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I always read about if adults should pay rent to their parents. For example, in this question.

I also know that it's not easy to give one specific answer, there are even cultural matters involved.

But... and what about the opposite? Should an adult, who has a job, isn't going through any hard time, pay rent to his child, if the child is also an adult, has a house, and so on?

And this is not just curiosity, it's a plan that... a friend of mine... is considering, since one of his parents are giving signals that this might happen in a near future.

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    This one may be a bit situational. My father-in-law lives with us.. and we paid him while he was employed to watch our newborn. – Brian Robbins May 7 '15 at 20:27
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    Even if the parent could afford to contribute something toward the mortgage, and even if the adult child really needed the money, I would not call it "rent." That sounds offensive to me. I would call it a contribution to the household expenses. To me, one of the main definitions of a family is that family members help each other out. – aparente001 May 8 '15 at 5:51
  • Note: in some countries it's not a should but a legally must. E.g. in Italy the parents must help their children even after they come of age by giving them a place to live/money/food etc. If you search about the issue you'll see a lot of legal cases were parents lost causes against their own children, even in situations where the parents' requests were completely reasonable (e.g. child doesn't study nor has any intention of searching for a job, they still have to pay for his living, or "studies" but after 15 years still doesn't have a degree, they have to pay tuition anyway). – Bakuriu May 8 '15 at 17:49
  • I've closed this as heavily opinion-based -- I think it's a very good question, but not necessarily a good fit for the StackExchange format (and you've got a wide array of answers already!) – Acire May 8 '15 at 18:10
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It depends on your point of view. Were I the parent, I would offer to pay rent. Were I the child, I would decline the offer. In any case, I would advise both parties not to become dependent on the financial arrangement, if at all possible, even non-fiscal benefits like babysitting or housework.

If you pay rent, don't make it so high or deplete your retirement so much that you can't afford to move into a comparable situation elsewhere. If you receive rent, try to put it toward capital improvements, save it for your kids' educations, or use it for one-time costs like vacations, rather than depending on it for day to day expenses. Don't take a job you can only afford if the grandparent provides day care. Either of you should feel free to back out at any time when circumstances change, without feeling like it is causing financial harm to the other.

My grandmother got into this situation with my aunt and uncle. She depleted her savings considerably in order to add on a separate apartment at their house. I'm not privy to all the details, but she only lived there a short time before they sold the house to buy a bigger one, and there was a large disagreement over recouping the cost of her investment, since it did not add much to the equity. That rift lasted some 15 years until she died.

That's why I say treat any money exchanged as lost, or else be prepared to lose a relationship over it.

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My answer for both of situations (parent with child, child with parent), is likely to be the same. Although, I would give more leeway to a person attending some form of college or vocational training, regardless if that was a traditional student or a returning-ed adult.

I don't think there is any moral obligation for the parent to pay rent to their child. I also don't think the child has reasonable cause to just outright declare a rent value and expect the displaced parent to pay it. (Since I don't think there's specific moral ground for the child to charge rent, I would say it's immoral to do so.)

I will concede that there are certain costs that may go up, on account of having additional household members, that can reasonably and morally be expected to be paid for. For instance:

  • The increase to utilities, if any
  • The increase to food costs, if any

The parent may be buying their own food anyway, especially if diets and tastes differ. As for as utility increases, I would suggest some method of payment, by money, goods, or services, to only be to cover the changes directly attributable to the extra person. For instance, if the water bill goes up $20 a month because of an extra person taking showers and doing laundry, it's reasonable to request some fair payment for this. This is because you want to avoid a situation where the parent feels like a financial burden on the child. As you'll see below, financial stress can be harmful to relationships.

