Protect Your Wealth: Treat Adult Children As Tenants, Not Guests

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Adult children returning to live with their parents, whether after completing college, a financial crisis, a divorce, or other life transition, is a common occurrence.

However, when you allow your children to move back in after they’ve reached the age of majority, it’s a mistake to do so under the same terms as when they were minors and you had both parental authority and responsibility for them. Both to minimize conflict and to protect your financial stability, you need to identify with adult children not as a parent, but as a landlord. Unlike when they were minors, they are no longer living in their home (even if they stay in their old bedroom). They are now tenants in your house. For both your sake and theirs, you must treat them accordingly.

That begins with requiring adult children to sign a mutual living agreement which outlines the terms under which they will be allowed to live in your home. This is no different than what they would be required to do if they rented living space in the home of a person unrelated to them. The house rules common in room rental agreements can provide a starting point for the terms of this agreement. The agreement should cover ground rules such as:

  • The maximum length of the living arrangement and under what conditions it will or will not be extended
  • What monthly financial contribution the adult child is expected to pay toward the cost of rent/mortgage and utilities
  • Responsibilities for cleaning and maintaining the home (especially common spaces including kitchens and bathrooms)
  • Under what conditions and during what hours guests will or will not be allowed in your home
  • What habits/behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, drug use, loud music, etc., will or will not be allowed in your home
  • Which resources of the home (such as food, toiletries) are available to them and which they are expected to purchase for themselves

You don’t have to create an agreement from scratch. There are plenty of great templates of parent/child contracts for adult children living at home to be found online.

It is critical, for both your financial stability and peace of mind, to make it clear that you will not hesitate to enforce the terms of this agreement. You must also be prepared to require your adult child to leave if it is not honored. In fact, if you doubt that you’ll have the heart to put him or her out or enforce the agreement, it’s best not to take him or her in.

More important, if this is meant to be a temporary arrangement, treat it as such, by having a real deadline for when adult children must leave no matter what, and requiring them to lay out and execute a plan (working a job, saving money, completing a degree, apartment hunting) for making that happen.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to revert back to parent mode, unless you want to become a permanent caretaker of adult dependents.

Check out for great advice and resources for parents who take in adult children.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a relationship education initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr