The "Roommate" Dilemma

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I have an awesome apartment attached to my house. It has everything so I could essentially close the door between the two units and rent it out and the person would have everything they need (1,300 square feet including a full kitchen, bedroom, walk in closet, laundry, living room, dining room and separate entrance).


Mom's former caregiver, Carol, became like family. She is 79 and very active and healthy. She lives alone in a second story apartment in an over 55 complex. She had been looking to move closer to her daughter all along (daughter lives in my neighborhood).


So, now Mom has passed and Carol and I have negotiated her renting Mom's apartment. Win /win. She has a better living situation, we have rent coming in and the kids love her. I agreed to honor the rent that she had been paying but it is $300 less than we would have rented the apartment for. In exchange for the bargain rent, she has agreed to continue to be available to take my daughter to her orthodontist appointments, give the kids other rides as needed etc.


The dilemma: She clearly envisions that this will be a roommate situation where she is an active member of our family - the new grandma, if you will. I envisioned it to be a landlord/tenant relationship where we are neighbors and friends. I pictured the door between the units being shut and us knocking when we want to spend time together. I was picturing her living alone but joining us for an occasional meal together or a shopping trip or whatever. But mostly, living as two separate households.


She has made comments about helping me with housework (vacuuming/sweeping downstairs) and helping get dinner started for us. I subtly demurred. Too subtly because she has mentioned it again.


I like her a lot but want some space and privacy. I know I need to have a talk with her and express my feelings but don't have the words and can't find the perfect time.


And, we also need to consider that she is 79. I was an unwilling caregiver to my mother. I do like Carol a LOT more than I liked my mother but I also know what an endeavor that was. I know as she gets older, Carol will need help but I am worried that an occasional assist with this or that can eventually morph into full blown caregiving.


Her daughter and I know each other professionally and we are friendly. Her main problem with her mother is getting her mother to back off and not do everything for her kids. You know, letting them clean up after themselves, do their own laundry etc. I can see that.


It is too late to back out now. Carol has already figured out where all of her furniture is going. I just need to find a way to define the relationship.

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Mom2Mom,
Is Carol still with you?
How is that working out?
She is someone you appreciated so much, and I wish you the best.
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FF, she was taking continuing Ed classes at the college before she had to give that up to take care of my Mom. She will probably start that again. She is also keeping her eyes open for another companion care position like Mom's started out.

I am pretty sure that if the right opportunity comes along, she will take it just to keep active. Gosh, she is the exact opposite of my mother.
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With all the free time that Carol has, she should do some volunteer work to help keep her busy. I know local hospitals always need volunteers, especially for manning the front information desk. Or volunteer at the Senior Center, or an Independent Living/Assisted Living complex..... and public libraries like to have volunteers. Just a thought.
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Send, I will probably steal this "We do not plan on making you into our family's caregiver or housekeeper, however we are looking forward to having you as a neighbor and tenant, without obligation to reimburse for the decreased rent"

FF, from what I can see, I think Carol and her daughter have a very good relationship but their one bone of contention is that when Carol is there, she does too much, especially for the kids. The daughter wants the kids to be responsible for their own chores/laundry etc and Carol wants to keep busy and feel useful.
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I think I just might be borrowing trouble and assuming the worst case scenario because I have a bit of "Buyers Remorse". I think we pulled the trigger on the offer too quickly and now that we have had a month of the apartment being empty, I kinda don't mind it being empty. I am enjoying our little family unit sans Mom.

We bought this house for the sole purpose of housing Mom and when we did, our mortgage obligation increased by $800/mo, which is also what fair market rent for the apartment would be. So, we had Mom paying $800/month rent.

My husband and I had always discussed that he would never be comfortable with a tenant unless it was someone we were close to (like my goddaughter or a niece or nephew).

Carol and I had had some previous conversations about her love of the apartment and her desire to move to our town.

So, when Mom passed, DH was real quick to decide that we could use the rent and Carol would be a perfect fit. She will be a good fit and extra money is always good but, and here is where the buyers remorse comes in, now that I have thought about it, we don't need that money like we used to.

Since we bought the house, my husband has gotten a raise and I went from part time to full time, doubling my salary and allowing us to drop our $1200/mo health insurance plan. Also, I plan on investing my inheritance in another rental which would bring in another chunk of money each month.

If we had not rented out the apartment, We would have either closed it off to save utilities or I would have used it for an office and additional living space.
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It feels to me like Carol is the kind of person who doesn't understand boundaries that others attempt to put up.

Mom, I just feel red flags here. Things that seem too good to be true usually are.
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Mom2Mom, what is the relationship between Carol and her own daughter?

One would think that Carol would want to help out her own daughter first, but I can see where Carol feels obligated to help you because of the reduced rent. Maybe think of something else Carol can do to help her make up that $300 thus make her feel better about the reduced rent.

Or charge Carol the extra $300 but you pay her back for doing a chore or something around the house.
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Mom2Mom,
Would you consider loaning Carol out? Because I really want some help cooking dinner just now.
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It was the pshaw that led me to say that she'd going to walk all over you.

How long will your children need driving around? A year or two? 300 is a lot of driving, IMO.

She is exchanging a 55+ community with opportunities for socialization for....you.
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deer deer Carol,
"We love you, and value our friendship."
It is too soon after losing Mom to even consider replacing her in any way, even symbolically would cause more pain.

We do not plan on making you into our family's caregiver or housekeeper, however we are looking forward to having you as a neighbor and tenant, without obligation to reimburse for the decreased rent.
Our plan is for you to continue as tenant for two years, would that term be suitable for you to consider giving up your housing benefits at your apartment? etc. etc.
You will be most welcome here."

M2M,  Your wishes expressed, your rules expressed, to which Carol only needs to say "Pshaw", and you will fold like an accordian?  Maybe that is the underlying concern for you personally, just guessing here...or what is your own very personal issue about Carol,  I mean apart from your family's wants.
How does Carol treat you?  Like her daughter, maybe?
Because you are the woman of your own home.  If you will need to jockey for that position with Carol, then maybe this won't work out for you personally.  You need to be comfortable, imo.  
The idea is a good one, almost too good to be true.
You will be ok with keeping the rent below market value for Carol's lifetime?  Or did I just read that into your plan?

So much to consider.....if Carol doesn't rent, will you be leaving the space vacant?  Will son want to rent after age 18 instead of moving away?

Whatever you decide....be happy with the results.

Roommate Delimma was the title you chose...you don't need to explain, or even answer.  Just consider to yourself how this will work for you.

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