise very real possibility that he's only involved with her FOR the free rent.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


apparently the boyfriend feels that my parents dislike him and that they treat my sister like a child

They are treating her like a child because that is how she is behaving. Adults support themselves and pay rent.

Your sister's attitude is brattish. I do not care how old your sister is - what parent wants to pay for his child to play house? What was this guy doing for housing before your sister came along?

I recommend that you stay out of this matter. It has nothing to do with you and no good will come of your involvement.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Asking him to pay rent isn't disrespectful. It's totally reasonable. But why are you involved in this at all? If this guy is truly a stand-up guy, he should work this out with your parents directly. Even if he's hard-pressed for funds, he should pay a token amount to avoid the appearance of mooching.

Legally, though, if your sister is an owner of the house, your parents can't force him to pay rent or move out. And your parents can't withhold mortgage payments because they'll explode their credit. So they can't "require" anything --- if he pays rent, it will be voluntary.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your sister is looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. If he would leave her because of this (and presumably either have to pay more in rent elsewhere or freeload elsewhere)..... He's not such a fine catch as she thinks he is for her.

And for the record, yes, I think it's perfectly fair for him to pay rent when he is living in their home.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:37 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it's a little unfair to dismiss the sister as bratty or entitled without knowing the reason for the arrangement.

Other than that, I agree with most of what's already been said: BF accepts the "2/3 cost of a studio" offer (which is already generous, I think) and, barring some unknown factor related to why your parents are supporting her, your sister deals with it.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:42 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think that the best thing you can possibly do is, Don't Get Involved. Seriously, not at all.... Sister asks you to talk to your parents about Sis's BF? Sorry, no. Parents ask you to talk to Sis? Again, sorry, but no.

But if you must get involved, then I think your sister is way in the wrong on this: your parents are already providing housing for her and her son, now she expects them to pay BF's housing too? Totally unreasonable of her.
posted by easily confused at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's ham-handed but I think your parents are concerned about protecting their daughter and grandson from a freeloader.
and
they are eliminating the otherwise very real possibility that he's only involved with her FOR the free rent

I suspect this is what the boyfriend means when he says the parents are treating her like a child, i.e., he doesn't like it that the parents of his middle-aged SO are trying to set a price-of-entry for him to date their daughter.

And he would be right if they weren't part owners and sole mortgage-payers on the house. As it is, though, he's gotten involved with a woman who is dependent on her parents, and therefore he pretty much has to fall in with their requirements. As someone said above, if sister & BF want out from under the "controlling" mom, they need to make themselves financially independent of her.
posted by torticat at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think your sister and her boyfriend should be paying rent.

Of course she's being treated like a child. She's letting mom and dad pay for everything and she's asking her sister to fight her battles for her. She's acting like a child.

This is not something you should be involved in. If I were you, I'd give your thoughts, whatever they are, to your sister, and leave it to her to take it up with mom. She is an adult. It is not unreasonable to expect her to sort this one out on her own.

I would like to add, though, that moving in together after only a few months and then him balking at paying rent sets off all kinds of alarm bells as far as this guy taking advantage of an easy living situation.
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [26 favorites]


I think people are not taking into consideration that the grandson has a disability. It's not like your sister has had the same opportunities in life as others to seek her avenue of dependence without support. And your parents have obviously chosen to support her to ensure their grandson is looked after both now and in the future. That is their choice as her parents and they need to accept responsibilities for their decisions too (If that is seen as treating her as a child). Her outlook on all this has been influenced by their choosing to take care of things financially, I've seen the same happen with my disadvantaged and fully dependent on my parents adult sister. Regardless of your family's situatuon it's not for the new bf to comment on or make judgments on what is a really complicated family matter.

In any event if the bf agrees that parents treat her as a child then he essentially shares this view and he should step up to break this pattern of thinking by paying some rent & being accountable for his own actions as an adult. But I don't see how all the commentary is useful.
posted by Under the Sea at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


If your parents are cosigners on the house and are the primary ones financially responsible for it, then this guy's moving into the house represents potentially substantial extra costs for them- in terms of extra wear and tear on the property, the potential for legal fees and headache should he need to be evicted at some point, etc. It doesn't seem at all unjust that they should expect some financial compensation for these added risks and costs, which they're being made to take on effectively without their consent.

Imagine, for instance, the scenario where this dude (whom nobody's known for more than 8 months or so) turnso like throwing big destructive parties or cooks meth in the basement or decides to get a couple large lovable dogs and not toilet-train them. Your sister, it sounds like, is not in a financial position to deal with any of the costs of property upkeep/ repair under those circumstances, and she may also not be emotionally equipped to assert reasonable boundaries on a boyfriend's use of the property. From where I stand, 2/3 of a studio apartment rent seems dirt cheap as the price of getting your parents to take on that kind of risk.

