Since I am a frequent visitor to your site, I know I need a polite spine for this situation (often a struggle for me, I’ll admit). My uncertainty comes from when and how to address issues pertaining to a guest who will be moving into my home.
My friend, Beth, is a lovely person. She is warm and generous and very outgoing. She loves to plan get-togethers with friends, and spends most of her spare time and money traveling the world. I very much enjoy her company, but it is usually in small doses.
Several months ago, Beth decided she was not contented with her life here and decided to move across the country. Since I had a large vehicle at the time, she asked for my help with moving furniture and packing boxes for storage. She sold most of her minor possessions in preparation for her move. After a short time, she realized that this new town did not agree with her at all. She was incredibly unhappy, and was unable to find reasonable employment. She decided once again to move to another city, halfway back across the country again. Another month goes by and she still has no job and no prospects and has depleted her savings. I spent many hours talking with her over skype or texting, listening to her situation and giving what little advice I could. I was also going through a very difficult time, having recently left an abusive marriage, but in a way I found helping Beth made me forget about my own problems.
This week I got a message from Beth, giving me the details, and saying that she has no choice but to come back. Stories from Beth are always full of grand detail and embellishment, and she painted a grim picture of how desperate things are for her – no home, no savings, nowhere to turn. I felt the pressure. I told her that if she needed a place to stay until she got back on her feet, I wouldn’t see her stuck. She was incredibly grateful, and I’m happy to help a friend in need.
My issue is this: In the few months since Beth’s departure, the economy here has taken a downturn. People are losing their jobs, and the cost of living has risen. I am currently in the process of finalizing my divorce and it has been messy and stressful. While I live alone some of the time, I also have joint custody of my young children. I have a house, and a job, but with the economic downturn I will be counting my pennies as well. When I thought Beth’s stay here would be just for a week or two it was fine. Since she has no job and no savings, I have no idea how long Beth will need a place to stay. While I’m happy to help a friend in need, I am not looking for a roommate.
I am also unsure how etiquette demands I handle my personal schedule. If I am invited out by a friend, am I required to invite Beth along? Or if I have someone over to visit, is it rude to ask for privacy? Cooking meals is another worry, as I’m not sure if I’m required to cook for Beth (she is a very picky eater, and has some dietary restrictions as well). Beth also has two cats, who will be moving in with her. I love cats, but I’m not sure how this will work out in my small home. Is it best to address these things if and when they arise, or should I be upfront with Beth before they become a problem? Help! 0417-16
Don’t be doormat. Establish the boundaries upfront and be firm because if you are not, you could have a permanent house guest who contributes little to nothing to the operation of your home. Your offer of hospitality should have limits and if she has not found a job in a month, she needs to make arrangements to move elsewhere because you are not a welfare office.
You cook for Beth? How about Beth cooks and cleans the house as a condition of her staying there? Why on earth do you think you need to feed her like one of your kids? She’s an adult woman who can feed herself. Do not cook for her, do not clean for her. Her cats need to be restricted to her room only and the kitty litter box routinely cleaned. You do not want to create an environment where Beth has little or no incentive to leave. If she gets a room, board for her cats, free food, the house cleaned after her AND a free social life, why would she want to go back to having to work hard for everything she has?
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One thing you can do is draw up a house sharing agreement. There are legal forms for this that you can find online and in most office supply stores. The agreement will list all the conditions under which she can share your home, and what your responsibilities are as well. Then after the both of you sign it (and notarize it), comes the hard part – you have to be willing to enforce it.
My neighbor had a bad run of house sharing with a number of people. Out of 4 situations, she only had 1 good set of tenants/sharers. But each time she had the legal agreement in place, and she was able to tell the other 3 that she was terminating the situation (oh the stories I could tell of the last 2!) If you do everything in the correct legal manner (get advice from a lawyer too) then you should not have unknown and unforeseen problems when you enforce it. Good luck!
