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#359: Family & Business

Hi Captain,

I want to move out at the end of the year and I had the idea of moving into my Grandmother’s unoccupied flat (she lives in a home).The only problem is my family. My Mother is my Grandmother’s Administrator so she makes all the big decisions when it comes to my grandmother’s affairs but because she is my mother, she can’t be seen as giving any preference to my because I’m her daughter.

The issue with this is that even if it’s something she’d do for one of my cousins, if she does it for me then it’s favouritism. So she can’t make the decision and it has to be decided by her siblings, all 6 of them, most of which live interstate

So the next person who the majority of the decision falls to is one of my aunts who does not get along with my Mother at all (which makes me sad but that’s a story for another day). She is on the board of directors for the family business (of which the flat is part of the building) and so would be setting the contract, rent etc.

The first thing is that the flat needs some work before it’s habitable long term, the carpets need replacing because they are full of dust and mould, a proper stove needs to be installed and the bathroom may need refitting. 

Because this is such a potentially touchy subject, I can’t work out a way of asking whether it’s okay to move in (I am happy to pay for all utilities and rent as long as it’s appropriate) as well as bringing up the subject of renovations.

The other part of the issue is that the kitchen gets used by staff members of the family business for lunches and also that the flat is usually available for visiting family. 

I am happy for these things to continue and to vacate if family need to use it but I’m not okay with paying top dollar if this is the case. I don’t feel that it’s fair that I have to cover water and power usage of the staff members either so I would like that to be reflected in what I have to pay as well.

But I don’t know how to say that without causing a huge uproar or offending someone because I can see them taking it as if I am being selfish/cheap and un-family like. Is it right for me to ask these things? I’m not being unreasonable for not accommodating other people just because they’re family, right? I believe that family and business should be kept as separate as possible.

Thanks in advance,

Sick of Family Politics

Dear Sick of Family Politics:

I’m going to be blunt with you: There are other apartments that don’t need major renovation and won’t have staff & family coming in and out of your place on the regular and that won’t make you beholden to your family. My strong suggestion is that you find one of those and bypass this whole thing, which will 99% only lead you to more hassle and moving out in a year anyway.

If you do want to see if it’s even feasible, my suggestion is to email everyone who has a say in the decision – not just your mom, so she’s not in the position of advocating for you – and ask a simple question:

Hi, what are your plans for Grandma’s flat? Would you be willing to rent it to me starting early next year? What kind of $ and terms would you be looking for?

Let them do the work of figuring out renovations, staff needs, and what to do about family visits. They’ll either go for the idea and quote you a price, which you can negotiate down (“Okay, I was thinking more along the lines of $____, especially if you’d still like staff and visiting family to have access to it, would that work?”) or decide is out of your budget, or they’ll refuse.

Don’t do their work for them, either in terms of figuring out logistics and what they might need from the space or the work of rejecting your suggestion before they do. Just ask, act like it’s a reasonable request, give them a lot of say in how it happens, and see what they come up with.

And in the meantime, look at other apartment situations. Realize that you will end up paying whatever you save on rent in the currency of constant intrusion and interference, guilt, family friction, total lack of privacy, and permanent expectations of supplication and gratitude. A favor loses its value if it gets brought up every Boxing Day for the rest of your life.

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108 comments
  1. Kara said:

    I so would run screaming from the apartment. All the other power play issues aside, Sick needs to realize that she will be imposed on far more than a non-family tenant, simply because she *is* family. She’ll be expected to make far more sacrifices and allowances and if she doesn’t or becomes resentful, she’ll be accused of not being family-minded or of taking advantage.

    I would think twice about renting from a family member under normal situations, but this one is a big “no” … in glowing neon letters.

    • Here’s a situation that came up in my apartment recently: the toilet broke. The landlord sent some sketchy random unlicensed friends/cousins of his, and they “fixed” the toilet.

      The next morning, there was poo water leaking all over the floor. We called the landlord again. He said he’d send his buddies back out real soon. We told him we wanted a real plumber, and we wanted it now not soon. He hemmed and hawwed. We told him that he should not expect rent payments until he sent a real plumber.

      He sent a real plumber. The poo water stopped.

      Is this a discussion–complete with “soon isn’t good enough”, “your buddies aren’t good enough,” “you have to spend money on me, more than you expected,” and “I will withhold rent”–something you could hold with your family, and stand your ground, and still have nice warm relations with them?

      If the answer is no, either find a new apartment with fewer entanglements, or prepare to live in poo water.

      • emmych said:

        yes yes yes yes yes yes yes and yes.

        The poo water is a great metaphor for this situation; LISTEN TO THIS COMMENT.

      • Pterinochilus murinus said:

        My parents own the apartment I rent, and that’s the best option for me right now because Reasons, but Cliff is right about this issue. With my parents it’s “But [licensed but still unreliable builder] is SUCH A NICE PERSON.” Yes, such a nice person that they treat showing up on the day they agreed to as optional, like this is a social favour they’re doing, not a job they’ve agreed to. So I have to police the boundaries with my parents and with the tradespeople. And that’s a relatively benign version of the problem. If my relationship with my parents now was what it was 10 years ago, there’s no way I would have agreed to it.

  2. katyisbutthurt said:

    Walk away from this one, LW.

    The cheapest way to pay is money. Find a flat that has nothing to do with your mother’s family, because otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a lot of dealing with other peoples’ butthurt. Nobody wants that.

    • caitie_didn't said:

      “the cheapest way to pay is money”.

      That’s going up on my wall. What a great life lesson.

      • C L said:

        Wow, I agree — very true, and a great way to put it.

  3. Stranger Bird said:

    Another vote for “Run screaming”. If this flat needs work AND you’re willing to pay a normal amount of rent, I don’t see what the attraction of this particular flat is. LW, if you work in the family business that’s in the same building so living here would give you a 30 second commute, that I can see. If there’s something you didn’t mention that particularly draws you to living there (it’s in an amazing section of town, and has lots of good memories of your beloved Gran, and ???), you could weigh that against the family politics though your family dynamic sounds so complicated I still personally would not feel it was worthwhile. If you don’t have any particular attachment to this flat, RUN AWAY.

  4. Esti said:

    Agree this is not a good idea. If you believe that family and business should be kept separate as much as possible, then this is really not a situation you want to get yourself into.

    If you are willing to pay market rate for a flat, then there is absolutely no reason to move into one that needs major renovations and will involve relatives dropping by to use your kitchen and/or evict you while they are visiting from out of town. And if you aren’t willing or can’t pay market rent, then renting this flat means you will be negotiating a deal that gives you a break on rent in exchange for your family being able to use your house in inconvenient ways. That is *not* going to lead to anything good — because they will be doing you a favor by letting you rent below market rates, which means they will expect you to accommodate them in exchange for the bargain you’re getting.

    If you really want to move out and can’t afford to rent a flat of your own elsewhere, I’d suggest looking into other options (roommates, a room in someone’s house, etc.). You may well need to share space with someone to afford a place, but it virtually certain to lead to less strife if you’re doing it in a business transaction where no one feels like they’re doing the other party a favor.

  5. Lontra Canadensis said:

    I think this is an appropriate time to invoke the house full of velociraptors metaphor!

    If you do decide this flat full of velociraptors is acceptable, GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. Make sure you have a written lease that spells out ALL THE THINGS.

    “…and as to keeping it as estate property and paying rent to the heirs, ourselves included,—nobody wanted that; they would rather have things settled up. There would always be questions of estimates and repairs; it was not best to have things so in a family. Separate accounts as well as short ones, made best friends” – “We Girls, A Home Story” by A.D.T. Whitney

    But I think there’s too many bitey things in this flat, you’re better off finding somewhere else.

    • Irene said:

      YOU QUOTED A.D.T. WHITNEY! NO ONE ELSE IN THE WOOOORRRRRLLLLLD KNOWS ABOUT A.D.T. WHITNEY!

      …ahem. Excuse the fangirl squee. It’s not that I’m even such a fan of hers, but I am a fan of the sort of person who knows about this sort of obscure writer.

      Plus, good point about velociraptors.

      • Lontra Canadensis said:

        And I just had a squee that someone else recognized her name! The quoted bit popped into my mind as I was writing and I figured it was was just tooo apropos to pass up on.

        I thank Project Gutenberg for introducing me to Mrs. Whitney. Also Mrs. Molesworth, and Charlotte Mary Yonge, and several more.

    • meh said:

      Support the writing thing. Do not leave a single thing you discuss out of the writing, have numbers and exact dates and limits on how long and how often you can be evicted. SPECIFIC ones. Write down repairs to be made, who will make them, and by when. go through an do an inventory of the flat and any damages it has before you move in.

      Or, yknow, fly free, and get a roommate. They’re inconvenient but generally a lot easier to deal with and escape from than an entitled family. Especially an entitled family acting for Grandma and with a family business. That just adds too many layers of snakes.

  6. Britt said:

    Definitely agreeing with the RUN RUN AWAY votes, but if you do decide to attempt to go forward with this, treat it as 100% a business transaction, and expect the same from whichever family members are acting as landlords/estate managers. If you’re going to have to deal with contractors traipsing in and out while renovations are made, or do some of the renovations yourself, or have random employees and family members coming in and out whenever, the rent should absolutely reflect that, and the expectations of that should be IN WRITING in the lease (and yes, dear god, sign a legally binding lease).

