Ask Amy: Family home and brother-in-law are a package deal

September 23, 2012

DEAR AMY: We purchased my father-in-law’s home from his estate a year ago. We understood that my brother-in-law came with the home, as he’d been living here rent free since the family moved in 50 years ago. At first, we did not ask for rent, and he never offered to help with living expenses (not even food, even though he eats most of his meals with us).

My husband, our three kids and I are waiting for him to leave so we can fully move in. He inherited enough money to buy a modest home of his own, but has been procrastinating. Eventually we asked him to pay a reasonable rent, or contribute an equal value in labor on the numerous repairs needed on the house, but we’ve never gotten a dime in rent or labor.

We also asked that he remove more of his things from the basement, etc., so we can unpack and start to use our own possessions. As the one-year mark approached, we gave him a three-month deadline to move out. A month has gone by, and he has not done anything. Still no rent.

This is causing considerable anxiety for us. I don’t know if my husband will have the gumption to kick him out on the deadline. I told my husband I’ve reached my limit, and I will move in with my mom until he is out. What would you do? -- Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I wish I could turn back the calendar to wave a giant red flag in front of your family and warn you, “This will end in tears.” I don’t disagree with your choice to move out, as long as you accept that your ultimatum might not work.

This man has lived in the home for his entire life (I assume). He has never paid for housing or living expenses (I assume), and now you think that he will somehow magically get it together to the extent that he will leave?

Your brother-in-law has legal rights, and if he doesn’t choose to move, it could be more complicated than you think to force him to pay rent or move.

A family mediator might help you negotiate a reasonable way out of this. My view is that he should probably not be pressured to purchase a home but should look for something to rent as a transition.

DEAR AMY: My wife and I are about to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Our marriage has been a strong partnership with two grown children. I guess I am more sentimental about our 40th anniversary because I am not in the best of health. I had hoped to celebrate on the exact date of our anniversary, doing something meaningful and memorable with my wife.

However, my wife has her treasured monthly book club meeting on that night. I had hoped she might be willing to skip this meeting and spend it with me on this special day, but she seems to think we can just celebrate another time. I feel brokenhearted, and I’m not sure how to feel about her decision. -- Sad Husband

DEAR SAD: You do know how to feel. You feel brokenhearted. I agree that this is a special date, and I agree that you should have an expectation to celebrate with your wife on this date.

You cannot control how you feel, but if you are at an impasse, you might feel better if you planned a small gesture on the date itself. You might think that you were rewarding your wife for being intractable, but if you got a bottle of champagne to share with her on that night, it might help you.

DEAR AMY: “Worried Mom” was extremely concerned that her baby sitter was possibly reading a book on the job. I’d give anything to have that problem. You should have told her that she was being extremely overprotective. -- Relaxed Mom

DEAR MOM: I agree with you. But given the level of this mother’s anxiety, she should educate her baby sitter on her exact expectations.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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