You gotta pay rent, son

My adult son wants to move back home. How much should I be charging him in rent?

Our elder shares a couple of his own experiences to shed some light on the question.

Dear EWC

My 30-year-old son has separated from his second wife. He has three kids. He is a good kid and has a decent job. He has asked to temporarily move back home to save money. We were a bit hesitant but said OK. We watch his kids, our grandkids, quite often. My spouse is all about teaching him to be more responsible and charging rent. I was OK with that but we disagreed about the amount. I felt $300 was responsible, and he says $500. I am afraid that is too much for him right now, and it is our son. He is renting a nice big area above the garage with his own bathroom and shared kitchen. How do we come to an agreement on the monthly rent? It’s causing arguments. His rent will include wifi and water and power.

Mr. Bill replies

Thanks for writing to us with this interesting question. Let me share a couple of stories and a few thoughts in response.

Your son, at age 30, has had two wives and has three children. I can understand why you were a little hesitant to agree when he asked to move back home. He is a good kid and has a good job, but seems to have had some unsuccessful relationships. That’s not a judgment, just an observation, and something to which I can relate. Our son is divorced with children and has a couple of failed relationships in his past. Like your son, he is a really good kid and has an excellent job, one that he does well.

At one point during his break-up, our son had a couple of overnights at our house, but he never asked to move back in. Given our home’s configuration, I’m not sure what we would have said, how long or if we would have let him stay. Your home, on the other hand, seems like it is more conducive to your son’s moving in. You have a nice big area above the garage and private bath and his rent will include nice amenities. A shared kitchen might present some coordination issues, but all in all, it sounds much better than what we could have offered. If we had had your space and had he asked, we probably would have said OK, too.

As for the rent, I agree with you both that he should pay some kind of rent. It does teach him responsibility, it communicates that living with you isn’t forever and free and easy, and he continues to be accustomed to paying his way, so when he leaves, paying rent or mortgage won’t be a shock. Now, as to how much . . . .

I don’t know where you live, but here, $300 or $500 is well below anything that a person could expect to pay in rent. Anywhere in the metro area of our city. One way to approach your question is to look online and see what rents are going for. Recognizing that your son has a shared kitchen and maybe some other shared areas of the house, the average or going rate for rents in your area may be high for what he is getting. But at least that gives you a start.

I do recognize and definitely noted your comment, “He is our son”. Here’s my other story.

When he was in his twenties, our other son was doing well — unmarried, no children, and had a good job. He had a nice apartment and shared it with a roommate. When the roommate relocated, our son, to save money and get some breathing room, asked if he could move back with us, into his old room. Same house, same configuration, but we were younger and, like your son, he was and is our son. We agreed, but like you, we told him there would be rent. When he asked how much, I said, “How much can you afford to pay?”. I trusted him to tell me what he could afford, how much he had to have to live on, and how much he could/wanted to save.

He gave me a figure, paid with a check every month and on time. I never had to remind him. I cashed his checks and put the cash in a safe place. Like I said above, we wanted him to be used to paying rent and wanted to communicate this wasn’t free and without end.

He stayed maybe six months and was a quiet, polite, and excellent roommate. He had his own bathroom, as he did before, and we shared the kitchen. Just like you. He made most of his own meals, set his own schedule and things worked out well.

When he had saved enough money and got back on his feet, he found a new apartment, one that he could afford without a roommate, and he moved out. As he was packing up and leaving, I gave him a large envelope with all the rent money he had paid. We didn’t need his money, and his goal was to save. We helped.

I share that story as it is another way to approach the rent and the amount. Because no matter how much, especially $500 or more, if you plan to return it at some point, the more you charge, the better it will be for him.

Those are my stories and my reaction. I hope they helped a little as you and your husband come to an agreement and as you all three live together. One of the best parts of your story and mine is that these boys, all three of them, are good kids, making their way and with good jobs.

Thanks for contacting the EWC and trusting us with your story. I’d be interested in how you decide to approach the rent issue, how you determined how much, what your plans are with it, and how things are going. I’d like that.

Good luck, my friend.

Letter #: 446635
Category: Children

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