  7. eselle28 said:

    I can see how this is tempting. You need an apartment, and can pay for one. There’s a perfectly good apartment going unused right now. Moving in seems like a good idea, at first glance.

    But I really don’t think the family issues here are worth it. Aside from that, it sounds like lots of other people have expectations about what this apartment is used for. Your family business’s staff uses the kitchen. Your extended family expects to stay there when they visit. And while you might think that an adjustment to rent is the way to handle it, I think that once you’ve moved in, you might begin to be more concerned about your privacy and about other people feeling entitled to enter your home. As unpleasant as roommates can be, I think finding some other people to share housing with might be easier, because you can all define expectations beforehand and without bringing complicated family issues into the mix.

    • SadieBlake said:

      “I think that once you’ve moved in, you might begin to be more concerned about your privacy and about other people feeling entitled to enter your home”

      This really resonates with me. The thought that total strangers can – and have been, and will continue to! – have access to your home, your personal space, makes me really nervous about personal safety issues.

      If you know all the staff (maybe it’s a small staff, of people who have been there a long time, that you’re really close with?) then maaaaybe this wouldn’t be as nerve-wracking for you as I’m envisioning… but I shudder to think what could potentially, even-if-it’s-worst-case-scenario, happen to someone living alone in a flat that several other people have keys to.

      Even more benign than that – you know how stuff always goes missing from the fridge at work? There’s always that one dude (or chick!) who feels entitled to everyone’s sandwich or sodas or yogurt or whatever – and there’s always the angry note about not taking what isn’t yours, and putting names and dates on food and all that? Yeah…. that will be your fridge. I would bet fifty bucks you end up paying to subsidize snacks and drinks for a portion of the staff that uses your kitchen – and therefore thinks your food is somehow there for their convenience.

      I also wonder what the plan would be for when relatives come into town – do you sleep on your own couch while someone else sleeps in your bed? Do you pay for a hotel so your relations can boot you out of your home (and then hang out unattended with all your stuff)? Or maybe the flat has multiple (furnished) bedrooms – in which case you’re just on the spot for entertaining any passing relative that takes a fancy to staying with you for a while? Again, unless you’re super-close with every relation that might possibly use this flat, this is pretty literally a recipe for disaster.

      These could all be worst-case assumptions. Maybe there are other factors at play that make that stuff a non-issue. But I think, in most cases (like 99.9% of them), this would end up being a really, REALLY shitty living situation for you. I’m tossing my hat into the “RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN” ring.

      • Literally my most common nightmare is variations on a theme of my personal space being seen as public by everyone except me, with a high enough number of other people that by the time I get one lot out more have settled in. Once my bedroom was a cool fort sort of thing… in a wildlife park/nature reserve/outdoor museumish place. The only way I’d be staying in this flat would be if it was close to free.

      • Erika said:

        Oh my gosh, this. Sadie is exactly right. You’ll have to lock up your stuff and food in your own home. And if you do that, people are going to feel hurt. And if you don’t do that, your stuff will disappear. I don’t care if it is family.

        Story time! My father lived in his childhood home because a. it’s on the family farm, which Dad runs and b. my grandfather was 101 years old and needed someone to help him out now and then. The terms of the will were that the house went to my Dad since he literally owned all the land around it, but the contents of the house went to his sisters. He had to change the locks on the doors because they would come in to “look over the house contents” but would also help themselves to HIS stuff, too. Like his new television, purchased after Grandpa died. And his new pots and pans and kitchen knives, which his sisters had seen him receive as Christmas presents. The lesson here: his attorney had strongly suggested that he (as executor) have an auction firm in and auction the contents of the house. Sisters could bid on any items they wanted, and pay just like anyone else. They would then also receive equal shares of the auction proceeds. But Dad didn’t do this, because he trusted them. They are adults. They are family. Family that snuck alone in while Dad was working and took away the best stuff, basically stealing from their sisters. Family that went though my Dad’s medicine cabinet and his chest of drawers. Family that tried to dig up the irises from the gardens until he caught them at it. Family that turned out cupboards and covered the kitchen floor with old spices and margarine containers and anything else Grandma had hoarded just to get to the good stuff.

        My point being, you don’t really know family. And you certainly don’t really know the employees using your kitchen as a break room. This is a nightmare scenario. RUN SCREAMING.

        ps. Also, semen stains on your bed. Ewwwwwwwwww

      • eselle28 said:

        I don’t think those are worst-case assumptions, or at least I can think of a number of other things that can go wrong, The more I contemplate the idea, the more it makes me shudder.

        After all, it might not just be the kitchen. What if people decide to watch television on their breaks, or someone decides to “borrow” something? Is everyone who uses the flat good about locking the door? Will people be annoyed at the LW’s housekeeping skills or pass gossip along to his or her parents? What happens if the LW wants to have guests, or is just feeling sick one day and wants some peace and quiet?

        And as for the employees, it seems like this might be one of those cases where everyone has worked there for a long period of time, but that won’t necessarily be the same forever. It’s entirely possible that one day a new employee who’s creepy or disrespectful will come along, or that an old one will be laid off or fired.

  8. RocketFullOfHoles said:

    Perhaps I am missing something. Letter Writer, if you are reading this, what are your reasons for wanting this particular flat? (The downsides look, as another commenter said, rather bitey.)

    • LW here, I posted a comment that answered your question but I’ll copy and paste the important section here: “My first reason for choosing this place is because I still don’t know whether I’m only going to need it for the summer or for all of next year and I probably won’t know that until after I move in. Most landlords won’t take you on if you can’t guarantee the length of your tenancy.

      Secondly, I do work at the business occasionally and I know all of the staff members as they are also extended family. I’m not worried about the fridge etc. because people don’t use it (there’s a mini fridge in the coffee area in the store) they just use the microwave mostly.
      The location is really good for me because it’s very close to my parents’ house so if I need anything it’s a 5 minute drive. Also, if there are any troubles such as broken toilet, shower etc. I can just go to my parents’ house until it gets fixed.

      It’s also really close to the city and walking distance from the clubbing strip which means that I can walk home rather than catching an expensive taxi. There is also a major supermarket across the road, another huge convenience.”

      • Ali said:

        And this seems like a better idea than staying with your parents why? All of the location advantages are effectively the same without these issues. I understand not wanting to live with your parents. I understand really, really well. But if they’re willing to let you stay (with or without rent) until you know if you’ll be staying beyond the end of the summer, doesn’t that make more sense all around?

        • Because I would like to find somewhere that both me and my boyfriend can stay. He has been living with my parents this semester but he has to move out over the summer.

          • Jake said:

            If anything, this makes me like the idea less. You talk about being willing to move back in with your parents every time anything goes wrong in the apartment, or if relatives need it, but what about your boyfriend? Can he go to your parents’ place with you? And what if the Committee of Aunts never gets around to fixing the shower (or whatever it was that drove you back to your parents’ place)? Can your boyfriend stay with your parents indefinitely? Does he like the idea of not really having a settled place to call home? Do you?

            Would the Committee of Aunts know that your boyfriend is staying there with you? If your parents don’t want him to keep living with them, are they willing to have him live in an apartment that they are effectively subsidizing?

            What about his rights as a tenant? You seem like you are willing to live in poo water, as Cliff mentioned above. Is he? Is that something you feel like you can reasonably ask of him?

            Given that you think the answer is likely to be no anyway, it seems to me like asking is an action with very little upside and a whole lot of downside.

            I’m thinking maybe the idea of moving somewhere where you will be completely independent of your parents is kind of scary, and you feel like this is a good intermediate step, but I bet that if you get an independent apartment, you will not find it to be as daunting as you imagine.

          • Tiff said:

            Hey LW,
            Not sure what area you’re in, but in my neck of the woods there’s a large number of people on Craigslist who want to sublet a room or in-law unit on a month-to-month basis. A lot of them specify that they are willing to take someone on short term OR long term. And most of them are willing to take couples, just FYI.

            The apartment does sound very convenient, in terms of location and proximity to amenities!
            But I agree with the other posters. For whatever reason, boundaries that are assumed with roommates you don’t know very well are often totally up in the air when it’s close friends or family. Also: “If there are any troubles such as broken toilet, shower etc. I can just go to my parents’ house until it gets fixed.” Yeah, you’re going to hear that from your family when you complain that the toilet is broken. As a justification for why it’s taking a month.

            If you didn’t have a lot of concerns and reservations about this, I don’t think you would have written in to CA in the first place. Listen to your gut.

          • Ali said:

            Your family is not obligated to put up your dude. From your other comments, it looks like he was staying with you and your parents and has had to move out because of reasons. Those reasons will continue to exist when something breaks or you get temporarily evicted for family visits. What happens to him during that time? While you might be able to make a plausible argument to your collective aunts to let YOU live there for cheap, they very well might not extend that offer to your boyfriend. Further, your argument that no one will mess with your stuff because they don’t mess with your grandmother’s, even if it were true, still doesn’t extend to his stuff.

            From your username, I take it you’re probably in Australia. Rent is expensive here. I understand. But there are plenty of share houses that would take both on for a few months to longer and don’t come with all of this extra hassle in Melbourne, and I suspect elsewhere as well. The more details you give the less good this idea seems.

  9. karinacinerina said:

    I wouldn’t think this was a feasible living situation (with the renovations, in-and-out staff, and vacationing family crash-ins) unless the rent were basically free. IE $100 for utilities and you are essentially the onsite manager of the staff kitchen/crash pad, “paid” for your efforts with free rent. This is a completely unnecessary creation of stress any other way. The velociraptors metaphor is apt, colorful, and henceforth appropriated by me!
    FLEE.

