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Dealing With the (Homeless) In-Laws

Dealing With the (Homeless) In-Laws

By Amalah

All wise Amalah,

My mother-in-law moved-in with us two weeks ago. By itself, this isn’t a problem, as my MIL and I get along extremely well. She brought her teen daughters from a second family with her. This is also not the real problem, because while the girls *are* teenagers, they are pretty decent ones, without the attitude problems I had at that age. The real problem is that she also brought her boyfriend (the girls’ father), a large-sized Labrador, a chihuahua, a snake and a turtle. Did I mention that we rent our house? Or that our landlord very firmly told us when we moved in that the house was not a circus, and we were not to add any additional pets?

The thing is, they are making seemingly no effort to move *out* of our house. They just had the house they had lived in for 15 years foreclosed on them. They have no rental history, poor credit and both are unemployed. It’s also a pretty tough rental market right now. Places that fit their desired qualifications are going super fast – you basically have to turn in an application the same day it’s listed in order to get a place. We tried Section 8, but all the counties on our coast have closed wait-lists. And once they are on the wait list, it may take years before it’s actually approved.

Still, via a lot of calling around (untreated Social Anxiety Disorder means my MIL really can’t do that part), I was able to find them a few possible places that would rent to them and fit their rather stringent requirements, all not yet listed so they’d have had their pick. They rejected all the places I found, though, mostly because they were in backwater towns that didn’t have nice downtown areas. Any protestations of “but it’s temporary!” or “but this is what you can afford!” have gone unheard. I’ve explained the 3x rule, found out their income (boyfriend is on permanent disability for a back injury), even done the math on paper so at least the older teen could follow. MIL doesn’t get it, instead is looking at rentals similar to their old house, in their old town; places that rent at well over half their income.

There are other issues, of course. Minor things like having to move our kids into our bed to sleep, my kids (who are 2 and 5) being given soda despite having been told they aren’t allowed, feeding their dogs in the room that gets ants after having been asked not to, eating the leftovers we intended for a second night’s dinner, teenage girls who arrive home at midnight and slam the bathroom door right next to our bedroom, the boyfriend missing the toilet and leaving pee on the floor for me to clean up (“men don’t clean bathrooms”) and so on. These are minor annoyances, I realize. But they are still things that make me not want to live with these people on a long-term basis.

“I give up” is something I’ve said twice a day for the last two weeks. I can find them a place, but they have to apply, and that’s something they aren’t doing. My husband and I have talked about setting an out date, a day when they are just going to have to go – preferably a date that would give them enough time to get the girls enrolled in school in their new location. My husband balks when it actually comes down to discussing it with his mother, though. He knows they won’t have a place by whatever date we select, and then what happens? He throws his own mother and sisters onto the street? Puts them in a homeless shelter?

Amalah, I’m terrified my landlord is going to find out and boot US out. I love my MIL and her girls, I really do. I’m not terribly keen on the sexist boyfriend, but they are a package deal. Regardless of how we feel about them, we can’t afford to feed and house them long-term and I’m fresh out of ideas on how to fix the situation. My own anxiety levels are through the roof, even while taking my meds properly. I’m a ‘fixer’ who just can’t fix this problem!

– Overcrowded and Anxious

Okay folks. That’s it. Shut it down. We have found our winner for the Most Nightmare Inducing In-Law Letter Ever. This is clearly Advice Smackdown Hall of Fame material, right up there with the toddler twins who threw their poop at each other like monkeys and the mom being dragged to soap-making festivals by her husband and MIL at like one week postpartum.

All of you are now required to re-read this poor woman’s letter BEFORE you write to me about how annoying your in-laws are.

And you, OP. I’d like you to re-read your letter. Out loud to yourself, maybe while looking in a mirror. Notice how often you try to play down the absurdity of this situation, and insist that some (reeeeeeeeally unacceptable) things are just “minor” annoyances, that you don’t mind, YOU REALLY DON’T MIND, YOU LOVE THEM, YOU GET ALONG WITH THESE ABUSIVE UNSTABLE FREELOADERS JUST FINNNNNEEEEE.

And yeah. I went there. You can abuse someone’s hospitality. You can abuse someone’s good intentions and sense of familial duty. These people should never have been allowed into your home in the first place (a simple “we run the risk of eviction if you and your zoo stay here even one night” should have shut this whole thing down), but now they are here and what you are describing is a terribly unhealthy, damn-near toxic situation full of grown-ass adults who you keep making excuses for.

She can’t make phone calls! She can’t accept reality! He won’t clean his own pee from the toilet he’s lucky to even have! They don’t respect your home, your rules, or YOU.

I do feel sorry for the daughters. They’re not responsible for their family’s chaos. I could maaaaaaybe see myself offering to become a temporary guardian of them so they could stay and find some stability (if said guardianship also included some really firm understanding that they WILL follow and respect your rules and curfews, etc).

But MIL, jerkwad boyfriend, and all the pets need to go. Like, yesterday.