As someone mentioned upthread, if the boyfriend's eing asked to pay vastly sub-market rent vs.crashing for free is a dealbreaker for him, then your sister can count herself lucky she got out of this one so easily.
posted by Bardolph at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your parents have chosen to waive your sister's obligation to pay for the roof over her head. They have no reason to do the same for all her friends. They are not only right, but very possibly the only clear-thinking people in this story.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where was he living before he moved in? Was he paying rent there?

Yep, I think that whoever is footing the bill for this home has the right to set parameters. As to whether your sister is being treated like a child, that probably depends on a ton of details that are not our business, but I am guessing that caring for her son is consuming much of her time.

If sister is worked up about this, SHE needs to be the one to discuss this with her folks, and honestly I think it should be a four way meeting with the man as well, but frankly, if I were you I would let the involved parties handle it. I wouldn't touch it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2013


If your sister does not pay for this house, it is not morally or ethically hers, regardless of whether your parents put her name on it. (They probably only did that so that she can inherit it without paying estate tax later, when they pass away. That's what my family did.)

Your parents are giving your sister a gift by letting her live in their house (not her house) rent-free. They are not required to give that same gift to a stranger, regardless of whether he is a nice guy or not.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2013


I guess I think the BF would want to pay his own way, in all regards. Your sister's deal with your parents is one thing, but he's still sort of new on the scene, and if she has a track record of picking not-great guys and being bad with money--I can see why your parents might want rent, at the very least.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:53 PM on February 18, 2013


Of course he should pay, but your parents made the decision to put your sister on the mortgage, too. That makes her a co-owner with the same rights they have. They of course can withhold the mortgage, but they are all responsible and liable.

Your sister and your parents need to be on the same page (and should have been before they ever bought the house).

The main point is that you should stay out of it; the deed already specifies who has a say in this situation.
posted by spaltavian at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2013


It is manipulative and controlling to give someone a gift and then attach strings to it after the fact. No gift, no matter how generous, entitles them to run your sister's life in perpetuity.

- As I understand it, from my Mom's perspective it would be different if they had given her the hourse outright as a gift, say as a wedding present, etc. But they are essentially the owners of the house, paying her mortgage until it is hers outright. But yes, it gives them significant leverage over sister's life, she is financially dependent on them.

And why is this strictly a moral/emotional conversation? Has anyone asked your parents how much they can afford to do without compromising their own retirement/health security?

- It's not about the money, they don't need it. (Their big concern is taking care of my nephew after they've departed). It's more about the principle I think of somebody living off of my sister (but really, since they pay all of the bills, off of them). They've said that the rent money would just be used on the upkeep, etc, of my sister's house.

How old is your sister? She's acting like a teenager.
- 40s

As for you...stay out of it as much as you can. Only pain can come from being in the middle.
- Yeah, I made that point at the end of my last email to her. Still, I want to know the best way to think about this and wanted other views on the issue...

Did your parents know he was moving in prior to him doing so? Was anything mentioned then re rent?

- My sister kind of asked a vague "...I wonder what you would think" question a few weeks before we found out he had moved in during a visit. So nothing had been discussed beforehand and nobody else in the family knew he would move in before he already had.

Where was he living before he moved in? Was he paying rent there?

- I think he'd just moved into his own apartment a few months before from some other living arrangement. If I hadn't met the guy, I would think the whole thing was sketchy, meeting somebody online through a dating service, twice divorced, teenage child, moving in with my sister after just a few months. Sounds bad and parasitic.
posted by Auden at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my jurisdiction, moving into her house may entitle the boyfriend to an equity payout/right to live there if the relationship lasted a few years and then dissolved. I think the only advice I would give your parents is to just check in with a lawyer about how to do this all legally. Because another possiblity is that the relationship disolves and he chooses not to move out, causing the sister and son distress (if he is a legal tenant that has been paying rent he can bring a new girlfriend over...) and requiring a legal eviction that can take months and months. I don't think the boyfriend is a bad person (I don't know him...) but once relationships entwine with finances it is better to be open and transparent about responsibilities and obligations.

This whole discussion should have happened before he moved in however; and I agree you should stay out of THAT discussion beyond suggesting that informed professionals should maybe be involved.
posted by saucysault at 2:06 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll be the voice of dissent here. Parents can sometimes use aid as a tool, only withholding it when they wish to alter things for emotional or manipulative reasons. Would they be charging rent if there were no boyfriend? If the sister got an income?

If not, then they are being intrusive for their own reasons, rather than objective ones. It is possible for some people to impose fairness in order to support other needs (like, they don't want the sister to be in a relationship, they don't like the guy, etc.)
posted by zippy at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2013


Your sister and her boyfriend should pay a rent. It's the only healthy solution. Don't worry. Everyone will feel better as soon as its in practice
posted by mumimor at 2:18 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would everyone think it was OK if your sister moved some roommates, charged them rent and pocketed the money, so she was making money on the deal? I think not. But it's a hop skip and a jump from what she and her boyfriend are doing, to that.
posted by BibiRose at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's great that your parents are supporting their daughter and their grandchild, and covering their daughter's expenses so she can devote her full time to caring for their grandchild who has a disability. Those are loving parents and grandparents.