  10. RodeoBob said:

    This seems like a good example of a “convenient (sounding) idea” versus a “good idea”.

    You know about this flat! It’s (mostly) unoccupied! (at night) You (probably) won’t need to go through a credit check or background check or pay a (large) security deposit! You (might) get a break on rent because it’s family!

    Like dating people you work with, this apartment is appealing because it’s there and it seems like a safe bet. Also like dating people you work with, this situation has a lot of negatives that you might not see at first, or you might discount incorrectly.

    I’m not being unreasonable for not accommodating other people just because they’re family, right?
    I need to unwind the double-negatives… give me a second.

    I’m not being unreasonable for not accommodating people because they’re family, right?

    Better. OK, no, you are not being reasonable, and it has nothing to do with family.

    Imagine you were walking down the street, and saw an empty-looking flat with a “for rent” sign in the window. Would you call up the landlord and say: “is it OK for me to move in? I can pay utilities, and rent if it’s reasonable.” Of course not!

    Let’s back that up a step more. You’re walking down the street, and you see an empty-looking flat. The carpets are filthy, the stove is busted, and a neighbor goes inside to use the kitchen. Would you approach the owner and say “Hey, I want to rent that empty flat of yours, as long as you replace the stove and carpets and maybe the plumbing, kick out the folks who use the kitchen each day, and stop letting folks spend the night there! Oh, and you should charge me only a reasonable amount of rent!”

    If you wouldn’t do business with a stranger like that (because it’s presumptuous and rude) why should your family be subjected to shabby treatment?

    • J. Preposterice said:

      “Imagine you were walking down the street, and saw an empty-looking flat with a “for rent” sign in the window. Would you call up the landlord and say: “is it OK for me to move in? I can pay utilities, and rent if it’s reasonable.” Of course not!”

      …whyever not? That is one way that people rent flats. That is a thing that happens, literally every single day in every city that exists here on planet earth.

      Your other scenario takes only minor rewording to be polite, as well. Seriously. It’s a reasonable request to make. I don’t think it’s a good idea (here there be velociraptors and also possibly t. rexes), but it’s not unreasonable, or rude, or particularly presumptuous.

      • RodeoBob said:

        …whyever not? That is one way that people rent flats. That is a thing that happens, literally every single day in every city that exists here on planet earth.

        1.) “Is it OK for me to move in?” is not the first question you start with. Before you get to “is it OK for me to move in?”, you first have to clear a few other, arguably more important questions, like:
        *”Is the apartment ready for someone to move in?”
        *”How much is the rent?”
        *”Which utilities do I need to pay?”
        *”How much is the security deposit?”
        *”Do I need to fill out an application? Is there a processing fee?”
        *”Do I need to show you paystubs/a bank statement/a credit report?”
        *”Has my application been approved?”

        The LW is presuming an awful lot by skipping all of those questions. The LW is assuming that they get to skip the application process entirely, ignore any deposits or fees, take for granted that the apartment is ready to move in, and that their claim takes supremacy over the other uses of that space.

        Your other scenario takes only minor rewording to be polite…
        it’s not unreasonable, or rude, or particularly presumptuous

        Sorry, which is it? If it needs rewording to be polite, than it’s rude.
        As for being particularly presumptuous, notice that in the second scenario, there is no “For Rent” sign!

        The LW’s family isn’t currently renting the apartment; there’s nothing to suggest they intended to rent the apartment. They’re using the apartment right now, both as a kitchen and a guest-room. The LW is presuming that they will stop all of that to turn it into a rental, and yes, that’s presumptuous! And if the flat is usable for their purposes now, asking them to spend a sizable amount of money improving it for someone else’s use is unreasonable.

        LW: Hey, since you’re not using that flat, can I move in?
        Family: Who says we’re not using it? It’s where out-of-town guests stay.
        LW: OK, I can be somewhere else on those days. But the rest of the time, when you’re not using it-
        Family: We are using it; we use the kitchen for business!
        LW: OK, but will you fix the stove, the carpets, and possibly the plumbing so I can live there? I’ll pay rent, as long as it’s reasonable!
        Family: You want us to spend a lot of money now, on things we’re not using, just so you can pay us a little money each month?
        LW: Yes. Remember, I’m family! Because we’re all family, I’m willing to be accomodating!
        Family: Or, we could do nothing at all, keep using the house the way we have been and not spend lots of time and money. Let us sleep on it.

        • Kara said:

          Wow Rodeo Bob. Who peed in your Cheerios this morning? I think you’re making a whole lot of assumptions based on some weird personal situation you have and projecting it on others. Maybe you should deal with your own issues before throwing your issues at others.

          • RocketFullOfHoles said:

            Actually, I think Rodeo Bob has a really good point:

            “The LW’s family isn’t currently renting the apartment; there’s nothing to suggest they intended to rent the apartment. They’re using the apartment right now, both as a kitchen and a guest-room. ”

            Before I read this, I hadn’t noticed that the LW actually says nothing about the family wanting to rent out the flat. There’s no indication in the letter that it’s actually on the rental market, and several indications that it is not. So yeah, I think assuming that the family is actually open to renting the place is a pretty big assumption.

          • LW here,
            My family have discussed renting it out however, because it would require having to put all of my grandmother’s things into storage and a lot of renovations/cleaning work (which no one has time for/can be bothered to do) they haven’t acted further. Also, if they rented it out, visiting family wouldn’t be able to use it. (This is a 1-3 times a year occurrence, possibly more for things like significant birthdays or family deaths.)

            I am happy for all of my grandmother’s furniture and belongings to stay as most of it is books and ornaments. There are three bedrooms, two of which have wardrobes that I can put my own things in and they are lockable.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          Oh, I didn’t know you had a window into the exact wording that the LW was planning to use. Not being psychic myself I usually do not know these things and generally assume that detailed quotes given in scenarios are intended to be the gist of a conversation and not a Minority Report style pre-recording.

        • Elsajeni said:

          I don’t see how it’s presumptuous or unreasonable at all to inquire about moving into the apartment, and I don’t see any reason to assume that the LW is planning to be pushy and demanding about it, as you’ve written in your scenario, rather than just saying “Hey, Aunt So-and-so, you guys own an apartment that no one lives in, right? I’m looking for a place to live; would you consider renting it to me?” and, if Aunt So-and-so says no, saying “OK, I’ll keep looking.” I mean, for this specific apartment, I think it’s a bad idea — but not because it’s rude.

          • JenniferP said:

            Agreed, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask. And the best way to seem not-entitled is to ask in a general way and not try to put all the specifics about rent/renovations/access in the initial email. Let the landlords work out what terms they want to rent it under and make them give you the starting point for any negotiation.

      • TO said:

        That’s a common way of advertising apartments where I live, just put a sign in the window and a phone number. I got my current apartment by walking (well, biking) past a sign in the window that said ‘for rent’ and chatting with the people who happened to be standing on the porch, one of whom turned out to be the owner.

        It’s also not in the least uncommon for people to negotiate requests, renovations, or exact terms before agreeing on a rent. Of course either party is free to agree to the proposed changes or not.

        I really don’t see anything in the least rude or at all odd about it. I just don’t see why you’d bother in this particular case. Unless it was way cheaper than market rate and you really couldn’t afford a regular apartment? But even then, lots of disadvantages.

    • TO said:

      “Let’s back that up a step more. You’re walking down the street, and you see an empty-looking flat. The carpets are filthy, the stove is busted, and a neighbor goes inside to use the kitchen. Would you approach the owner and say “Hey, I want to rent that empty flat of yours, as long as you replace the stove and carpets and maybe the plumbing, kick out the folks who use the kitchen each day, and stop letting folks spend the night there! Oh, and you should charge me only a reasonable amount of rent!”

      No, I wouldn’t call that rude or presumptuous at all. I’d call it making someone an offer, which the owner is free to say yes or no to depending on whether it suits them.

      You can go up to anyone and offer to buy or rent their house or car or whatever. If you offer them something that sounds like a good deal to them and interests them, they’ll say yes, if it doesn’t sound like a good deal to them, they’ll say no.

      • J. Preposterice said:

        Right? Exact wording of such a thing can be more or less polite, but the basic scenario is completely normal.

        Unless you are offering to buy something not generally considered acquirable via monetary means, such as a baby or a Sasquatch.

  11. I saw this part as yet another problem brewing:

    because she is my mother, she can’t be seen as giving any preference to my because I’m her daughter.
    The issue with this is that even if it’s something she’d do for one of my cousins, if she does it for me then it’s favouritism

    Yeah. It *is* favoritism if your mom is supposed to be giving all family members (or all interested parties, I, don’t know the exact situation here) a fair chance at the apartment and she reserves it for you. Doing an end-run around the technicalities doesn’t really change that.

    I’m not particularly offended on an ethical level, but is it possible this could lead to legal trouble down the road? Yet another reason to just go pick up your local equivalent of Apartment Hunter.

    It seems like there’s two possible situations here:
    1) Your family gives you the apartment for below market price. This means that you’re committing a legally/ethically sketchy act, and that your family is likely to shame you with “but we gave you our special family member rate!” if you ask for renovations or for privacy.

    2) Your family gives you the apartment for market price. This means that you’re paying the same amount you’d pay for another apartment that wasn’t full of mold and random staff members and family guilt entanglements, and… why do you want this particular apartment, again?