The OP phrases this in terms of issues pertaining to a guest who will be moving into my home, but it sounds like she is not entertaining a houseguest, but taking on a roommate or lodger. As such, I agree with Admin that there must be an up-front agreement and an exit strategy.
We laugh at Sheldon’s Roommate Agreement on the Big Bang Theory, but it applies! I know I could’ve saved myself many headaches if I had known, in my college days, how to set boundaries with a roommate. As for the OP’s personal schedule, she is under no obligation to her roommate to keep her entertained or include her in every social event in her life. Nor should she have to cook for the roommate (or provide food, or cat supplies, etc.).
One potential problem is that if the roommate is unemployed, how will she pay for food, cat supplies, and other needs?
That’s certainly not the OP’s problem.
It will be if roommate starts treating LW’s house as her personal CVS and grocery store.
Oh, I can see this turning into The Guest That Never Leaves…
A distinction that may be helpful. A guest stays for a set period of time, then goes, so yes, you might do the cooking, cleaning, etc. for them. A roommate is expected to pull their own weight. The major problem arises when guests become roommates in length of stay. And yes, polite spine will be CRUCIAL in this matter.
It’s good that she recognised the issue before it cropped up, but this just means that she has to be No More Ms Nice Lady from the start to Beth. Set the rules down like she’s a roommate from the start.
(I’m rather intrigued by the need to assure us that Beth is a Nice Person. Because I’ve found that Nice People are empathetic and considerate of others, and when in such situations where they need to rely on people for indefinite periods of time offer assistance and repayment (in help, chores, etc.) when they ask to move in.)
Yeah for the record…roommates don’t have to be included in invitations, and I’d find it weird if you DID try to bring me everywhere when I was living with you. Moving in is not at all the same as being a guest. My college roommate and I are best friends to this day, largely because we TOTALLY ignored each other in the evenings. We’re both quiet people who like our privacy, and got along by pretending the other wasn’t there unless something (like turning lights out) would affect us both. Asking for privacy is completely and utterly normal between roommates, and much easier if you have a house with a room she can stay in as opposed to having to hang out at the coffee shop for a few hours to do it 🙂
Please address all your issues BEFORE she moves (if this isn’t a backdated post). If you aren’t comfortable with a stay of indeterminate length, you need to make that clear immediately because the way you describe the situation until your last paragraph made it sound like that was what you agreed to. “A place to stay until you get back on your feet” is NOT the same invitation as “a week or two, tops, while you look for a permanent residence”.
It’s dated mid April 2016, so this may have already gone down, and if the OP recognizes this, hopefully they have a good update for us, not an E-hell horror story/train wreck to report.
OP, don’t think of yourself as a host. You’ll get sucked into serving her and taking care of her because she is “a guest” in your home.
What you CAN do is make this work for both of you. If you set rules in advance – and if she follows them – you can end up with a paying tenant in these tougher times. I don’t know what rent is in your area, but if she gets a job and ends up contributing something (less than she would on renting an apartment), she can save up some money while you get some help.
That said, your friend doesn’t seem like the most reasonable person – but hopefully she has learned a lesson and is appreciative.
All I can say about Admin’s response is, “Ditto.”
I disagree about confining two cats to one room. They shouldn’t have to suffer because of their owner’s choices.
that is so true…
Beth can put them into a cat daycare situation, too, if she doesn’t like the rules for the cats. But it’s the OP’s house and it’s her rules, not the cats’ house, and the first consideration should be the OP and her comfort.
I think the needs of the homeowner outweigh the needs of the cat. If the LW does not want them roaming the house then the cats will need to be confined. That may get the friend motivated to find employment and a place to live.
At the risk of irritating all the pet owners here. I totally agree. They are just cats.
THIS exactly. The OP and her family comes first, not the cats of the guest. They are lucky to even be allowed to come. Admin is right to say they should be confined to one room and litter box kept clean. Not only is it better than the other options but that and other expectations should help Beth understand that this isn’t an open ended free ride.