I too would probably draw the line at supporting my daughter's boyfriend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interesting, that he thinks your parents treat their daughter like a child, but is unhappy at paying rent, like an adult. Sounds like he wants to be treated like a child, too.
posted by smoke at 3:21 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having an extra person living in a house does mean increased wear-and-tear, which does mean more repair bills are going to come up. If the parents are paying that, then it's perfectly logical.

Personally I understood the situation to be that your parents pay the mortgage because your sister is a single mother of a disabled child, so they couldn't expect her to be able to afford to cover housing. But this does not apply to the boyfriend. And I like the way someone framed it above:

Previously: single mother + disabled child got free housing
Now: couple with single income + disabled child gets subsidised (but not free) housing.
posted by lollusc at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, he shouldn't be paying rent to your parents. Whether or not he should be paying rent to someone is a different question with a different answer, but neither is the right question. I'd submit that the right question is: How should my sister relate to our parents and her boyfriend? The next question is: what is the best way to help that happen?

My read of this situation is that your sister is less self-reliant than one would expect a middle-aged woman to be and that the reasons for this situation aren't entirely within her control: She has a special needs child and her mother/parents exert a controlling influence. Nevertheless, one expects a middle-aged adult woman to take responsibility for the hand life has dealt her. That this question has been posted to ask mefi suggests that she hasn't and that she hasn't because she isn't yet able to.

So, what to do about it. I don't know the answer to that question, but I have some ideas about what not to do. Your parents shouldn't collect rent from your sister's boyfriend and they shouldn't insist that she collect rent from him. Your parents shouldn't expect that your sister forgo having a boyfriend for the sake of her son. Your parents shouldn't make their support of your sister and their grandson contingent on having a relationship that they approve of. Your sister shouldn't allow her boyfriend to live with her rent-free simply because her parents are providing her and her son with housing. Your sister's boyfriend shouldn't avoid paying his share of living expenses on the grounds that your parents don't like him, or because they treat your sister like a child. He should not expect to be in a live-in relationship with your sister without assuming an equal share of the burden of caring for her son.

As to some "shoulds": Your parents should seek to empower your sister. They should communicate to your sister why they are paying for her living expenses. They should communicate to your sister why they think it is desirable for her boyfriend to pay for his fair share of living expenses. They should be open to arguments from your sister as to why the boyfriend shouldn't pay for his fair share of living expenses. Your sister should come to an equitable agreement with her boyfriend on his share of living expenses, or his in-kind contributions to the household. Your sister's boyfriend should seek an equitable, practical agreement with your sister, he should contribute to the household.

As for you, know that there is only so much that you can do. You can give people advice, you can help facilitate an agreement between the parties, but you can't fix this for them.
posted by Good Brain at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


In general, from my personal experience, anybody who thinks that having to pay rent is unreasonably burdensome is BAD BAD BAD BAD NEWS unless they are actually unable to work or full-time students.

Yes, it is meddling, a bit. But this is something that holds up pretty well. If your finances are such that you can't afford any rent at all, for a long period of time, there is something very wrong with your finances. If there is something that wrong with your finances and you aren't pushing very hard to fix it, then you are probably not a stable relationship kind of person.

Now, it'd be different if they were like, "He should be paying $1k/month!" and he came out of a $500/month apartment and seriously can't afford more than that. But nobody past the age of 21 who isn't seriously disabled should be griping about the sheer notion of paying rent. Paying rent is just the thing you do with your paychecks. Even if your girlfriend doesn't.
posted by Ex-Wastrel at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can your parents get together with your sister and her bf, and talk about it. My 1st assumption was that they were being controlling; then I read your description. There are lots of opportunities for miscommunication. He should be contributing his share. Paying rent to her when she doesn't pay a mortgage might feel weird. He could pick up the utilities and groceries; maybe that would work out, and it would be about the same amount of money.
posted by theora55 at 4:28 PM on February 18, 2013


which she believes that the boyfriend would not want to pay,
am I understanding correctly that the boyfriend doesn't know that the parents want him to pay rent, and that all parties involved haven't talked together about this? I'm kind of getting an impression that this is happening like a game of "Telephone" or something. Or is the "parents don't like me" in response to this?

I can tell you that none of my mother's paramours ever paid rent in the house my grandmother owned, which certainly cheesed her crackers a bit, but she figured she'd be paying for the house anyway. However, my mother paid the utilities, some of the upkeep, and some of her people would contribute to groceries and etc., so it's different.
posted by sm1tten at 4:31 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your parents shouldn't expect that your sister forgo having a boyfriend for the sake of her son.