    • TO said:

      It’s unclear here what’s meant here by ‘market price’.

      If you offer an apartment with mold and random people coming in and out on the ‘free market’, the going price is going to be pretty low.

      So cheap rent to make up for the huge disadvantages isn’t at all the same as ‘below market price’.

      Also depending on your local laws, it may be perfectly legal to charge people whatever rent both parties agree to, and it may also be perfectly legal to favour family.

      • It honestly didn’t even occur to me that it WOULDN’T be legal, personally.

        • RocketFullOfHoles said:

          LW says that the mother is the Administrator of the grandmother’s affairs, and it sounds like a legal arrangement. I don’t know what the laws are there, but in some places, if an administrator of an estate charges favourable (i.e. reduced) rates to a family member, they may be in violation of their trust as administrator, and other family members may take action to have them removed.

          This whole set-up looks more and more full of liabilities, and not just for the LW. (Particularly since the LW says there’s already a conflict in the family between the mother and the aunt.)

    • Lilly said:

      Cliff, I think this is a very good point.

      I’ve been on the other end of this scenario, sort of, with a family member of my bf wanting to rent out our jointly owned apartment when we moved out into a bigger place.

      He was pressured to say yes because he feels bound to be nice to family. It caused a row when I insisted we said no. I said no because I felt the potential for major problems was seriously high.

      Basically we needed the rent from the apartment to help pay for our new place, but the family member wanted a “good deal” i.e. lower than market rates.

      The family member is nice enough, but she is a student and cannot afford much rent. Her husband is long-term unemployed and plays computer games all night and sleeps all day. I expect he will grow out of it but he’s not an ideal tenant.

      So even though they said they would be reliable tenants, it’s likely there would be months when they would say they could not pay and my bf would have had to say, OK owe me the money.

      The whole incident – them asking and me being the baddie who said no, caused a family row.

      I imagine it’s nothing like the family row and strain on my relationship with my bf that would have happened if they’d taken the apartment, missed rent payments and so on….

      LW, business relationships are very hard to maintain within families and the fact that you allude to this as Cliff pointed out by talking about favoritism makes me think you know that :)

  12. Logan said:

    Also kinda tagging along with what others mentioned about favoritism, it can get really messy with family dynamics. I used to work for my father. He was the manager, not the owner. A fellow employee was harassing me. He was so afraid of appearing to favor me that he ran the opposite direction- he would absolutely not back me up despite witnessing several incidents. Maybe it wouldn’t happen to you. But consider that it could. And this time it’s not just one parent, but the entire family.

  13. Sheelzebub said:

    I’d probably look for a different place and forgo this one. It’s not worth the headache and family dramz, LW.

  14. Elikit said:

    My comment must be particularly tasty to the spam filter – it’s been chilling out for the last 3-4 hours!

    Anyhoo, my take is that if you prefer to keep business and family separate then you probably shouldn’t endeavour to create what is essentially a business agreement (tenancy) with family, especially when it involved the family business. That’s like business and family squared!

  15. thepaintedlady said:

    Oh, LW, if you’re so sick of family politics, why would you go poking the sleeping bear? Maybe there are good reasons why this apartment other than just “probably a little better for my bank account,” but if you’re so tired of these politics – rather than resentful of them – then don’t make a move that guarantees you’ll be in the middle of them.

    Also, and I don’t think every major life decision should be made in relation to the effect it will have on another person, but have you thought about the position you put your mother in just by asking for the flat, much less actually living there? I make it a policy as an adult not to interfere with my other adult family members’ freedom to set boundaries with anyone, including me. The only exceptions I make are regarding my rights to decide what’s best for my life – career, religion, marriage, kids, etc – in which case I want both my parents to stick up for my rights (I realize not all parents are like this, but I believe it is a fair thing for anyone to ask of their parents). But my desire to move into an apartment that everyone in the family most likely feels they have some claim on? You don’t get to subject your mother to the after effects of that. Your relatives aren’t going to be objective enough to leave her out of this. Especially as aunts and uncles, rather than take it up with you, they’re going to take it up with her. And what happens if you hit hard times and can’t pay rent for a month or two? They’re not going to evict you, but they will take it out on both of you. And when the first drawer pull or shower head or closet door breaks, don’t think for a second that no one would ever dream of accusing you of being careless with Gran’s lovely place. They’ll do it, and they’ll do it to your mother, too. There’s already resentment there, sounds like, and there usually is toward the person who was chosen/chose to make decisions for another family member, so don’t add fuel to the fire. I’m not normally in favor of living your life to avoid others’ unpleasant reactions, but there is such a thing as putting someone in an awkward spot, and there’s such a thing as throwing someone under the bus. You’re doing both to your mother by even making this request for something that isn’t all that necessary, and that is Not Okay.

    If you don’t want to mix business and family, then why are you asking your family to let you take up residence in what’s become an unofficial extension of the family business?

  16. Agnes said:

    LW, don’t get into this mess! It’s already a hassle, and you haven’t even asked if you can rent it yet- there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that this will become any easier once you’re dealing with all of this. There are so many other apartments you can get in which you can live in blessed mold-free peace, and know that all the food in your fridge will stay there until you eat it, and family will only stay over if you INVITE them to visit YOU, and, most especially, in which you will not have to mix business and family, which you say you don’t want to do. And if that place has to have a roommate to be affordable, well, then, maybe the part about the fridge won’t be true, but the rest of it still will be.

    Seriously. Start as you mean to go on: if it’s this bad now, as a total hypothetical, it will only become more of a hassle.

  17. EponaEF said:

    depending on the trust laws in your state/country, it may not be economically feasible or even legal for this flat to be rented out while your grandmother is alive. In many states in the U.S. if the estate of a living person who is “in a home” rents out a primary residence, the estate has to prove to the attorneys that the property is being rented at “fair market value” and the estate has to back up that rate with comparable rates in the area. Also, any profit that comes in to the estate from that rent must go to the nursing home if the client is on Medicaide. Many people find that the easiest way to deal with this is to simply leave the property vacant.

    Personally, I would run screaming from this flat.

    • RocketFullOfHoles said:

      This. Very much this, on the feasibility/legality.

  18. Lym said:

    Think about family, poking through your underwear drawer. Your bedside table. Your bathroom toiletries and medications. (Oh, look, LW has athlete’s foot again!)

    Think about your frozen casseroles going missing, your yogurt plundered, your CDs out of order, and your housekeeping critiqued. In depth.

    And if you think “Oh, they wouldn’t do that.” Yes they would. They will. No privacy, ever. You might as well continue living with Mum & Dad. Your rent isn’t going to buy you want you want, a place of your own. If you truly want a life of your own, get another apartment. The ONLY thing attracting you to this one is an imagined comfort factor of it being “in the family.” The DIScomfort factor is way way way higher.

    I once shared a bathroom with a landlord of mine. Even though it was in a hallway between our units, with a locking door on each side, it was creepy knowing he and his guests were using my bathroom. I never felt comfortable during daylight hours when someone might come down that hallway and want to get in. It was not worth the reduced rent, trust me. And that was just a few intrusions per month, not a constant flow of staff in the kitchen, and guests with priority.

  19. piny said:

    I can understand how you talked yourself into this, but I see no benefit here. The apartment is in terrible condition, you would not have privacy, you might need to vacate the apartment at random intervals to accommodate visitors, AND your family would be your landlords.

    If you had already been offered a hefty discount on the rent, or if it were a housesitting gig, or if it were a fantastic apartment that was just sitting there, I could see it. That kind of arrangement is more normal–often, the relative who offers to move into the vacant apartment and take care of it is doing a favor for the family; they get a discount for helping out. As it stands, this sounds like a bad deal, full stop. I don’t think the family drama enters into the equation: this apartment would suck if a complete stranger had it available.

  20. valys said:

    Nthing the “run screaming” sentiment.

    I’m a property manager in the States. I’m assuming by “favourite” and “flat” and “mould” (ack!) that you’re in England or Aussieland, so my knowledge of your federal housing law is pretty much nil, so I’m going to write this comment supposing that our laws are comparable to yours.

    Presuming your cousins aren’t actively asking after the unit, then there’s no favoritism happening if it’s given to you. If family favoritism is against the law there, then you and your mother will want to document everything extra well (dates, times, detailed happenings) in case of an audit, but I don’t see anything unethical in taking what’s available. Fair housing law here states that available units go on a first come, first served basis, unless there is a specific disqualifier such as income guidelines. So if you formally ask for the unit, and the next day a cousin does the same, then you still have legal dibs, and the law is on your side.

    If your heart is set on the unit, then I’ll echo what others have said: Make sure you have a written lease that you understand and don’t find at all objectionable. Check to see if something called the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment or something similar in purpose applies in your area – in the States, it’s federal law regardless of what is in the lease. The Covenant is self-explanatory; it ensures your right to live in peace in a healthy, safe home. Breaches of the Covenant include things like mold that the landlord refuses to clean up, the landlord entering the home during unreasonable hours and/or without notice, the landlord refusing to fix broken locks, that sort of thing.

    I don’t want to risk my comment being eaten by the apparently voracious spam filter, so I won’t include a bunch of links, but if you google ‘right of access by landlord [your country]‘ or ‘landlord roles and responsibilities [your country]‘, you should be able to find relevant information on what you can legally expect and require of your landlords. Family or otherwise, the law still applies to them.

    Know your rights. I can’t stress this enough.

