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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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Barb,. My children like her a lot but that may change if she were to start to smother them. Which I don't see happening but you never know.

I don't have a plan for when her health starts to fail but we will need to talk about it. I don't want to be a caregiver again.

I don't think her plan is to walk over me. I think her plan is to help me, in the most sincere, altruistic way. And that's what makes such a difficult conversation to tell her I don't want so much help.
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What are your children's feelings about her?

What is the plan for wjen her health fails?

It sounds like her plan is to walk all over you
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"Lastly, it's been my experience in working with people in a professional relationship- it is always easier to start out tough and loosen up than it is to start loose and then try to draw lines and toughen up. "

That's one f the things I was telling DH. Carol had spend the night a few times when taking care of Mom (some because we needed her and some because she needed a place to stay) and those times, she was invited to family dinner and breakfast the next day (if we were home).

I explained to him that if, when she moves in, we start having her over to dinner every night , we cant then shut that metaphoric door. I would like to start out as two separate families with the door closed and then start leaving it open later if that is what we all want rather than try to close it later.

"You mention having other rental property. Think of all the customary rights a tenant has - landlord must give x hours notice before entering the property. Couldn't you tell Carol that's why the adjoining door must remain closed and locked?"

If I were to try to use that logic on her she would say "Pshaw". That particular landlord tenant right is for the protection of the tenant and the tenant can waive it if they wish.
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I wonder if - maybe - having come from a dysfunctional narc family you might have different expectations of what it means to think of her as a family member than some of us do. Carol has spent a lot of time with you all, but as your mom's caregiver it was a different dynamic, more like the two of you teaming up to do what needed to be done for your mom, this will be a totally different relationship. I think sealing the connecting door is a great way to send the message that she is now a dear neighbour and not a member of the family. Tell her it is needed for insurance purposes or for fire code. As for worries about the possibility of her health declining, I'd say don't borrow trouble, it is enough if you are clear in your own mind about where the line is drawn and what to do when/if it is reached.
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Okay - I'm not communicating this well.
That you said "take the driving out of it" - feeling this issue is sidetracking your point tells me this.

You want this to be friendly neighbors and Carol wants family.

Getting my mail out of my mailbox while I'm on vacation = friendly neighbor.

Taking my child to their dentist appointment = family member.

At least that's how I feel about it. Take out of it that Carol use to do this - that was when she was an employee and it was her job. Now she is your next door neighbor and your tenant. Interaction with your children suggests a certain trust - a level of intamacy not typically awarded a neighbor - even a friendly one who you have over for summer barbecues and Christmas eggnog. These are your children - more than allowing her in your home to vacuum. Honestly, if the issue was vacuuming to help make up for the low rent, I'd consider it way less of an issue - when it comes to establishing boundaries.

On a side note -
You mention having other rental property. Think of all the customary rights a tenant has - landlord must give x hours notice before entering the property. Couldn't you tell Carol that's why the adjoining door must remain closed and locked?

Lastly, it's been my experience in working with people in a professional relationship- it is always easier to start out tough and loosen up than it is to start loose and then try to draw lines and toughen up. 
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You are a landlord AND close proximity neighbor. I prefer my business relationships to not be personal - same reason you do not do business with family.
But you are already in this situation and you can probably manage it - better than having a strange, creepy neighbor.

Take action immediately, the longer it goes on the more awkward it will be.

CLOSE the door. Be polite, but firm, " I appreciate your help with ______rides for kids, etc.._____", as far as other things - I prefer the kids pick up after themselves, thanks for offering, but I do not need help with the household. We love you, but we really do enjoy our household privacy." If she does not get it - play to her elder sensibilities - tell her your husband would prefer more privacy.
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Kimber, you are right. If we don't set the expectations up before we live together, we will have a mess. I just need to find a way to tell her my wishes and to know what my compromises would be since they don't coincide with hers.

Kellse, I think she may be on the waiting list for a first floor apartment already but what level she is on is not the only reason she was looking to move. She would like to be a little closer to family (she could walk to her daughter's from my house) and would not mind more space.
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One thing you said above that makes a big difference, imo. You said that your husband would never rent to a stranger. Well, that may severely limit your tenant pool. I'd consider a couple of things.

