Dear Quentin,

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

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Stepmother,

You got played. Take emotion and personalities out of the equation.

If you both get angry, this messy situation will become about your feelings rather than the broken agreement. The subtext — “I don’t like her/she doesn’t like me” and “she believes I’m greedy/I believe she’s entitled” — will become more powerful than the facts and figures. Stick to the latter, 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.”

Your stepdaughter is playing you off each other, and relying on the old ‘evil stepmother’ trope to wangle cheap accommodation.

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. 

Your stepdaughter is playing you off each other, relying on the old “evil stepmother” trope to wrangle 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.

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. 

Even in the absence of a lease, she broke the social contract — not you.  

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