DR Rob Gandy  I  UK

There was an interesting letter to Graham Norton on 30th September, where someone complained about her 35-year-old son, who is renting a property that she owns from her at £200 below market value. The son lives there with his girlfriend and their child. 

Every month the son is late paying, or gives money in dribs or drabs. Unsurprisingly the mother is finding this very difficult, particularly as the son does not appear to be at all grateful, and she feels taken for granted. There is the knock-on effect of her not having full control over her own finances1; the rent after all is now part of her income. Graham responded that because the tenant is her son, it is pretty impossible to have a straightforward landlord-tenant relationship; and the son is almost certain to expect some flexibility and understanding. (We don’t know anything about the son and girlfriend’s financial situation so it is not clear whether it is “Can’t Pay” or “Won’t Pay”).

But the lack of any such agreement may sow the seeds for future problems in the relationship with the son or daughter.

Image by Daryn Stumbaugh via

I guess that there are quite a few GBoomers out there who this story will resonate with! The fact that many GBoomers are fortunate to have a second property (which might have been inherited from their deceased parents will) and it is so difficult for youngsters and even not-so-youngsters to get on the property ladder, means that this sort of situation will not be uncommon. Talk of formal, legal agreements will of course be avoided because it will then appear that you don’t love them or trust them. But the lack of any such agreement may sow the seeds for future problems in the relationship with the son or daughter. Also, if there is no formal agreement then (I am not a lawyer!) it might be very difficult to remove them if things go completely pear-shaped and, for example, they stop paying any rent at all. And if you have more than one son or daughter then your not being tough on their sibling could be another source of friction!

There are plenty of horror programmes on tv where property owners try to remove tenants who have stopped paying the rent and/ or damaged the property. It is not uncommon to see examples where people have rented to a good friend and therefore have decided against a formal tenancy agreement, but then find that the lack of such an agreement means that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove them. But it will be so much harder if it is your own kids who are causing you the problems. Therefore, it probably makes sense for you and the son/ daughter to go to a Citizens Advice Bureau or a friendly lawyer, to seek advice on what might be the best ‘light-touch’ arrangement that protects both parties. Because, don’t forget, it can cut both ways: it might be the parent who is refusing to get vital work done on the maintenance and decor of the property. We have all seen the terrors of damp and the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. The key is to have an open, friendly dialogue at the outset, when you can all explore “What if” scenarios without taking it personally.

After all, things could be a lot worse. They could stay living with you!