Agreed! The cats are innocent and helpless. Assuming they aren’t damaging the OP’s house, no one has allergies and so on, they should not be confined to one tiny bedroom for weeks/months.
One thing to add to Jeanne’s excellent advice: PUT THE RULES IN WRITING. If possible have your signature and Beth’s notarized. That way, Beth can’t come back down the line and say you “never told her”. Also, in some states, if a person lives in a home for a specific length of time, whether or not they pay rent or otherwise contribute to the household, that person is considered a tenant – and you would have to go through legal proceedings to get Beth out. Basically, you need to be treating Beth like you would any roommate – meaning that she has to clean up after herself, cook for herself, do her own laundry, etc.
Side note: I am a definite cat lover, but I would suggest you REALLY enforce the rule about the cats staying in her room. Cats do NOT deal with stress and upheaval well, and those poor babies have been dragged around the country for the last few months. Hopefully the damage can be contained to one room – and I would put a clause in the rules that says that Beth will be responsible for ANY damage that the cats cause.
I completely agree with this post. I would look into squatter’s rights in your state and find out what the time frame is and make it clear she needs to be out before that point. I watch way too much People’s Court and Judge Judy. You have to take care of things from the beginning and put all your expectations in writing RIGHT AWAY.
Make sure to include rules for helping around the house and cleaning. Especially of shared space. You also might want to include something about her taking care of any damages she or her cats cause. You can’t be too safe. It’s like the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors.” “Good contracts make good roommates”, which is basically what she will be since it is an open ended stay (which I think is a crazy concept!).
Admin nailed it. In January of last year, a good friend of mine was evicted from her apartment. She had lost her job and her car already, due to stress following devastating news about one of her children. DH and I took her in, along with her cat (we have two cats ourselves). Friend’s health was declining; her doctor did nothing but add to her Rx collection, so I finally persuaded her to see a different doctor. Meanwhile, she started out cooking and cleaning, but the worse she felt, the less she did these things. And she was in absolutely no condition to work full time. I was fine with all this; I just wanted her to get better so she could get back on her feet, and meanwhile, I wasn’t going to see a friend living on the streets. In addition, because she had no job, I took care of her health insurance premiums; the goal was for her to get well and get gone, and if this was what I needed to do to help make that happen, so be it. I do not regret it at all.
In October, things started getting weird. One night she called the police and reported “domestic violence” on the part of my husband–he had yelled at her about something, I don’t even remember what, but apparently she decided it was worth bringing the authorities in. Her behavior had been somewhat irrational for some time, but this was too much. We asked her to move out, but she refused, saying that she had established residency and we would have to have her formally evicted. We actually began the procedure, but the universe took it out of our hands a couple of days later. I went up to her room because I hadn’t seen or heard from her all day. She had died earlier that day; I found her sitting on the floor against the bed with her head resting on the arm she had on the bed. Turns out some of the medications she had been taking didn’t interact well for reasons I still don’t fully understand, and she just slipped away.
DH and I had no clue what was going on those last few days, but I do miss my friend and wish things had turned out better for her. And although this didn’t end well, I would not hesitate to take in a friend in need again–with the caveats that Admin. set forth above. Deadlines can be very important.
A sad tale but at least your friend had someone who truly was devoted to making sure she didn’t end up on the street.
Although I’m not sure this to be the case with your friend, I have seen several instances of people who, when nearing the end of their life, turn suddenly angry, resentful and even violent at times. It’s as if their mind is breaking down with their physical body.
I’ve heard that too. I think her problem was her body was already compromised by all the prescriptions she had been taking.
That is so sad, Wild Irish Rose. Could your friend’s illness and/or meds have contributed to her mental state near the end? You did the best you could and it sounds as if your friend was in a good place with you, even if her mental faculties couldn’t recognize it completely.
Thank you. I do think her meds had a lot to do with her sudden odd behavior. It’s been almost a year, and I miss her very much and really do wish things had gone differently.