1. Who is the least problematic tenant that is currently in the tenant pool? A young person might not need help in the toilet, but, could play tv loud or stay up late and bother you.
2. Is the extra rent money worth the risk of getting saddled with a problematic tenant, whom you are friends with?

It's a personal thing, really. Perhaps, a FIRE DOOR would draw some lines. Would the fire code require one for rental in your home? Just a thought.

I know that I have lived next door to two different senior ladies before. One was my landlord. She was very sweet and loved my company. She loved to chat and have a glass of wine, which was fine, but, sometimes, it was little much as I was single and quite active. She occasionally asked for favors, which I did gladly, but, it was like living next door to my grandmother. I felt obligated all the time. So, when I moved to the big city, I avoided those kind of situations.

There is a lot to consider.
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Can she apply for a first floor apartment in the senior housing. I am also wondering if it doesnt work out, would she lose her senior housing. I think up here there maybe a wait list.
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I would start by sealing off the door between your areas. Since you like this woman - are you willing to have her over once a week? Twice? Set the expectations now because after there are only hurt feelings and anger. Let her know that you value having someone you know and trustworthy take the apartment. Let her know that you are busy with your family but that you would like to have her over for dinner every Tuesday night, for example - and have the kids, who love her, interact with her. Otherwise you have a creeping mess on your hands - more and more.
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OK, take the ride part out of the equation. That seems to be a distraction.

Carol lives about 30 minutes north of us (her daughter and I) in a second floor walk-up. Prior to Mom passing, Carol and her daughter were looking for something for Carol closer to here. Carol mentioned that she would be interested in the apartment if it were ever to become available.

After mom passed, I asked her if she was still interested and she said that she could not afford it - she is on a fixed income and is not sure that her 457 will be enough to cover her for the rest of her life. I told her I would match her current rent even though it was below market for my apartment.

SHE volunteered that she could continue to give my daughter rides to the orthodontist (was part of her duties as Mom's caregiver). She then went on to say that she could help around the house with vacuuming and starting dinner etc. (to make up for the benefit of low rent) I hinted (but apparently not strongly enough) that I didn't want her to do all that. And, I didn't say this to her but I don't really NEED her to give rides but it would be helpful if she did. We are talking about a half hour every six weeks or so. I can take off from work if need be.

I think the issue stems from how each of us envisioned the living situation. I saw us as friendly neighbors who socialize occasionally and she pictures us as roommates/family. Carol has all the time in the world on her hands and wants to stay useful. She wants to do all of this for my family out of love but also out of wanting to keep busy.

I see what you are saying Cwillie and Rainmom, about the mixed message. But, this isn't about her doing things for me for reduced rent. In fact it is the opposite. I don't want her cleaning my house and running errands and starting dinner for reduced rent or for any other reason. The reason we agreed to reduced rent is because some money coming in is better than no money coming in and DH would never, ever rent the attached unit to strangers.

Sunnygirl, I do hold her in high regard but I am also worried that if her health declines I will end up a caregiver again. I would rush to help her if she couldn't reach something, couldn't lift something etc But how about the first time she needs help getting up. Of course, I would help. But then there is a second time and then she needs help in the bathroom and eventually, I will be doing for her as I did for my Mom.

At that point, I would have to insist that her daughter bring in help or take her in or something. But I know from experience that these things start gradually and it is hard to fine the line.

Her rent would not be renegotiated - as I said, she is on a fixed income and she is giving up her cheap apartment. There is a waiting list so it would be hard for her to get back in. I would not do that for her.

I am pretty well versed in Landlord tenant stuff and think I can negotiate the legal part. As for the risk/liability part, I already have a large umbrella policy due to owning two rental properties but I do need to carry additional insurance for the (now) rental apartment.

Keep the comments coming, you are all helping me formulate the words I need to set boundaries.
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I get what you're saying, cwillie- and I couldn't agree more.

Mom2mom - you're wanting it both ways - and that is the root of your predicament. 