Now, my moral interpretation aside, I think I can construct some solid, logical reasoning for now charging the parent rent:

  • Living with your parents is already stressful, and adding finances to the situation will make it worse. Finances are often touted as the biggest source of stress for couples, and that stress can exist in any family relationship that incorporates money. Avoid finance issue to avoid stress for everyone.
  • If you're not already charging someone else for rent and have to displace them, you're not losing money, just space. Since it's not a monetary issue, don't make it one.
  • A parent will usually move in with a child when they don't currently have any other options. They may need to acquire a sizable savings in order to get back on their feet. Taking money away from their ability to save could prolong their stay.
  • Unless you're already a landlord familiar with the rental housing market, you won't have an idea for what's a fair market rate for a room-renting situation. So, your price may feel arbitrary and cause contention.
  • Charging someone for rent may have legal repercussions, depending on your local laws. Specifically, it may mean your parent gets renter’s rights and obligations, and you get landlord rights and obligations. This could complicate matters later if something sours with the relationship, or something with the living situation becomes unbearable.
  • Having this additional source of income may affect your taxes, and/or any income-based benefits you receive and/or income-based fees you pay.
  • Your parent is coming to you for help. Charging them, even if they're willing to pay, may adversely affect your relationship with them outside of general money-related stress. You may be working against the mindset (verbalized or not) that the parent spent untold thousands of dollars and hours to bring you up, and they're just looking to you for shelter and comfort. You may not agree with such emotions or reasoning, but they can't be discarded as a possible factor in the parent's view of the situation.

So, I would say that the child should morally and logically not charge his parent for rent, in general. However, recouping certain expenses that would not normally be incurred is perfectly reasonable in order to avoid financial stress.


If some sort of repayment for these incidental costs is going to be requested, then the expectations need to be calmly and clearly laid out well in advance. Both parties need to be on the same page regarding the flow of payment here.

I personally wouldn't recommend a direct-billing approach, in the "you owe this much" vein. Instead, I would find other ways where the parent can pitch in with the household needs that has a value that approximates the new costs.

As @Erica suggested in the comments, pitching in for groceries is one good way to accomplish this. Putting gas in your car (if you have one, and they borrow it), is another example.

Non-monetary exchanges, such as doing household work, are also a solution. However, the level of work shouldn't exceed the value of the costs. Again, this is to avoid generating conflict. In this case, you don't want the parent to feel obligated to perform excessive work, feel undervalued, or feel like an indentured servant.

I would add a line of caution regarding forgiving payments or gifting money/shelter. This should only be done with no strings attached. If in the moment you don't want repayment, then that needs to be final. It shouldn't be brought up later, as in "I let you stay for free for [x] months!". It should be considered a gift forever and always.

If the situation changes and you feel you do need to start receiving some money to cover your increased expenses, it should be only for that moment forward. There should be no back-log of expected payments.

  • Rather than "recouping expenses," I'd approach it as seeing whether the parent can pay certain utility bills every month (or every other month), or pitch in with grocery shopping, or do yardwork or childcare. Your list of reasons to not pay "rent" — or at the very least not call it rent — includes a lot of very sensible points I wouldn't have even considered. – Acire May 7 '15 at 23:43
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    @Erica I think any arrangement for payment, whether in cash or services, likely needs its own process. To be clear, I'm thinking if the water bill goes up $20 a month, it's reasonable to ask for the parent to pitch in for that. Only because you also don't want to have the situation create a financial burden on the child, because that would also cause stress. I'll update accordingly when I'm not on mobile. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 1:38
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    If the parent feels uncomfortable about living there for free, maybe they could set up a savings account for grandchildren, etc, and pay a little into that every month. – RedSonja May 8 '15 at 5:57
  • @RedSonja There is probably an endless list of things they could do. I just don't like the mindset of it being "free", implying that it's something that has monetary value that's being discounted for family. I wouldn't ever say to my children that I'm letting them stay in my home for "free" (even when they reach adulthood), and I would hope the reverse is true if anything like this ever came up. I also think that if the parent was elderly and terminal, that there'd likely not ever been any mention of rent. So, that attitude should be applied universally, and not just for extreme situations. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 8:11
  • A place to live does have a monetary value, and a parent, however welcome, may feel they are thus blocking their children from earning rent for this asset. I certainly would never expect anyone to put me up for nothing, unless I was really desperate, but even then I would resolve to pay it back someday. – RedSonja May 8 '15 at 8:14
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A couple points of perspective:

I've always believed that moral obligation goes from parents to offspring. Any obligation perceived by offspring in the opposite direction comes out of the feelings of the offspring. Circumstances of need clearly can affect feelings at any time.