ITA with Admin! Treat it as a roommate situation rather than a houseguest. Maybe a ‘welcome’ dinner, but after that she knows where to find the stove and the sink.
Take it or leave it: if it were me, I’d arrange right now to have a different overnight guest after a month or so… maybe an out of town sibling or old friend to stay for a long weekend? That would put a firm deadline on Beth’s stay since she’d have to vacate the spare room by then and it would especially help put a firm deadline on *me* if I was having trouble keeping a strong spine.
If Beth is as social as she sounds, she should be able to find another friend to host/crash if she’s not back on her feet yet.
How I wish my spine was as shiny as Admin’s…. I entirely agree with the comments, but whether I could implement them is an entirely different matter.
About two and half years ago, I met a woman online who I had connected with because of a shared interest. We knew a few IRL people in common. A short time after, she became homeless and moved across the country to someone who invited her to stay in exchange for help with childcare. This situation did not work out and I invited her to stay with me for as long as she needed.
This arrangement worked out for nearly two years. In that time, she was able to secure employment and was even able to compensate me to some extent with a valuable perk from her job.
I deliberately never accepted anything that could be construed as rent to keep her from having tenant rights in my home. I also didn’t want to deal with the tax issues that would involve.
While she was living here, I refused to change my routine or who I was. I considered her a long term houseguest but not a guest for whom I would do things for, although I did do things for her to be nice. She was, for all intents and purposes, a responsible adult woman who would do the dishes and keep her areas relatively clean.
So, how did this all end? We had a bit of blow up that I thought was an outlier. Although we patched things up, she made arrangements to find her own place. I was looking forward to a new chapter in our friendship where she was standing on her own two feet completely.
But, that’s not what happened. A few months after moving out, she took great offense to a small thing that actually never really happened—it involved something stupid on Facebook. But, what it unleashed was nothing less than unholy.
The previous blow up had involved a rather long nasty email from her wherein she detailed what she considered my many faults and even each instance where she felt that I was mean to her or not very nice. The new barrage was the same but even worse than before—nasty, malignant, venomous. It was abusive on a level that I have never seen from even my worst enemies.
She even accused me of being a horrible wife and that my husband was involved in the hobbies he was as a way to avoid being around me. It was deeply personal and destructive.
My response was not to argue. I said “obvious you don’t like me, why not just go your own way and let me go mine.”
That was met with more nastiness and a veiled threat of seeing me at a public event that we were both going to be at. That time, I responded very politely that given the circumstances I was going to avoid her at the event and asked that she do the same and that I wanted no contact. I then wished her well. Her response to that was, at least not nasty. And I have had no contact with her since.
And I keep every nasty communication she sent me as a reminder not to let my heart override my head. It was a friendship that I valued until it became abusive and it’s been very difficult getting over it.
I would love to just let all the bad stuff go and “be friends again.” But, I know that it would only end up in the same place again at some point.
I did have a suspicion that what happened could happen. During the time she lived with me, I saw other friends (online and from her past IRL) come and go. She would get mad at someone and unfriend them. Or, more tellingly, she would have a friend cut contact with her because she had been “truthful” with them.
Her own daughter was not speaking to her when she first came here. I suspect that I am far from the only person she has treated this way and that that was behind some of these broken relationships.
Given the nature of your friend, I would be very hesitant to take her in at all. One of the only reasons I was able to have this person live with me for so long was because I have a really big house with areas that can offer a lot of privacy, for me and for any guests. Even then, it was sometimes very annoying to have someone else around all the time.
Someone who does not have a job to go to is around all the time!
But, if you are, don’t be too hospitable. Unless you really want a roommate—where the person staying there would have maybe some legal rights as well as the social rights of it being “their house too”—be polite but establish and re-establish as necessary, very clear and boundaries.
When the goal is for the person to only get on their feet and move on with their life, being too comfortable can be a detriment. A good guest will understand because as a good guest they will not want to impose on you for one second longer than necessary. But, if they’re tendency is to push boundaries, then “being nice” will just feed bad behavior.