    Make sure you have a super detailed list of the things that were wrong in the unit before you moved in so that your family can’t accuse you of damaging things. (If you want to email me at nashanii[at]yahoo[dot]com, I’d be happy to email you a blank copy of the inspection sheet that I use at the complex I manage.) And then there’s the question of how many people will have keys to the unit.

    The biggest problem I’m seeing right now, completely aside from family politics, is the existence of mold in the unit. Until that’s gone – I’m talking white-glove inspection GONE – the unit is straight-up uninhabitable. That stuff is toxic, and can cause permanent health problems.

    I could go on forever about legal nitpicking, but I think I should stop before this comment gets any more ridiculous. (Hi! First time commenter, short-time follower, la la la.)

  21. Brightwanderer said:

    Another vote for “why on EARTH do you even want to live there?” – it sounds like you can’t even expect a discount on the rent due to the family politics, it’s in crummy shape, a whole load of people are currently treating it as their space and you’re honestly considering letting them continue… I genuinely can’t see any advantages over just renting somewhere else.

  22. Bunny said:

    LW

    I want you to forget, for a moment, that family are involved. Imagine that there is a flat, attached to a business, being advertised for rent.

    The flat needs renovation – there’s damage to areas, some damp mould, the utilities are old and worn. The flat kitchen is used daily by business staff, meaning there is constant, daily intrusion. It also means the door to the flat cannot be locked, because staff need access, which means the entirety of the flat – the bedroom, bathroom, living room, and any items that may be in it – are accessible to anyone who may wish to come in. The people running the business also use the flat to host guests several times a year, and expect that to continue. The expectation is that anyone renting will leave their belongings in the flat, vacate it for a week and leave it for use by guests as and when requested.

    Would you even consider that as a possibility? No? The only difference family makes in this, is the feeling of familial obligation that’ll be put on you if you do take the flat on.

    *

    And now consider something else. Every family, no matter how close, has troublesome members. The angry, racist uncle and his spoiled, misbehaving kids. The mooching relative that has never held down a job and has a habit of couch-surfing through family. The party-loving kids that tend to “invite” friends to family gatherings without checking it’s okay, first.

    Right now, those relatives may not be taking advantage of the flat anywhere near as badly because they have to ask the business owners, who have control and the right to say no regarding their own property. But if you’re renting it? You can bet they’ll try it. After all, you’re supposed to make the flat open to family, and they’re family.

    Do you really want to come home to your flat one day to find moochy relative has been kicked out of distant-cousin’s home and has turned up in yours, without notice, and will likely be even harder to get rid of than he normally is, because you’re *expected* to host family?

    • LW here,
      In terms of staff still using the kitchen, the kitchen is the first part of the flat that you walk into when you come through the door and the door to the rest of the flat is lockable. There is also an office that leads off from the kitchen that my mother uses so a lot of the time they will be ‘supervised’ if you will.

      I am happy to vacate, lock my stuff in one of the many spare wardrobes the flat has or take it to my parents’ house and move out to my ‘rents if family is visiting.

      The business owners are my family, my mother and aunt own in on behalf of my grandmother. So there is not barrier to family visiting apart from the fact that it’s far away and my city is smaller and has no specific attraction for them aside from the fact that my grandmother and other family live here.

      • Ethyl said:

        So, like, you’ll just pack up all your stuff and take it to your parents house if someone wants to use the flat? Or lock it up? Really? I worry that that’s going to be a lot more upsetting or annoying or frustrating than you think it is when you’re just imagining it. In any event, good luck, and I hope it all works out.

  23. Okay, LW here, Thanks for all of your replies!

    My first reason for choosing this place is because I still don’t know whether I’m only going to need it for the summer or for all of next year and I probably won’t know that until after I move in. Most landlords won’t take you on if you can’t guarantee the length of your tenancy.

    Secondly, I do work at the business occasionally and I know all of the staff members as they are also extended family. I’m not worried about the fridge etc. because people don’t use it (there’s a mini fridge in the coffee area in the store) they just use the microwave mostly.

    The location is really good for me because it’s very close to my parents’ house so if I need anything it’s a 5 minute drive. Also, if there are any troubles such as broken toilet, shower etc. I can just go to my parents’ house until it gets fixed.
    It’s also really close to the city and walking distance from the clubbing strip which means that I can walk home rather than catching an expensive taxi. There is also a major supermarket across the road, another huge convenience.

    If family do come to visit (this happens 1-2 times a year, mostly around Christmas time), I will simply move back in with my parents.

    My main reason for wanting to move out is that I need a bit more space and freedom that I can’t get at my parents’ house (cooking what I want to eat etc.) AND because my boyfriend has to move out of my house and find his own place (he was living with my parents during semester).
    I would also like to be able to put on my own dinner parties and such with friends that I can’t do at my parents’ house.

    I probably made it sound worse than it is in terms of the living conditions, The kitchen has a portable stove which is ‘good enough’ (but they need to put a proper one in because they would like to run cooking classes in the kitchen some time in the future, I would probably be running some of these classes anyway) and everything in the bathroom works fine, it’s just quite old. My mother wants to get the carpet replaced because some of the family members who come to stay have bad allergies so that is already on the table.

    Ultimately, I will still spend a reasonable amount of time at my parents’ house so I can spend time with them and my younger siblings, I just need somewhere for ‘me space’ and that I can spend time with my boyfriend.

    Thank you all for your input though, it is good to get different perspectives on these things.

    Just one thing though, I know a lot of you are saying ‘don’t do it’, I understand where you are coming from, I’m just looking to see the most tactful way to approach my family about this. There is a strong likelihood that the answer will be no anyway, I just want to try and approach this the best way possible.

    I know that I could find a different apartment but to be honest, I’d rather stay at home.

    • secretrebel said:

      If you really want to do this why not suggest a trial period. “Hey, family, can BF and I rent a room in grandma’s apartment for the summer? Is that something you’d be interested in discussing?”

      But be honest about the BF if you plan to having him effectively living there. I don’t know why it was cool for him to live at your parents’ house during the semester and not cool for the vacation but whatever the reason for that may mean they’re not cool with you and him living together in grandma’s apartment either.

    • TO said:

      Maybe it depends on your local housing market, but none of these problems sound that difficult to solve to me. E.g. you can find someone who’ll go month to month, or sublet from a roommate, or rent on a lease and then transfer the lease if you change your mind. And the location — that’s probably not the only apartment available that’s close.

      I would at least look around at other apartments, even if you decide you don’t want to go that route, just so you have a clear idea of what you’re actually comparing to.

      Now if I’m understanding it sounds like the advantage of this apartment is that it seems kind of intermediate to living with your parents and living alone? Like when a teenager moves into the in-law suite or the room over the garage so they have more privacy but are still partly living with their parents?

      Still seems like it could be complicated, and to me it still sounds unappealing for all kinds of reasons.. but if you want to look into it, I think the script captain awkward proposes is pretty good.

    • RocketFullOfHoles said:

      Something here is confusing to me.

      Your boyfriend has been living with you and your parents.
      You said “he has to move out of my house and find his own place.”

      Is this flat intended to be the place that he finds?

      Because I don’t know what the history is between your boyfriend and your parents, I don’t know what to think. I don’t know if there’s tension between your parents and your boyfriend about him finding his own place. I don’t know what his track record is of taking care of himself, or if your parents are worried that maybe he’s a mooch or something, or what.

      There’s a bit of a red flag here. Is this a situation where someone is told they must get their own place, and then their girlfriend runs around figuring out how to get a place for them? Maybe I’m being a worrywart, but if this apartment is intended to be the solution to “mom and dad won’t let him crash with us any longer,” then you might be just moving the problem over to a slightly different address which is still a family home, and the parents might not see that as much of a sign of his independence and stability and responsibility or whatever it is — and it isn’t, if you’re the one finding the solution to his problems.

      Or maybe it’s not like that at all, in which case please ignore all of that.

      I’ve just seen a number of girlfriends take care of their boyfriends in this way, and sometimes it’s two people sharing the work according to what each one can do at the time, and sometimes it’s a mooch monster who’s happy to let his partner scramble to find them a new easy ride. (Well, easy for him anyway. The wear and tear and strain usually falls on the girlfriend and her family, and makes things tense between them.) Mooch monsters can be really sweet, too, but it’s better for everybody in the long run if they actually do the work themselves of finding their own place, instead of crashing with the girlfriend’s family.

      Again, if that’s not what’s going on, file this under “from a different universe, but thanks for sharing,” OK?

      • We’re in a bit of a unique situation where during semester, I live interstate and he lives with my parents due to their proximity to his university. Now that I’m coming home for the summer, he has to move out because it’s too crowded.

        • gmg said:

          Is the underlying idea, therefore, that you want to move to the flat for the summer so that he DOESN’T have to leave your parents’ house? So he can spend time with you there but still have his main residence be with your parents? I understand your larger point that you’ve made this decision and just want a script for how to approach it, but clarifying underlying motivation usually is a good thing — in particular because during this process your other relatives may ask, though you can decide whether it’s their business or not.

          (Also, admittedly a total non sequitur and veer off topic, but thank you for teaching me a new bit of Australian English because I always love encountering these teeny yet interesting linguistic differences. Here in the US “interstate” means a highway and if someone moves to another state we say they live “out of state.”)

          • The underlying idea is for both of us to move out into the flat and we will be spending time both at the flat and with my parents still.