They ARE responsible for their own chaos, or are at least responsible for dealing with the chaos that results after things like back injuries or lost jobs or lost homes. And you are running a real risk here of absorbing that chaos into your own family. Your children have lost their rooms and routine and privacy, and you’re now putting them in danger of losing their entire HOME, if your landlord finds out. (And I’m guessing Mr. Pee On the Floor And  Treat The Person Who Is Saving His Family From Homelessness Like A Slave isn’t setting the best example for your kids.) Your own financial situation is deteriorating because you’re trying to feed and provide for a family of eight (plus a million pets) and they just. Don’t. Care.

Let me be the neutral third party here, or your pretend friend who is listening to you talk while we’re getting coffee: GURL. THIS IS NUTS. GET THEM OUT.

Nothing you describe here is “minor” or “not really a big deal.” They are holding you hostage — emotionally, financially, even a bit physically — and you guys are going Stockholm Syndrome on them because family. Yes, family takes care of each other and looks out for each other and you have MET that criteria ten fold here, by finding them places to live and doing all the number crunching and legwork that your MIL can’t do. (Or just won’t.) But they reject everything because they like where they are now: Zero rent or expenses or any real expectation that they sack up, grow up, get a reality check and take responsibility for their own family and mess of a situation.

At some point a line has been crossed here. You’re no longer helping them. You’re enabling them. The rejection of perfect rentals YOU found for reasons that fly in the face of their reality was the last straw.  Your MIL clearly has no intention of making any effort to leave your house and doesn’t give a crap that they might get you ALL evicted. That’s just not her problem. That’s yours, in her mind. (I’m guessing nothing is her problem, or her fault.) They probably assume that if you do get kicked out, they’ll just follow you to whatever place you end up next. They’ve abdicated responsibility to you. You’re the grown-up now, who buys the food and makes the phone calls and cleans up the pee on the floor.

Gurl. That is nuts. Get them out.

It’s not uncommon after something as financially and emotionally devastating as a foreclosure for people to kind of shut down. Or lose perspective on their new reality and what their next step should be. (Remember the parents who were expecting their daughter to co-sign a risky new mortgage for them because renting was beneath them or something?) It’s also perfectly natural that you and your husband would want to help in any way you could.

But this ISN’T helping them. Nothing about this situation is helpful or even remotely okay anymore. Of COURSE your anxiety is through the roof. Just reading your letter made me want to pop a Xanax. Put your foot down. Where they end up next is NO LONGER YOUR PROBLEM, because they are GROWN-UPS. Maybe compromise and have the girls stay until their parents settle somewhere, although only if you can accept that might never happen and they’ll be with you until graduation. (As minors they should be able to get more help from the state, though.)

Give MIL and Jerkwad a date. If your husband won’t, tell him you will, and also that you will see him in couple’s therapy, because you guys need to work on your priorities. Namely, the well-being and security of your young children. Who, like the teen girls, are not responsible for and did not invite all this chaos into their lives. But you guys did invite it in, even though you obviously had good intentions. But it’s time to give the chaos an eviction notice…preferably before your landlord hands YOU one.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kerry

    July 20, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Ok, this is way outside of my area of expertise…but is this maybe time to call a social worker? You have two teenage girls who are at risk of becoming homeless if your landlord finds out about the situation, and a mom that needs some professional help with making decisions for her family.

    Or short of that, maybe you could get in contact with some animal fostering groups. Kicking the dogs out seems A) easier emotionally on you than kicking people out B) like it would relieve some of your immediate anxiety about getting evicted and C) like it could make your mother-in-law realize that living at your house is not in fact preferable to living in a backwater town. 

  • Amy Renee

    July 20, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I agree with Kerry that calling social workers might not be a bad idea. Depending on how far you live from where they used to live, maybe someone from the girls’ previous school can be of help or can refer you to someone for help?

    FWIW, in many state homeless kids can continue to go to their previous school – and living temporarily with relatives qualifies as “homeless”. So if it is close enough, the girls can be enrolled back at their own school next school year, to give them a little continuity. And you may be able to talk to the social workers about keeping them in that school even if they move to the backwater – no guarantees, but it might be worth asking about/looking into.

    And related to that – living with you means they are technically homeless now – so if any of the Section 8 or other forms have that option, or there are “homeless services” in your area – make use of them. Many people think that living with relatives doesn’t make them homeless, but it does technically count in a lot of programs.

    Since husband is on disability, is the desire to not move to the backwater away from a downtown area from a genuine need to take buses instead of driving? Or are they just still in denial?

    I agree with Kerry that looking into rescues and setting a firm date (the pets will be out by August 15th, etc) may give them a kick in the right direction – because it’s either the pets or the whole family. But I wouldn’t stretch it out, because your landlord can definitely terminate your lease over the pets, and many will, especially if its a tight rental market like you say.

    I know you have come to the realization that renting in their own neighborhood is impractical or impossible, but they may need to come to that realization on their own, so I wouldn’t push too hard on that, or perhaps let your husband be the bad guy on that front – because some people just need to figure that kind of thing out themselves.