My houseguest actually took me to task for telling her how to load the dishwasher. The way she phrased it was that I “gave her crap about how to load the dishwasher.” I did not. However, I did point out things that were not to be put into the dishwasher or that needed to be put on the top rack. And given her sensitive nature, I was more than diplomatic about it.
And all along, I thought things were going pretty well, as well as possible. I thought we had built a valued friendship.
I was so very wrong. I hope your situation turns out better.
Definitely make a time-limit (say 3 months) and stick to it. If she’s staying at your house, she can help with cooking and cleaning. As a matter of fact, if she is picky *and* has dietary restrictions, she should be cooking for herself. NO, you do not have to invite Beth along if someone invites you out and it’s not rude to ask for a bit of privacy if you have a visitor.
The challenge with 3 months is that is easily enough to establish tenancy. Unlike a guest that you can have kicked out immediately, a tenant must be legally evicted, which could take a long time depending on where you live and how hard they fight it.
I think I would tell her no I am really sorry but I just don’t have the room you can stay for a week, but that is it.
DONT let anyone take advantage of you …
Firmly set everything down in writing. Period. Full Stop.
I had a friend give me a hand up many years ago. I moved to get a job and had enough friends to couch surf for about two weeks, showed up with half the food stamps for that month and enough cash to buy a new pair of nylons for interviews and had three dresses from a food pantry/church help program. I got hired temp the next day, paid half the food, and in 7 weeks got hired permanently and moved into own apartment. Then paid that first friend that was solid gold half of 7 weeks rent etc.
I paid it forward. I didn’t know she was that unemployable. 2-3 months turned into 29 and a formal eviction notice and invoking her parents (mind you she was out of college over a decade). I learned as it almost cost me my marriage (we had zero left because she often had no money to contribute to her staying and she ate twice what we did, aka cook for four and she ate for two).
Write it all out including when your help will end. Spell it out. I had the motivation to get back on my feet and managed to make it happen, my friend said later because I was trying, she was good with me staying. And sterling friend for paying my half off within three months of showing up on her doorstep. The second one when I tried to pay it forward, I so wish I’d written it ALL out.
Once you write it out and make her sign a copy, don’t waver on it. Not one crumb.
Administrator’s suggestions are great. Another idea, if she has difficulty getting a decent job, she can always get a not so great part time job to tide her over while she continues to look. She can wait tables or work fast food until something better comes along. Also, does she have family?
It sounds like a lot of her difficulty might be self-inflicted. Making major moves without job prospects and a lot of savings is very risky. I would be hesitant to invite someone to stay with me when I already know that I can only take them in small doses. If you have a hard time telling her to leave after one month, remember that your first responsibility is to your children, not to a friend who has made poor decisions.
This sounds like a disaster in the making. Beth is, at best, high maintenance; at worst, she’s an entitled lazy user. She assumes she can avail herself of OP’s resources without hesitation. This does not bode well for a joined living situation.
If you don’t want to rescind your offer, OP (I would!), then make sure Beth is clear on those points made by Admin. And make very sure Beth understand that one month is all the time you will be able to give her as a roommate. And make very, very sure Beth understands that she is walking into a situation where your needs are higher than hers, so this gift of a living situation is dearly given, and you are in need of support from her (emotional and financial) to be able to offer this gift. Put the onus on what she can do for YOU, OP, not on what you can do for her. If she is as you describe her, then she will not be able to handle such a situation for long, as it won’t feed her selfishness.
I agree, you don’t want to be unclear. It’s too easy to have “creep” in the set of expectations. Beth doesn’t appear to be very stable (2 moves and now a move home in short order) and her planning skills aren’t the best. Give her ONE week to recover from the move and then refer her to social services. Most communities offer 211 and have helpful options like subsidized housing, food pantries, free or reduced cost vet care if income demonstrates need. Job 1 for her needs to BE a job, ANY job! It will lessen the stress and guilt on both of you. Job 2 needs to a a life, ANY life! She should get out of the house for meetings (meetups, church groups, singles groups, therapy groups, skill and interest groups, volunteering, you name it!) The harder she works at getting her act together, the sooner she will succeed and the less time she will have to mope.