            (Interstate – ‘in another state’. I have to fly over water to get home)

          • Pterinochilus murinus said:

            Oh, you’re from Tassie? Okay, so I’m guessing the rental market there is like it is here in Victoria? So it’s not just that it’s more trouble to find a place on the private market, it’s that it might take four months of searching just to find someone who’ll rent you a two bedroom flat even if you have an impeccable rental and credit history, a full-time job, and no pets.

            Yeah, no, I’m not going to second-guess your decision. Make lots of plans and boundaries and scripts in advance, but do what you have to do.

          • RocketFullOfHoles said:

            That’s an important bit of context, there, about the rental market. Thank you for providing it. I had no idea it was so difficult there. The whole thing makes different sense to me now.

          • TO said:

            Ahh! That makes a huge difference to understanding the situation. I had no idea the rental market was so difficult there.

          • I didn’t know that the renal situation in Vic/Tas was abnormal. I though it was normal to spend upwards of two-three months searching and praying that somewhere would pop up.

            And yes, I do not have a full time job, I have several casual jobs, no credit history and no rental history. This means that very few people will be willing to rent to me.

            Thank you for bringing that point to my attention (that it’s a lot easier to rent in other states/countries), I wasn’t aware of it.

          • haha it’s like that in Christchurch too. And for families with kids there’s the extra fun of how some landlords will take advantage of there being small children in the house to get subsidies and priority queueing for things like insulation and installing heatpumps and then find a loophole through which to evict you or hike the rent past affordability.

      • alphakitty said:

        A good point, respectfully stated. Gold star!

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for weighing in, it sounds like you have very good reasons and have thought this through.

    • apricity said:

      agirlfromdownunder: I am pretty sure that a five minute drive every time you want to go to the toilet will get really, really old, really really quickly. Every morning when you wake up? In the middle of your favourite TV show? In the middle of the night? Here in Canberra, those kind of breakages count as emergencies and must be fixed within 24 hours – as a society, we see that kind of problem in your house as quite serious. So maybe don’t think about your parent’s house as a back-up to your landlord not fixing your things. I think you will find it more wearing than you might imagine.

      Just one thing though, I know a lot of you are saying ‘don’t do it’, I understand where you are coming from, I’m just looking to see the most tactful way to approach my family about this. There is a strong likelihood that the answer will be no anyway, I just want to try and approach this the best way possible.
      But why is it that you really want to live there? Many commenters have pointed out many reasons why it could become a colossal headache; you’re not saving on the rent; you don’t think your family will go for it and it sounds like they usually function by making a huge drama out of things… what are the benefits that outweigh all these things? What makes this place so awesome that you’re going to ask when you think the answer will be no? Once you have identified that benefit, you will be best placed to think “What is the best way to get this?”

      If you want access to the city and clubbing areas, could you not look for share housing near good public transport? If you want a short commute to work, you could look for a share house near your business, or look for a new job near your new house.
      If your boyfriend is moving out and you want to stay with him, why is he not part of this house-moving process? What are his back-up plans, and could you support him in those instead?

      Given that you are prepared to pay market rent, you will have more options in the housing market. I really urge you to look into the local housing market. Perhaps someone is travelling overseas for a while, or are selling soon, and they want a short-term rental. Perhaps someone has a granny flat or similar. Perhaps someone has a share-house that would work for you, in terms of its layout.

      Also, if you’re moving out is to fix the underlying problem that your parents won’t let you cook what your want/have people around/don’t like you spending so much time with your boyfriend (i.e. that you want more control over your life), and you want some “me-space” to fix that problem, then I strongly urge you to choose more neutral ground to stake your territory in.

      • Having gone several months without sewerage and relying on dugouts and portaloos, I cannot reiterate enough exactly how old it gets. Some of the other issues you can work around, plumbing should be non-negotiable.

  24. The only correct answer to any question that is entitled “Family & Business” is, “NO! DON’T DO IT!” The potential downsides are *so* large, and the potential upsides are *so* small, that is never worth it.

  25. Bunny said:

    Well, poop I messed up my comment.

    LW, consider this. No family is perfect, and there are always a few family members that can cause problems. The angry, racist uncle. The destructive-for-attention children. The mooching cousin that tends to couch-surf from one relative to the next. The young ‘uns that have a tendency to invite friends to family gatherings without checking first.

    Right now, maybe they don’t come around much or don’t try to use the flat. But right now, the flat is in the hands of your Aunt, it’s totally the property of adults running a business and your aunt can refuse to let them take advantage.

    But the moment you’re renting the place? When you’re renting a flat with an agreement to allow relatives to use it? You’re young, you don’t actually own the flat yourself and you’ve agreed to let relatives use it, and “but you’re faaaaamily!”. Expect to come home one evening to find mooching cousin has ensconced himself into the flat in your absence. And has brought a couple of his buddies along. Expect to have your weekends ruined because Angry Racist Uncle wants to come and stay, and since he’s staying WITH YOU, there’s nowhere you can go to escape his constant racism. Expect to go stay with your mum to let some relatives use the flat, and to find when you come back that your toiletries, books, music and other small belongings have mysteriously disappeared.

    Family shouldn’t act like that, of course. They should ask before coming, they should give you notice of their arrival, they should respect your property and your privacy to some basic degree. But with an arrangement like the one you’re getting into, there will be AT LEAST a few relatives who will not.

    • LW here, I have to admit, the imagery did make me laugh a bit.
      I’m pretty lucky that the family who visit tend to be my aunts and uncles with small kids. The flat is still full of my Grandmother’s stuff and no one touches that so I don’t think my things are really going to be an issue, also, I wasn’t planning on moving all of my things into it and when family visit, I would bring all of my stuff back to my parents’ house anyway :)

      It’s a smart consideration for others who aren’t quite so lucky though.

  26. solecism said:

    Well, if you’re going to go ahead and pursue this anyway, then by all mean follow the Captain’s script. If the employees simply use the microwave, then it is certainly possible to move the microwave to where the minifridge is and thus eliminate the more frequent usages. However, these affairs are never as simple as they seem at the outset. And you may think you know the parties involved and the current dynamics, but you may discover a few surprises. The mere fact that someone is residing in the apartment is going to change the dynamics.

    When I broke up with my ex, a friend of mine offered to let me move in with him. He had a beautiful home and was a great person, so I agreed. He didn’t own the home, however, the family business did. And suddenly, his relatives were up into his business a lot more than before. They sent me a written lease, which was fine, but they didn’t discuss anything with me, so it took some negotiating after the fact to accommodate some variables in my life. And they were the ones who decided when it was time for me to move out, again no discussion. They decided that his cousins could just as easily move in with him as live in dorms on campus. And they had opinions about the utility bills and so much more. It led to stress and resentment because this was his home, and he ended up feeling like a dependent petitioning for some basic rights.

    You want more space and independence, but it sounds like you would be exchanging a smaller cage with clearly defined decisionmakers (parents) for a larger cage with a committee. The updates to the apartment would seem to make sense for the business, but once it’s about becoming your residence, then those updates are for you, no matter the ancillary benefits to business and family. And how does your boyfriend fit into this picture?

    I believe that family and business should be kept as separate as possible.

    And yet your proposal is the exact opposite of this. It is jumping right into the busiest intersection of family and business. It sounds like what you are saying is, I want to benefit from a business transaction with family, but they aren’t allowed to have feelings about it. Like geek social fallacies applied to people with overlapping genetics. I suspect that if they don’t say no immediately, you are going to discover buried family history the hard way. There’s a reason those multigenerational dramas are so popular. So then it turns out it’s really not about you at all; you just end up living with the consequences. Good luck with that.

    • Joan of Anon said:

      “it sounds like you would be exchanging a smaller cage with clearly defined decisionmakers (parents) for a larger cage with a committee.”

      Very much this. The difference from living at home and this would be that now, your extended family has a say in everything, not just your parents. I don’t think this will grant you the space you desire, LW.

    • secretrebel said:

      And they were the ones who decided when it was time for me to move out, again no discussion.

      But that’s renting, isn’t it? Or subletting anyway. I rented out rooms in my house for a while and when I wanted someone to leave there wasn’t going to be a discussion. They were leaving. I gave a reasonable notice period, though. Maybe your landlords didn’t and that was the issue?

      • solecism said:

        I think I got 30 days notice. A lot of it just had to do with expectations of all of the parties involved. I thought that because I was moving in with my friend, it would be business between the two of us, not his family handling everything without apparently consulting him. For example, in the process of deciding whether to accept the offer, I asked about cats because at the time I was in a LTR, and our visits would sometimes last several days, and logistically, we wanted the option of bringing the cats with us as appropriate. My friend and I reached an agreement that the cats could visit, and then when the lease arrived, suddenly pets were forbidden. It complicated my life a little bit.

        I see your point about landlords having the right to boot people out, no discussion necessary, and certainly when people live in a room in your house and much of the space is shared, having this authority is critical. But at the same time, if things are going well, the tenant is not a problem, and there is no major change contemplated (such as selling the property), there’s a not unreasonable expectation that the arrangement will likely continue. And of course there’s discriminatory or retaliatory lease nonrenewal–not okay and legally actionable, no matter what the landlord thinks.

        None of this was the case, and I found a good situation for myself, though it took several tries since my first arrangement fell through at the last minute and there was a bit of panic before my housing got resolved. Plus, I was in the middle of chemotherapy, so the timing really sucked for me. Mind you, that’s not the landlord’s concern, but again, rooming with a friend, and I expected better. And it put my friend in a damn awkward position.