The parents haven't expressed any such sentiment. They have only expressed that the sister not have a live-in boyfriend on their dime. This sentiment is reasonable.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:11 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


You shouldn't get involved in this situation in terms of weighing in on whether it is 'right' that the boyfriend pays rent, it is entirely between your parents and your sister, and then your sister and her boyfriend and the terms of their relationship.

However, I WOULD encourage you to facilitate them communicating more. Perhaps even get them involved in some mediation with a third-party. There are quite a lot of underlying issues here that don't sound like they have been addressed.
posted by nanook at 6:52 PM on February 18, 2013


Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate all the feedback and various points of view, it's a big help.
posted by Auden at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2013


I think you should show your sister this thread. And I think that requiring the boyfriend to pay some rent (and sign a LEASE, to protect everyone legally) is actually a sign of RESPECT, for him, as an adult and a grown-ass man.
posted by cyndigo at 7:46 PM on February 18, 2013


Because another possibility is that the relationship dissolves and he chooses not to move out, causing the sister and son distress (if he is a legal tenant that has been paying rent he can bring a new girlfriend over...) and requiring a legal eviction that can take months and months.

If he has been living there a certain amount of time, whether or not he pays rent, formal eviction proceedings may still be required. OP, your parents need to get a lawyer to answer these types of questions for them.

But I would strongly urge you not to get involved at all in this situation. This is not your problem, and by getting involved you might damage your relationship with all concerned.

Personally, I don't care how nice a person is, an adult doesn't move into a house without confirming it is acceptable to the actual owners of that house. And if your sister didn't bother to tell him in advance that it wasn't her house (as it is not, practically speaking), then once he realized the situation a decent person would have spoken to her parents about their expectations. That he didn't do that is not surprising, but it is kind of seedy.
posted by winna at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to reiterate easily confused and others: Regardless of who is right and wrong in this rent debate, it is none of your concern. Stay out of it. It's nothing to do with you.
posted by Andrhia at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it very odd that the boyfriend didn't offer to pay at least a minimal amount of rent (covering his share of the utilities, at least) before he moved in. That fact on its own would alarm me. I understand your parents' point of view here, but would reiterate what so many have already said: nothing good can come of you fighting this battle for your sister.
posted by jokeefe at 9:51 PM on February 18, 2013


Your parents are testing the dude and, well, fair enough. They've set the bar quite low, 2/3 of what a studio would cost is a very generous rent. He couldn't realistically get much lower no matter what he did. They want to see of dude is a freeloader who is only with your sister for the free lodging because let's be honest he might be and if that's the case then sooner or later he will drop her like a hot potato if a better situation comes along or he isn't so hard up financially. It's going to hurt a lot less if it happens now rather than later, especially with a child involved. I feel for your sister I do, but she is acting like a child and I think your parents are correctly gently testing the guy because they know they'll be the ones picking up the pieces if it all falls apart.
posted by whoaali at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Listen to Good Brain. His is the most logical and practical point, free of judgement.

This boyfriend you said was paying child support. How is it that this has been ignored? Is it not possible he's sweating blood over that, and his 'free rent' is keeping him out of jail?!

Lots of half-baked comments in here that loose the fact that it is not the parent's house. I tell you, I had a situation in my first partner's house. We paid all the bills. His mother lived with him, and she was legally a co-owner (in the olden days, kids, a gay/single man couldn't get a mortgage). Mom insisted her daughter live there as well. The daugher was a major pain and caused huge problems. We could do nothing. (eventually we moved out, then he died 2 years later at age 46).

Again, Good Brain has the only good idea that grants everyone their due respect.
posted by Goofyy at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2013


yes, absolutely, your sister and her boyfriend should both be paying the parents rent. boyfriend is getting a great deal.

whoaali above has it - smart parents.

under oregon law (is that where she is?) he might even have an equitable claim on some of the value of the home if they live there together for a few years. in utah for example unmarried couples begin to have possibility of those claims after 2 years of cohabitation.

if you don't live there with them, and aren't being asked for money, why is this important for you to get people's opinions on? does it affect your life - how?
posted by zdravo at 9:16 PM on February 20, 2013


Your parents shouldn't expect that your sister forgo having a boyfriend for the sake of her son.
The parents haven't expressed any such sentiment.


I didn't say that the parents have expressed such a sentiment. I did try to lay things out so that people might consider that statements like, "They have only expressed that the sister not have a live-in boyfriend on their dime. This sentiment is reasonable," do little to advance the discussion.

I don't think either the OP's statement that their mother is controlling, or the fact that this guy is a live-in on their dime can be pushed aside so blithely. Try thinking it through without relying on cliches.
posted by Good Brain at 8:51 PM on February 23, 2013


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