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Ask Rene: Family Freeloader

Hey Rene:

My husband and I agreed to let his 24-year-old nephew stay with us for a couple of weeks until his job transfer came through and he could enroll in college and get his own apartment. That was six months ago. The job transfer didn’t happen, but he did start school.

He only has class two days each week. The other time he spends playing video games. During the day, he sleeps like a log and at night he is on the game system nonstop. He barely cleans the guest bedroom; make the bed, or bathes without one of us telling him to do so. He doesn’t help around the house, pay rent, or have any friends. In fact, he never leaves the house except to go to class or to pick up fast food. He smokes and drinks, and I’m pretty sure he does drugs, although I haven’t found any evidence of this.
A couple of months ago we told him that he needed to get a job so he could start paying rent to us. I even set up an interview for him with my company, but he didn’t want to do the work. Plus, his mother told him that he didn’t have to…so he didn’t follow-through.

My husband says he doesn’t want to ruin his relationship with his brother  who  knows how sorry his child is .The kid’s mom has always babied her son and allowed his behavior to cause tension in her own family. Even his grandparents and uncle recognize how undesirable the situation has become. But naturally, none of them is willing to do anything about the situation, and my husband doesn’t want to just kick him out.

But I say he has to go! Last week I found a porno DVD out in plain sight in our guest bedroom, and other evidence of undesirable behavior. His first rent payment is due February 15, and I know he won’t have the money unless his parents give it to him. We decided to charge him rent in the hopes that it would motivate him to find a job so he could eventually afford to move out. But of course, he hasn’t made any progress towards that and honestly, at this point, all I want is him gone.

Rene, how do I get this freeloader out of my house without upsetting my husband (we’re 60% on the same page) and straining the relationship with my brother and sister-in-law?


Fed up and Frustrated

Dear F and F:

You sound like such a nice lady and therein lies the problem. You and your husband were very magnanimous in allowing your nephew to come live with you. But he’s no fool, he thinks he’s living in the Hotel California and until something drastic happens, he will never leave!

It might help if you look at this like a business relationship. You and your husband agreed to give your nephew something (lodging) in exchange for something (him going to school). He did not, and shows no signs that he plans to follow through on his end of the bargain so he has basically voided the contract. If you were his employer you would be justified, legally and otherwise, in firing him. The same applies here but is complicated by the fact that he’s family. He knows that, as do your brother and sister-in-law.  Without question something needs to be done so here’s what I suggest:

LAY DOWN THE LAW! This is something that should have been done at the start but we are lulled into thinking, “Oh they’re family. Official agreements are for strangers.” If this case illustrates anything it is that we need to be clear in ALL relationships.  Now this is probably going to shock your nephew but it’s exactly what he needs. In order for him to live in your home he must:

a)     Take a full course load in school: That’s 12 hours a semester.

b)    Get a part-time job: I don’t care if it’s scooping poop in the neighborhood, he MUST contribute something other than waste matter to your home.

c)     Keep his room clean: That room cannot be a pigsty and yes you have a right to demand that as it’s part of YOUR house.

d)    Do some chores around the house: yeah, I’m a hard ass but he’s a part of your family, therefore he needs to pull his weight. He can cook, mow the grass, clean toilets but he must do something.

GET EVERYONE ON BOARD: You are going to put the above (and anything else you want to add) in an official contract and give a copy to your brother and sister-in-law as well as your nephew. Two things here: You must spell out EVERYTHING in this agreement. Ambiguity is why you are writing to me today. Outline how much money he will pay for rent (yes, call it that), how often he will clean his room and that you will be the sole judge on whether that is adequate, what his chores will be around the house and with what frequency he will do them. The other thing is you’d better just get ready for some screaming and howling because this is going to go over like a lead balloon, believe that.  Stand your ground.

OFFENSES RESULTING IN IMMEDIATE EXPULSION: Write this in big, bold, RED letters on the contract if you have to, but there are some things that are so egregious that, if your nephew crosses this line, he simply must go. There will be no discussion, no pleading his case, no second chances. That’s it. It is up to you to decide what they are, but I’d think topping that list would be illicit drug use, seeing as he’s in YOUR home and you can be held responsible (I shudder to think of what the other “undesirable behaviors” are). Also grounds for expulsion; being without a job for more than three weeks (or however long you choose) or being kicked out of school.

FOLLOW THROUGH: Don’t even bother to do this if you’re not prepared to follow through and that means getting your husband 100 percent on board. Make sure he understands and is prepared for what fallout may come if you have to kick the lazy nephew out. Your husband cannot allow his brother or sister-in-law to strong-arm, guilt, cajole or plead that kid back into your house. The ramifications are far reaching if you go back on your word.

Everybody in this situation has a good deal, except you and your husband. The nephew is living the Life of Riley, his father, who knows the kid’s a screw-up, has abdicated his parental duties and his mother is probably happy about that as well. Your husband says he doesn’t want to ruin his relationship with his brother. I think his brother knows and is counting on that. But here’s the thing; it already IS having an effect as your husband struggles to make it work. Frankly the two of you should be pissed off that they have pawned off the result of their poor parenting onto you guys. It is not your job to correct 24 years of coddling so don’t co-opt that responsibility. No more setting up job interviews for him and if his mother says he doesn’t have to work, then let HER take him back. Oh brother.

This is what you call “tough love” and it’s clearly a foreign concept with this kid.  Explain to him that if he were out on his own, no landlord would stand for this so it’s in his best interest to get with your program. The bad news is that my gut reaction is that this kid is NOT going to be able to pull it together and you will have no choice but to kick him out. But that will accomplish two things. He will be out of your house and no longer your problem and you will give him his first, real life lesson, one he won’t ever forget. I’d lay money on the fact that he comes back and thanks you for it someday.

Good luck!

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