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‘She’s obsessed’: My mom moved into my house and refuses to move out. She has paid for repairs and appliances. What should I do?

I live in Florida and bought a house in 2011. My mother moved in about a year later. We never discussed if this was permanent or not, but after a few years I started thinking about living on my own again. However, she refuses to move out. She has invested money in repairs and new appliances and also covers groceries and cooks — even after I have asked her not to pay for anything. 

So when I asked her to move out, she brought up all the money she has invested and said that she would either take everything she ever bought with her or I would have to pay her back, and that was the end of the conversation. I am now in a relationship that is getting serious. We have talked about moving in together. But my boyfriend is furious with how my mom treats me and how she’s obsessed with fixing up my house. 

I am trying to pay off my house and am also thinking of having her continue living there and renting out the other room. My boyfriend suggests that he and I move into his apartment together, meaning that I could sell my house, and my mother would move out on her own. But my mother is getting old, and even though she stresses me out, I feel bad asking her to move out.

I don’t like the idea of selling my house, in case things don’t work out with my boyfriend. He insists that he would pay for a new home for us so I wouldn’t have to use the money I make from selling my own house. Instead, the money I make from selling would go toward my retirement. But he also thinks selling would take stress off me, because if my mother stays in my house and I rent out the other room, she will be calling me all the time.

My boyfriend thinks that even after paying off my house, it would still take a while before I see a profit if I rent it out, and that I would gain more money and experience less stress in the long term if I sell before the housing market tanks. If I do sell my house, my mother wants her share of what she has spent on the house. His idea is tempting. 

He says that in a relationship we all have to make sacrifices, but I feel like mine would be bigger, and I would like some time to think before selling. Any ideas or options?

Undecided

“You appear to be the one making all the sacrifices.”

MarketWatch illustration

Dear Undecided,

Don’t sell your home, and attend to one thing at a time.

You appear to be the one making all the sacrifices. You’re housing your mother, who refuses to move out, and you are being asked to sell or rent your house and move in with your boyfriend. You’re also dealing with two separate issues: living in a house with your mom (a situation that you wish to change) and not living with your boyfriend (a situation he wishes to change). 

You’re tied to your mother by filial and financial ties, and you feel beholden to your boyfriend because you presumably care for him and want to make the relationship work. But you can’t be all things to all people, because sooner or later, you will find you’ve put everyone else first and become a bit-part player in the story of your own life. So the first action is to decide what you need.

Telling people what you need is the first step to being the architect of your own life: “I need to live alone at this point in my life.” Or, “I need to hold on to my house instead of selling it, as it’s my sanctuary and an investment in my future.” Even if other people don’t listen or respect your needs — be they friends, boyfriends or family members — you need to respect your own needs and act accordingly.

Regarding the ethics of evicting your mother from your home — that is something for you to decide. She contributed financially toward the upkeep of your property, but that does not give her the right to live there ad infinitum. The legal issues governing the eviction of a family member without a lease agreement vary from state to state. You could ask her to sign a lease agreement, of course, thereby formalizing your arrangement.

Legal rules vary by state

In Florida, in order to evict a person with no lease agreement, you would file a suit called an unlawful detainer action with the county court. Unlike with an eviction, with this action a “homeowner does not have to give notice to the family member or individual that they are trying to remove,” according to the law office of Brian Kowal. “This is because there is no landlord/tenant relationship. Once you file the unlawful detainer, they have five days to respond.”

Other states have similar laws. “New York Courts have held that where family members (non-owners) live at a property with the consent of the owner, they cannot be evicted in a summary proceeding,” according to the New York law firm Weiss & Weiss. “Instead, an ejectment action must be brought in the Supreme Court of the county in which the premises are located.” 

It continues: “An action in ejectment is brought in the same manner as a regular lawsuit, where the party is served with a summons and complaint, and then has between 20 and 30 days to file an answer, depending on the method of service. After answering, the defendant would have the opportunity to defend the action, obtain full discovery, and have a trial, if the action is not decided by motion.”

Of course, these are extreme actions, and you sound conflicted. It’s time to have a frank talk with your mother about both your futures. You first need to figure out what you want to happen. You could rent out your home and she could act as a de facto live-in landlady, or you could both look for alternative accommodation for your mother, or you could put a time frame on when you would like to make changes.

Take action based on what you believe is right, and not on what your boyfriend thinks is a good idea — which may simply be a good idea for him. The best way to decide whether to continue or change your living arrangements with your mother is to look at her alternatives, based on her income and savings. She is your mother, after all, and resolving this situation amicably should be your first priority.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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I cosigned my boyfriend’s mortgage, but I’m not on the deed. I didn’t want to marry again after a costly divorce. How do I protect myself?

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