      • TR said:

        Not if you sign a lease. Then you’re entitled to the property for the length of the lease – as long as both parties are fulfilling lease and legal duties. But you can’t just say, “eh I’m tired of you here” 6 months into a year long lease.

      • Jake said:

        It’s really going to depend on where you live. In my jurisdiction landlords can’t kick you out unless they or a member of their immediate family (I don’t think cousins count) are moving in. Or unless they can show that you’re consistently not paying rent or are destroying the property, and other methods of dealing with those problems haven’t worked.

  27. Andrew said:

    LW-

    It sounds like you’ve given some good thought as to whether this is worth doing. In terms of how to do it, the Captain’s advice is excellent. I would add that as long as it’s clear that “no” is an acceptable answer, you’re not putting anybody else in an awkward situation. That said, there’s a danger of your aunt or mom trying to derail this discussion (I’m picturing this happening via email, with a lot of “reply to all”) into their personal conflict. That’s entirely on them, not your fault, but you might have to proactively keep the conversation focused on your simple question.

    Best of luck!

  28. Andrew said:

    LW-

    It sounds like you’ve given some good thought as to whether this is worth doing. In terms of how to do it, the Captain’s advice is excellent. I would add that as long as it’s clear that “no” is an acceptable answer, you’re not putting anybody else in an awkward situation. That said, there’s a danger of your aunt or mom trying to derail this discussion (I’m picturing this happening via email, with a lot of “reply to all”) into their personal conflict. That’s entirely on them, not your fault, but you might have to proactively keep the conversation focused on your simple question.

    Best of luck!

  29. joze said:

    I think you should just stay home and use the rent money to shack up with your BF from time to time.

    But if you really want the flat I’d do the following.

    First, admit to yourself that you’re asking for a favor. It sounds like the managers are perfectly happy to have it unrented and available for staff and extended family visits. You move in and that get’s complicated. Sure they know you and are confident that it will work out but from their POV it’s a risk to rent this to you. You’re going to ask for updates, you might get picky about repairs, you might not want people to visit when they need to, you might annoy the staff if they can’t use the kitchen when they want to. They probably value your relationship as much as you value theirs.

    Figuring out how to rent the flat is going to be work. So if you follow captians advice you might get a response that they aren’t planning to rent it at this time.

    If you really want to rent it. I’d do this.

    Send your Aunt and all your mom’s siblings an email asking if you can rent the flat for the summer or however long it will take you to figure out your long term plans. In the email spell out
    1. What repairs you think are needed prior to your move in.
    2. What accomodations you’re willing to make with respect to letting extended family stay. Who, for how long, how frequently.
    3. How much you’re willing to pay.
    4. When you would like a reply back.

    Than toss in some wording that admits you’re asking for a favor and that you want to spell the agreement out upfront to avoid hard feelings later and that you will totally understand if they don’t want to rent it right now.

    But at a minimum I’d expect the rent for the summer to cover the cost of any needed improvements. Someone has to pay for those if you move in. Sure they’ll have a better apartment at the end, but if they dont’ really value that it’s pretty much a wasted expense for them.

    • Thank you for your input Joze, it is extremely helpful to me and you talk about some perspectives that I hadn’t really thought about.
      Thanks (LW)

  30. joze said:

    No problem, The more I think about this the more I think this is a deal for everyone.

    The family currently has a flat that is being used as a free hotel for extended family and a perk for staff at the company business. Now one niece wants to rent the place without a lease for an indeterminate amount of time. Her Aunt is the responsible for the property and has a rocky relationship with her mother. The flat needs a new stove and new carpet for her to rent it. So from the Aunt’s perspective this could very much look like

    “Hi, please spend a bunch of money fixing up grandma’s flat so that I can stay there. I’ll still let people use it but now it will be my place and you’ll have to deal with a tenant. This may annoy the staff but there’s no way to tell up front. Also this is another opportunity for you and my mom to fight. This isn’t a very good deal for me either so I want a break on the rent. ”

    They may say yes because you’re family, but I really think it’ll stink for everyone.

    • EM said:

      I think that sounds exactly how the LWs Aunt might see it. And with one futher addition: it is a good deal for the letter writer – because of location, and not having to prove a credit/rental history, and getting to live (mostly) alone with a partner when the alternatives are probably housemates or parents. I don’t think it will help approaching the family as though they’re not doing her a favor. They’ll probably see it that way anyway – and will expect corresponding accommodations in return.

      It could work, but I think it will help to be very clear about (their) expectations from the beginning. There is no point in the LW asking if her position is reasonable – as her aunts are in a position to be totally unreasonable or not, as the whim strikes them. (more so than even regular landlords because of “favors”) This is definately one of those times when their expectations will take precence over the LWs expectations.

  31. katyisbutthurt said:

    While I have already pointed out that the cheapest way to pay is money, let me give you a little background.

    We, my DH and I, live in the house that used to belong to my grandmother, until she signed the deed over to my mother for legal reasons I won’t get into here. For years after that, my grandmother and my asshole uncle schemed to keep Mom out of this house….unless they wanted something, and expected Mom to come over with her checkbook to fix it, because it was HER house. I mean, couldn’t expect Uncle Mooching Asshole to do anything, he was living off of Granny, and whatever money he could weasel out of her.

    When we moved here, we made it clear that Uncle Mooching Asshole was not welcome here, ever again, and he was not going to be on the property at all. Oh my GOD. You would have thought that we’d declared war on the neighboring county. We stuck to our guns, and said no, that this was not community property, that it was my mother’s property, and we were her tenants. And that we did not care what the rest of the faaaaamily, who simply wanted it to be community property so they could come in and take what they wanted (regardless of whether it belonged to us or not), and bilk my grandmother out of her limited income.

    So, Uncle Asshole was no longer able to steal Granny’s money to pay his bills….and started writing more and more cold checks. Suddenly, that’s our fault, too, because don’t you know he’s got a right to his mother’s money, meant to take care of her? And then, after she fell and fractured her pelvis (doing something stupid, I might add, in a way that spelled out that she was sneaking around to do as she pleased since I had left for work and DH was sleeping because he worked thirds, and DD wasn’t home from school yet), and it became clear to everyone at the hospital, including the social worker, that she could no longer stay at home any more and had to go to a nursing home (the dementia was getting worse and worse, and no one believed us)….Jesus Christ on a cracker. The accusations started flying from the faaaamily about how we “stole” Granny’s house. My mom finally put an end to that by telling the rest of the faaaamily that no, no one had stolen Granny’s house, that it was deeded over to Mom years ago for contingencies such as this, and they could all shut the fuck up about it.

    We changed the locks that day. No one but us and my mom has keys to this house anymore. We did that on purpose.

    We had two and a half years of hell, and now we’re FINALLY getting some peace. Uncle Asshole finally got charged with trespassing, and is not allowed on this property at all. My other uncle’s ex-live-in-girlfriend is trying it on, by telling my mom that she wants HER washing machine back, and she has the receipt. She thinks that she’s going to get in here, with her deadbeat sons, and take inventory. Nope. We have our washer that we brought with us in storage, we will pull out “her” washer (dollars to doughnuts my uncle bought it), and put it in the yard. She and her boys will not be allowed in my house, period. She can have HER stuff, but on MY terms since it’s MY house, and if I really wanted to fuck with her I could point out that it was a gift and she can’t have it back.

    And keep in mind? We had the support of my mom and dad, and her youngest brother and his wife. Had we had zero family support, the faaaaamily would have come in and robbed us blind, and we’d have been expected to take it because they’re faaaaamily.

    Find another apartment. Do yourself a favor. You think it won’t be bad, but yes, yes it will be. Someone will show up with gigantic balls of titanium and make demands, and everyone else will force you to play nice because they’re faaaaaaamily.

    • gmg said:

      Okay, a)I am sorry you had to suffer through this BS drama, and b)Jedi hugs because your rendering of the word “faaaaaaamily” is EXACTLY the way I say it in my head when I am having mental arguments with my mom (yes, only mental arguments, sigh) about why people should not be able to act like douchebags and get away with it because they’re faaaaaaaamily, or why I should not have to put aside any possible individual plans and ambitions for the sake of faaaaaaaamily, or so on etc blah blah because faaaaaaamily.

  32. TO said:

    I do actually think it’s quite possible that it would work fine for everyone. It certainly can sometimes, and there are situations where I’ve done business with family and it’s been great and benefited everyone. And I’ve known people who’ve shared family cottages or such things and done it successfully. There are a few family members that I’d feel fairly comfortable doing business with, in part because I know them well enough to know what would work and how it would work if it was going to work well.

    It’s just that it can easily NOT go well, particularly if there are a lot of different people involved, or if some of the people already have some problems in their relationship or don’t get along, as you say your mom and one of your aunts do — mixing financial matters or the kind of organizational things in can make a sensitive relationship worse and bring up all kinds of emotional triggers. Maybe for you, but it sounds like more for your mom and her siblings. It would be such a shame if they ended up fighting over it or having bad feelings, and when a relationship is already kind of rocky it’s not that hard to push it in a bad direction.

    The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to be sure if something would work well or not until you’re in the middle of it, so IMO I’d really think about the individuals involved and evaluate if there’s a risk of negative effects on personal relationships… and only proceed (slowly) if you can feel pretty confident that it won’t have negative effects.

