How much to pay mom's boyfriend for watching the house?
August 20, 2019 3:50 PM   Subscribe

My Mom passed away last autumn, and she made provisions to enable her boyfriend to stay there over the winter, because it's harder to move in the winter and harder to sell a house anyway. So the deal was that he would stay there until the house sold, and he would take care of everything like shoveling snow and mowing the yard. He would pay the bills out of a fund mom had put aside for the purpose.

Well, it took longer to sell the house than we anticipated. We put it on the market the end of March and we just now finally got it sold, so he was mowing the BIG yard with the riding lawn mower for a lot longer than we thought he would have to do. So now he's hinting that I should give him a stipend for acting as caretaker, and I want to do that, but I have no idea how much I should give him. I mean he got to live there rent free for almost a year after mom passed, so I don't want to overpay him, but at the same time, I don't want to have people thinking I'm a cheapskate if I underpay him. I simply have no idea how much to give him. Please hope me.
posted by ambulocetus to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(Cost of housekeeping + groundskeeping) - cost of rent in area = amount to pay.

If that amount is negative, maybe you forgive his debt to you because you're nice.
posted by adamrice at 3:55 PM on August 20, 2019 [19 favorites]

It's weird to give him money now. It wouldn't have been TOO weird if there was some arrangement ahead of time, but there wasn't, and he didn't pay rent for a year, which is a pretty sweetheart deal.
posted by so fucking future at 3:57 PM on August 20, 2019

He lived there for free, for a year, and everything was paid for out of a fund set aside in your mom's estate? And now he wants money? Because he did chores in his own home? No.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:01 PM on August 20, 2019 [35 favorites]

“So the deal was that he would stay there until the house sold, and he would take care of everything like shoveling snow and mowing the yard”

There’s your answer - he accepted free rent in exchange for taking care of the place. That’s a fair deal that was made with full knowledge of what he was getting into. You owe him nothing. He could have walked away from the place at any time if he decided the caretaking wasn’t worth doing.
posted by saeculorum at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2019 [10 favorites]

I agree, it's a little weird, but he took care of my mom in her final days, so I feel like it's not an unreasonable request. It would have been a lot more difficult for me to do it all by myself, especially since it all happened right after I started a new business.
posted by ambulocetus at 4:03 PM on August 20, 2019

He lived there as a kindness to the estate, you were trying to sell and couldn't, it's not like he asked you to hold off selling so he could live there. If rent had been charged he could have moved away and found another place, and he didn't do that, as a kindness.

You're right to be looking at this as a sort of live-in caretaker deal, or a housesitting arrangement, and those are the comparisons I'd look at when considering a fair payment.
posted by Lady Li at 4:04 PM on August 20, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'd toss him money just to ensure he gets out promptly as you move through escrow or whatever. And that he leaves the place nice, takes all his stuff with him, etc. Maybe say now you plan to pay him when he leaves, to ensure that happens and he doesn't pull any monkey business?
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Could you ask him what he thinks is a fair amount? It seems like he's probably thought about it. Then you can decide if that seems reasonable, or adjust up or down as needed.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

I wouldn’t give him anything but it sounds like you want to. If tyts the case I think you just need to ask him how much he wants. If you think it’s too high you can have that discussion later
posted by raccoon409 at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2019

You could also pay for specifically any hard labor done - yard work, say, at prevailing gardening rates.
posted by Lady Li at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2019

Perhaps if he had agreed to stay through the winter, you could offer him housesitting rates ($20/day?) for the extra time he stayed while you struggled to sell. That would be one option.
posted by Lady Li at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2019

What would your mom have wanted, do you think? I agree he isn't actually owed anything but if you got a good price for the house and it would make you feel better, offer him $1000? And if he is the sort to argue about that, be firm but don't increase that offer. He got free rent and bills paid in exchange for upkeep, as agreed.
posted by Glinn at 4:08 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think saeculorum's response correctly states that the arrangement he agreed to with you fully covers the obligation. It's nice, and probably appropriate, if you want to gift him for his kindnesses. There are too many unknown (to us) variables in terms of his relationship with your mom and his own circumstances for us to provide any meaningful number to you. Asking him how you can thank him is probably a good move.
posted by uncaken at 4:10 PM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yea, I'm thinking 1000 sounds about in the ballpark. If I figure the cost of a house-sitter at about 30/day for around 300 days, that's pretty close. Thanks for helping me figure this out. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.
posted by ambulocetus at 4:11 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Just a nudge that $30 a day for 300 days is $9000, not $1000.
posted by kate blank at 4:15 PM on August 20, 2019 [16 favorites]