If you want this to be a situation with boundaries, you're going to need to extricate Carol from the personal aspects of your lives. Meaning - no driving your kids around. If you had a regular tenant would you offer a reduced rent to drive your daughter to the dentist? The other kid to wherever? No? Then there's your answer.

Approach Carol and tell her you've been giving it some thought - that you don't feel comfortable encroaching on her time - that she should be able to enjoy her free time as any other TENANT would. 

Then add that for the first year you'll keep the reduced rent - since it would be unfair of you to raise it because you changed your mind about the driving. But that she should know you'll need to raise the rent after the lease period is up. Which - by the way you need to definitely have. Presenting Carol with a lease agreement will reinforce the message of tenant/landlord relationship.

It's a pill that needs to be swallowed - less rent, no rides, in exchange for your privacy and freedom.
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You seem to hold her with kind reguard. What if, after she moves in, she falls and suffers some injuries? What if she recovers, but, then needs help getting things off shelves, getting her groceries, getting laundry out of washer, preparing meals...? Will she depend on you and your family? I mean, you are just on the other side of the door. Plus, what if she can no longer drive?

Also, will her rent be negotiated every year? Once, you don't need her transportation services, will you increase the rent by $300.00?

I might also check into the rules and regulations for landlords in your jurisdiction. I'd make sure that I was aware of all that is legally required. I'd also obtain legal advice on the lease. If you ever run into problems with the matter and seek legal advice, the first thing that will be asked is what does the lease specify.

I'd also check on your homeowners policy ref. coverage and how that applies to a tenant.
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You are sending mixed messages:

You love Carol but you only want her there on your terms.
You think it is a good idea to accept her help as a driver for your kids but you don't want to formally acknowledge that and offer to pay her.
You invite her to live in your granny apartment at reduced rent but you want to treat it as a tenant relationship and not as a family friend.

Do you get what I'm saying?
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Good point on the driving. She is a good driver now and would only be taking them a few miles on familiar roads but how long before her skills start to diminish. Kyle will be driving in 2-3 years though so it won't be an issue long.

We all love Carol. At one point, when Mom was declining but nowhere near dying, each of my kids approached me separately and pondered "When YiaYia dies, will we still be able to keep Carol?" They were not at all broken up about the possibility of losing Mom.

I guess it is a bit selfish of me to want to control when and how much we hang out. And who knows, maybe Carol will be too busy for us.
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I agree with Sendhelp. Having her drive the kids is cracking that door wide open in many ways. And what a good point about how long will she drive safely?
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Better boundaries would be to choose not to use her as a driver for your kids at all (to make up for the decrease in rent). She may feel obligated to overdo to make up the difference. How long will she be driving safely, in your opinion? Keep the landlord/tenant relationship clear, neighbor.
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Boundaries up. That door will never be used, not even as a convenience. She will be a neighbor, each of you calling ahead, using the front door entrances at all times.
Carol: " You have your own family to care for now that you live nearby to them. I am looking forward to having you as my friend and neighbor, but now that Mom is gone, your caregiving role has ended (or something nicer) and we will be separating the living spaces by (sound-proofing) closing off that door, as my family prefers. (like I said, or something nicer). We will call ahead like neighbors do for privacy. "
Seal off, sound-proof the door now, before she moves in.
If her daughter has these issues, you already know what to expect. Maybe you do want to reconsider.? ?
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Or you could just be really honest. That's always been my motto. If someone is sensitive, it doesn't always work but subterfuge never works in my opinion. You could possibly end up losing a good friend in the process. It might hurt her feelings initially but she'll get over it.

Just get a good lock for your side of the door. Maybe, she'll figure it out herself when she can't get in.
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Prevail on the daughter, who doesn't want her mother moving quite so nearby anyway, to find a better alternative; and tell this nice lady that you're awfully sorry but you have had enquiries from a full-paying tenant and nobody can afford to turn down an extra $300 a month now can they, not in these hard and uncertain times. She'll understand the money far better and less painfully than she will ever understand why the connecting door's been locked.

If you let this happen you'll be plagued and she'll be hurt. You have to scrap the idea.
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