    Personally I think doing business with family successfully (by which I mean in a way that doesn’t harm any relationships) works best if there’s already a good solid relationship and a history of clear communication and mutual problem-solving together. That’s something you’ll have to figure out together with your family.

  33. J said:

    I’d just like to challenge your assertion that you want to keep family and business separate.

    A solution that makes sense to me is: the bf rents a room in a house for the summer after checking that it’s okay to have his gf stay over 3 nights a week, and you stay with your parents. By the end of summer, you know what you’re doing and you look for a long-term place or whatever.

    This whole “will you spend a fortune remodeling this apt while leaving all of grandma’s things intact (not such an easy task, btw) by this particular deadline, and my bf and I will live there for maybe only 3 months or a year” thing sounds, well, enmeshed. Or at least not very self-sufficient. And maybe a little entitled. I mean, if you do ask, I support the captain’s advice — but maybe also think about whether you want family/biz separate when it works out for you, and together when it works out for you.

    I guess I just don’t quite see how this is a good business deal for your family. It sounds more like you’re asking them for a favor, since they spend more money on the apt than you’ll pay in rent, they’ll have to do it this year when they may not have budgeted time and money for it yet, and they take the risk of renting to you and your bf (a non-family member).

    I might be reacting from my dirt-poor family roots, but whenever I hear my upper-middle class acquaintances talk about how much simpler and more logical everything thing would be if only their family did x, y, and z for them, all I can think of is how difficult “x, y and z” is when you’re the one who has to actually do it.

  34. cdrury said:

    You know, something about your ‘no, I’ve thought this through’ input has been nagging at me, LW, and I’ve figured it out: you’re talking about long term events for what is, at best, a short term situation. Staying in this flat till you figure things out seems like a totally reasonable course of events. Thinking about what you will do annually (like, repeated years) when relatives need to use the flat makes no sense, because you’re not moving your stuff in. You don’t plan on really living there. Which is good, because you really, really shouldn’t live there, because:

    What’s going to happen the first time your mom hears you and your boyfriend having wild monkey sex? Or walks in on it? Because she’s got a key, you know. And so does Aunt, who would probably love to get some dirt on her (least favorite?) sister’s kid. And you know that thing that people do, that they knock on the door while they open it? Yeah, that’s gonna happen, and Murphy’s law means it’ll happen when you’re giving your bf a blowjob on the couch. Are you gonna feel like everything is totally fine with this apartment, that the money you’re paying is well spent after your Aunt calls all the other aunts and uncles and cousins to more-in-disappointment-than-in-anger describe the scene in lurid detail? “ON HER KNEES, LAURA. In the altogether! Just a brazen hussy, I’m telling you, I knew it the first time she bought those flavored lipsmackers, she was marked for trouble. And of course the children are just scarred for life, I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to them. YES, they were right behind me, why wouldn’t they be, it’s not like I EXPECTED that girl to be operating some sort of brothel in OUR apartment.”*

    Also, if your mom & aunt are running your gran’s affairs, then the sad event of your grandmother’s illness or even death might happen during your tenure. (The odds of this, of course, go way up if you start stretching things out to that ‘annual’ concept.) When that happens: you’ll get kicked out of your apartment for visiting family, for an indefinite amount of time in case of illness. During said time, some relative/s will ‘liberate’ something/s that Gran totally wanted said relative to have, really! Some of these things might be your things. And seriously, if you’re there for years, you’re going to move your favorite stuff in, because you don’t want to be without your favorite stuff. It’s your favorite! So that favorite stuff is more likely to go missing. ALSO, if your gran does die, expect immediate eviction, because then the estate has to deal with the apportioning, etc. You think you are lucky with your family, but people act in ways that are really out of known character after a death; I have a theory that it’s the grief. When your insides are busy trying to claw their way out through your eyes, you have less ability to tamp down the greedy or mean or unsympathetic sides of your self.

    TL;DR: You don’t plan on really living there, because you’re not planning on moving your stuff in. I think everyone would be more positive about you moving into a potentially health-hazardous, bad sitch place if you said, “I’d like to treat my gran’s sometimes empty apartment like a hostel until I decide what to do after the summer.” But for real, deal with that mold. The family employees shouldn’t be breathing that crap either.

    *In this hypothetical, one of your aunts is called Laura.

    • Bunny said:

      The Aunt Laura hypothetical had me in stitches. Love it!

      But yeah, this is something I hadn’t picked up on but which is worth keeping in mind. LW, in some scenarios you’re looking at the situation from the perspective that all you actually want is a place to sleep for a few months while keeping your possessions and your life at home, and in other scenarios you’re looking at long-term concerns like occasional visits by relatives that use the place, and a need for repair work and renovating before you move in.

      Here’s a question.

      You’ve clarified that the flat is something you’re looking at due to a situation with the BF. Your family are happy to have him living with them, but he needs to move out whenever you move back in because the house is too crowded with one extra person in. And that’s honestly the only reason you can’t both stay in your parent’s house over the Summer until you get stuff sorted.

      But you’ve also clarified that relatives use this flat when they visit, and you’ll be expected to vacate it when they do.

      So Summer rolls around and you and the BF move into the flat. 6 weeks later, relatives need to use the flat for a week. You go back to your parents, and your BF goes… where? Surely you’ll have exactly the same problem to deal with. Maybe not for quite as long, but it’s still the same issue.

      • LW here,
        He can move back to his parent’s place if needed (it’s just that I can’t stay with him as he has a single bed – I’ve tried, I don’t get any sleep due to trying not to fall out).

        The reason we don’t want to both just move back into uor respective houses (or at least sleep in them) is because we want a bit more independence. He’s had a taste of it, having moved out of his parents’ place and he really would like to get a bit more.

      • Hmm, not sure my comment posted.

        If we have to vacate he can move back to his parents’ house but I can’t stay there. (I don’t like it there as it is very cramped and he has a single bed which means I get no sleep as I spend the night trying not to fall out of bed.)

        • Jake said:

          So where do you sleep during the week that your relatives are using your apartment. Earlier you said that you would move back to your parents’ but now it seems like you can’t?

          • Sorry if I confused you, I would move back in with my parents and he would move back in with his (or stay with a friend).

  35. Linden said:

    LW, you said previously that you don’t have an established credit history and are only working casual jobs, so your income is not steady. However, getting into an apartment because of family connections doesn’t do anything to change those issues, which will still be waiting for you the next time you decide to move. At some point you’ll have to cut the apron strings, so why not now? Finding a place to rent on your own will go a long way toward establishing some credit and some independence.

    • For the moment, I’m looking into something for the summer only as I am tossing up between a gap year or not (this is depending on a lot of factors). I won’t be able to find a place willing to rent to me for that period of time.

      • TR said:

        Honestly, this seems like much risk for less benefit. (Because of a) apartment needing repair and b) relationships already strained between mother and aunt noted above.) If his parents are fairly close and/or there’s friends he can stay with, it might be easier to apartment hunt together during the summer while you decide what to do – I don’t know if this is a thing where you live, but my parents cosigned with me on my first lease so that I could get an apartment, thus bypassing the credit/job thing – and just use the money you’re saving from rent to get a hotel room one or two weekends a month for some couple time. Also, it may take 2-3 months to get the apartment livable, especially if the mold problem is bad.

        I’m guessing a major part of this is not wanting to separate from your boyfriend because you’re already in a long-distance relationship for most of the year (not fun) but big family drama that may come from moving into this apartment may cause tension between you and him or, worse, him and your family (but not him and you) – which puts him in a really awkward situation, because it sounds like he’s dependent on your family for his living situation if you decide to go away – or, if you’re in the apartment, if you stay. That would make me nervous about stepping into a situation with such potential landmines on his side.

        That being said, if you decide this is the best route, just make sure you talk it through with your boyfriend, as in “There’s potential you may be caught in the crossfire of family drama and we need to consider implications for you before we go through with this and if you’re okay with dealing with the potential consequences of this – here’s what they could be.” Also, let him know backstory to family drama if he doesn’t already – just so he knows what the landmines could be and can do his best to stay clear.

      • gmg said:

        Is the flat livable if it’s just for the summer? (I.e., can you just vacuum really well and live with the rest of it?) Because it seems like just asking “Would it be OK if I were to pay a nominal sum of [insert $ figure here] to stay here for the summer?” would be a lot easier than throwing in all the other stuff about renovations etc. It could be that the best way to minimize the drama is to minimize the request.

        • I’m starting to think that would probably be the best plan :-)

          • gmg said:

            I say go for it … the Captain’s script and others suggested here seem very useful. The other thing I thought of is that it seems like it would be to the advantage of your family to have someone there at the flat all the time keeping an eye on things — maybe sell it a little bit that way too.

  36. Rumpy said:

    agirlfromdownunder: since no one has asked this yet, how old are you ? How old is your boyfriend ?

    Many people have already piped up with their thoughts, which are very close to my thoughts on the matter (ie no ! no ! no ! Family ! Ack ! Connected to family business workplace with staff used to having access to the unit? ! Oh no ! Plus many condition issues AND grandma possessions). Since it is very difficult to rent an apartment in your area, will anyone in your family give you a written in stone agreement that after you have rented this apartment (with so many contingency plans and proximity issues) that they will give you a good written reference that you can use for your next (FOR REAL) apartment ? Oh course that is dependent on you having been a good tenant, etc.

    • I am 20 and he is 21. So it would be our first apartment. I’m not sure if getting a reference from my Aunt will help though since she is family and prospective future landlords will probably just ignore the reference.

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