Did he have another place to live during this time? I don't see that there's enough information here to determine whether he was more of a renter than a housesitter. Was he taking advantage of a sweet deal, or was he passing up work and housing opportunities to stay on until the place sold?
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2019

I pay $100/month for lawn care. On the other end of the spectrum, professional housesitters who care for pets, house plants, the mail, and anything else that comes up charge about $30-40/day in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It's kind of you to want to do this. It's a little tough to suggest a number without knowing your local economy and what the house brought in. Whatever you give him, you could divide it by "X total months" to give it a little bit of logic. You could also express it as a percentage of the sale price, almost like a commission, the way that realtors get a percentage of the sales price.
posted by salvia at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

So he wanted to stay there because he didn’t want to move out in winter and then you wanted him to stay until the house was sold? Sounds like you both did each other a favour and it cancels each other out. If you want to give him something I’d give him $1000. There’s no way I’d give him $9000, he lived there rent free because he didn’t feel like moving.
posted by Jubey at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree that, technically, you don't really owe him anything - you both benefited to a reasonably equal degree. But he did you a favor; he took care of the house his girlfriend died in, living there longer than anticipated which delayed him in "moving on with his life". From that perspective, he's due some consideration. You could frame it, for both you and him, as something to make his search for a new place to live a little bit easier. But somewhere around $1000 sounds about right to me too, assuming you don't have reason to think he's an evil person and pending him having a justifiably larger amount in mind.
posted by DrGail at 5:13 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’d give him first month’s rent and a security deposit at a reasonable rate, not as compensation, but as a gift to someone whom you and your mother both trusted. If they had been married, in many states he would have been entitled to part of the house. I’m sure he cares for it when they were together. Be generous of you can and be at peace.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:35 PM on August 20, 2019 [21 favorites]

I think it depends on how much you made on the house, what kind of financial situation he is in, and what kind of financial situation you are in. Internet Fraud has it right above- the funds to get him settled in a new place would be kind and appropriate. If you got a windfall, then give him a chunk of money- like you said- 300 days x $30 = $9000- if you can spare that. You said he helped your mother during her illness, and he kept the house up while it was on the market, so both of those things are invaluable in terms of time they saved you.
posted by momochan at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2019

I can see both sides of this - free rent and utilities is no small thing! But also, it was clear that this house was not going to be his future, and he may have felt some obligation to see it dealt with before moving on.

And on the other other hand, after a few family situations with unoccupied houses, I personally would budget $10K or so for preventable repairs. I might well gamble on nothing serious happening before I sold the house, and I might well win... but I recognize that there is value in having someone present who can stop unpleasant surprises from becoming large, expensive problems.

To figure out an actual number, I'd maybe want to know what the house sold for, and how much was in that upkeep/utilities account. But the idea of first month's rent + security deposit, or percentage of sale price, or something of the sort sounds reasonable.
posted by mersen at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2019

Unless he's dependent on that payment to move on, I'd be inclined to date the cheque for a couple of days after he's supposed to be out, juuuust in case of any shenanigans. Juuuuust in case.
posted by kate4914 at 8:08 PM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nthign that offering him $30/day to the tune of $9,000 as if he's a professional housesitter would be wildly overpaying. Housesitters don't move in and live rent-and-bills free. It was a mutual favor. A gift of $1,000-$2,000 sounds appropriate to me.
posted by desuetude at 9:15 PM on August 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I agree with the token gift of $1000 or thereabouts as a thank you for making a complicated situation easier.

The "fair rate" thing is a non-starter. A month of housekeeping plus a month of grounds-keeping is not going to be more than a month of rent. I pay a fairly-high-for-my-area $200/month for yard care. If he wants to go the strict market-rate route, he's negative.
posted by ctmf at 12:26 AM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

This was your mother's partner, in sickness and health, until they were parted by death. He stayed in to help and serve his partner's children. Presumably he's no spring chicken himself, and might have been happy to move to a smaller, easier to maintain place, maybe near his own family and friends.

Unless you think she really wanted him completely disinherited or he's been a complete ass, it makes sense to me to be generous. I'm a little shocked by the number of people here calling for nothing at all in the name of free rent. Given that it also sounds like he provided 'free elder care' plus 'free hospice care', if you want to get all transactional, I'd lean on the side of very generous if it's not a hardship on you.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:25 PM on August 22, 2019

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