I’m always amazed at the qualities that come out after someone describes a friend or family member as a “lovely person”. If Beth was indeed a lovely person, you wouldn’t be wringing your hands right now about her staying with you. And I hate to say it OP, but I suspect you will not be able to find your spine and Beth is going to be a problem for a long time to come. You sound like a host…that mindset needs to go. Someone in Beth’s position shouldn’t be looking for more than the bare minimum (a roof over her head and enough food for sustenance). Cooking, cleaning and entertaining shouldn’t even be in your vocabulary. Beth sounds inclined to make rash, bad decisions and you need to be sure not to add your own to this potential disaster.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your summary. Boundaries are hard for some people and the skills required to grow and utilize a nice, shiny spine develop more slowly for some souls, too. I can’t help but wonder if the OP will be able to reframe her thinking in such a way as to offer some limited help to her friend and also expect her to fend for herself as soon as possible. I hope so.
This lady hasn’t been able to find her happy place on earth. Don’t be too hospitable that she is content finally – with your house!
Other than that, she’ll probably grow bored soon and leave.
We had my DH’s best friend come stay with us when we lived in a major US city (he lived in a small town) for what was supposed to be two months while he “looked for a job”. His idea of looking for a job was checking the paper daily and going out maybe once a week for an interview. My idea of looking for a job was looking at the paper and then going out and putting in applications every day at various places (for the record this is also what DH thought looking for a job meant). The one line in the sand I drew was no drugs of any kind and if he got drunk, he would have to clean up his own mess and if he passed out, he would lie where he fell until he sobered up enough to get up on his own. None of that happened but no helping out around the house, cooking, cleaning up his own mess, etc. happened either while DH and I were both working and coming home tired to him sitting in the recliner watching TV. Thankfully about the time I was getting tired of having to go somewhere in the car with DH to get some privacy to even talk, he went home a month early. I didn’t say anything, and DH said he didn’t either, but all I know is that saved the friendship.
Years of watching The People’s Court has taught me that before someone moves in with you (or you move in with them) GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING.
Set boundaries clearly from the start, preferably in writing. You will be glad that you did and sorry if you don’t. (I’ve learned this lesson several times the hard way- you sound a lot like me).
Honestly? Nothing puts a strain on a friendship like living together. I hope you’ll be prepared for that. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
So, there has been a lot of great advice, and I just wanted to put in my two cents.
OP: please get more information on tenants rights. If you accept money from her while she is staying at your house for more than a specified amount of time, she may go from guest to tenant, and then it becomes more difficult to have her leave. It doesn’t have to be fair market value, just anything that can be seen as a regular payment (rent) over a certain period of time.
If people get mail at your address they can suddenly have tenants rights in many locations. At that point you would have to go through a legal eviction proceeding, while she still lived there. You have a full plate, you do not need to an irresponsible adult child to the things you have to deal wiith. IMHO I would not allow her to stay at my home again.
Yeah, I’d not leave this open-ended, ie “as long as she needs” to get on her feet. That could end up being a long time. Who the heck moves across the country without FIRST working out how they will make a living there?
A word of caution – check local, and state laws. Where I live having any agreement in writing makes a ‘houseguest’ into a ‘tenant.’
Tenant have rights, and require legal processes for eviction. A houseguest has no rights. The number of horror stories of people who just wrote down a few rules and set a time limit for the guest to stay turning into a yearlong drama, while the guest continued to live under the same roof, are incredible. Even if no money ever changes hands.
Just know what you could be getting into, I’m not saying your friend is a bad person, but desperate people can sometimes do things they never thought they would.
I would say something like, I’ll be glad to have you as a houseguest for 2 weeks, but after that I’m afraid I’ll have to charge you rent. Then stick with it.