Children don't ask to be born. They have zero say in their birth situation, so they can have no direct responsibility for it. (Yeah, I know there's a strong degree of a kind of emotional coldness in that; I'll leave that for a different question. This is more from a concrete perspective rather than from very real emotional bonds that may form.)

And then, basic principles of inheritance point to a concept that indicates that it makes little sense for offspring to hand assets (cash) into the (temporary) holding of parents. The eventual sum total goes to offspring anyway. OTOH, for parents to hand it to offspring early is little more than acknowledgement of the (mostly) inevitable future. Factors such as annual tax accounting for 'income' vs. 'gifts' might affect how the transfers are done.

Of course, wills might drastically change how inheritance happens; but the specific changes should fairly clearly illuminate the relationships.

In short, parents 'owe' their children everything; and children 'owe' parents nothing.

A lot can be added to flesh this out. It doesn't mean that parents should act as slaves nor that they should grant every wish. A big part of what a parent 'owes' (after basic survival) is the obligation to teach offspring how to succeed in life. This implies moderation in many things, so an unending flow of gifts and goodies actually contradicts the fundamental principle.

When a family value such as parental obligation (among others) is taught to children, it has to include regular mention of limits and moderation. A child needs to learn that parents need to teach good lessons. When imparting such lessons, a part of it should include some way of saying "We need to do this because we love you."

When it's successful, grown offspring have a well cultured appreciation of their parents. Possible problems such as if/when to pay rent in either direction seem to work themselves out naturally.

  • I agree that the moral obligation generally flows from parent to child, but I don't think the reverse obligations are purely feelings-based. Provided the parent is a positive factor in your life, and not abusive, I don't see why you wouldn't reciprocate the moral obligations to some extent. In this case, I would say that if the child has a strong enough relationship with their parent to agree to let that parent move in with them, then they've created their moral obligation. If they don't want to reciprocate, then they shouldn't allow the parent to move in, period. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 8:19
  • I liked this answer. These questions about rent are highly cultural, in my country it's very uncommon to parents receive the "rent" from their children, imagine the other way round. But since in some cultures it's acceptable, including to "teach" your child about the need to have independent life, I think it would also apply to let parents know that they also be prepared to the future... – woliveirajr May 8 '15 at 11:43
  • @CreationEdge ...don't see why you wouldn't seems to be "feelings" based rather than having a rational foundation, unless you can offer a rational justification that overcomes both main points of my answer. And as I noted, such situations work themselves out naturally if the relationship was well cultured. I.e., it shouldn't be a surprise if offspring willingly pay rent. Also, even into adulthood, some offspring still need to be reminded to pay their own way; I can't guess when any given parental obligation might end. – user2338816 May 8 '15 at 14:15
  • If you want pure rationality, it's because ause if you've had a net beneficial relationship, putting something upwards and back into it could lead to an increase of future gain. Whereas not providing could lead to a net loss. So then you owe it to yourself to input to the parent to secure future increase for yourself. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 15:19
  • @CreationEdge That would be valid, but might take a fairly rare balance of personality traits (if it's the major deciding factor). The offspring would be self-aware enough to recognize inability to handle finances effectively, yet be aware of a potential advantage of 'investing' in parental management. It does have some reason outside of emotion, though. – user2338816 May 10 '15 at 5:55
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By NO means is someone supposed to "charge" their parent rent. The parent showed a lifetime of devotion to raise the child into an adult and at least took care of them for 20 years. Its absolutely unethical to be so cold as to even think about charging your parent for anything.

And for their part, parents know this and should not take advantage of their adult children, nor put guilt trips on their children whom they raised remembering that they themselves have been raised by their parents.

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    This is the exact mindset I mentioned in my answer that could cause contention between the parent and child. However, I would not globally say that all people who do think of charging rent are "cold". It's an unusual situation, so people try to relate to it with more common experiences, such as having a room mate that you'd charge rent. Also, some parents may feel obligated to pay rent, even if the child doesn't expect it. – user11394 May 8 '15 at 8:13

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