    Good luck to you OP – you are far kinder and more patient than I could ever be!

  • Cheryl S.

    July 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Where is your husband in all of this?  He needs to get his mother OUT of your house.  Period.

    If this were me, I would tell him that either they go, or I do. And I would stick to it.  I know that sounds harsh, but by not doing what is right for YOU and YOUR family, he’s choosing THEM. 

    So, set a firm date.  MIL and her circus are out by say, September 1. If they are not, the children and I will find an apartment and be out by October 1.  And then DO IT.

    • Suzy Q

      July 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      You’re generous. I would give them no more than two weeks to get the hell out.

  • Erin

    July 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I suspect couple’s therapy isn’t going to help, and that the next step here is either the husband moving out, or, more likely, the writer and her kids having to leave. The only way I can see her tolerating this, and considering these things “minor inconveniences”, is if she is already being abused by the husband.
    OP, consider leaving this mess behind and just leaving with your kiddos. Get your name off everything first.

    • LLP

      July 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Woah, hey. telling the OP to leave her husband is taking it a bit too far in my opinion. Her question is about how to get the in-laws out of the house, not asking for relationship advice.

  • Christen

    July 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Amy is right on here: you are being manipulated and taken advantage of in your own home and to the detriment of your family. Your children are being exposed to a chaotic situation and it sounds like your parenting is being undermined. That alone is a reason to set a Move Out Date. But the fact that you may also wind up homeless is a huge insane on fire red flag that this situation is no good for anyone. I say this as someone with a MIL who is also bad at money management AND who thinks she should never have to tamp down her spending or adjust her lifestyle: it sucks to not be able to bail out family but you and your husband have a responsibility to your family first.

  • Suzy Q

    July 20, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Oh, my word, HUGS. Please listen to Amalah, and get these people and animals out of your life!  Another thing: If you get evicted, that could affect your credit rating and/or ability to rent another place.

    Also, I have no idea where people find the social workers some commenters have recommended. Perhaps someone else could enlighten us.

  • z

    July 20, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Ok, but specifically what does OP say and do?  There is a giant hole in Amalah’s response here.  Sure, sit them down and say that this has gone on too long and that they need to be out by X date.  Then, when the date comes, as it obviously will, what does OP do?  Change the locks?  Stop answering the door and leave them standing on the porch for as long as it takes?

    OP should NOT move out.  Terrible idea.  She will still be liable for the rent, and for any pet damage to the apartment.  

    • MR

      July 20, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      She sits down with her husband and says this, “Dear, we need to talk. This situation with your mother and everyone living with us is putting our family in jeopardy. If the landlord finds out, we could be evicted, and I am NOT OK with that risk. I have done x, y, and z and found them other arrangements, and they are simply not willing to take them. This is now on you. You find somewhere for them to move. We have given them plenty of time, this was only supposed to be temporary, so I expect them to be out in two weeks. I cannot continue to live here with them knowing that our own ability to stay here is being threatened by them and they don’t seem to care.”
      If he objects to any of that, then there needs to be a follow up conversation where she explains that he is choosing his family over her and their kids, and that their marriage is being seriously threatened by his choice. At that point she may need to say that the house is too crowded, so she and the kids will be moving out and won’t be back until the issue is resolved and dh agrees to counseling, but that even that is a limited time offer before she is forced to go see a lawyer. 

      OP, I am so sorry. This absolutely sucks. Even if your dh steps up and gets them out, couples counseling is going to be in order. 

    • Mir Kamin

      July 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Amy was upstanding enough not to suggest this, so I will: Lie. LIE LIE LIE and tell them the landlord stopped by (or called, if everyone is always home, after driving past and hearing a dog or whatever) and has said that if the extra people/animals aren’t out by [insert date here] you will be evicted. Lie shamelessly and without remorse, because you need them out and you don’t want to destroy the relationship in the process.

  • Anne

    July 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Social workers are found at the girls school ( talk to the guidance councilor), at child welfare/ protection, often your church will have a contact with a worker, most doctors will know someone they call (usually cps), even the police.
    I agree, animals are gone in a week, girls get established as homeless minors next and if mom and boyfriend can’t be ashamed after that, they are booted. Boyfriend first, he isn’t family. Hubby needs to help provide a united front.
    If her anxiety is that bad, try some herbal supplements in her coffee if no where else. If she’s less depressed maybe she’ll shape up.
    My mom is like this- ignores bad stuff. My mil lived with us part time to take a job, told her husband she was paying us rent(nope, a lie) and then we ended up in some crazy divorce proceedings and then sued because he alleged we were helping her hide money. It was terrible, mrssy and we still don’t get along.
    FiL left a dog with us “until I find a more permanent arrangement”. A year later, local law said we owned the breast, told fil we had to get rid of him, have him a firm date, when that day passed, we placed the dog with a living owner. FiL gets along great with us.
    Honesty is the best policy, someone has to be an adult here, you can’t turn a blind eye. Animals are gone this week, girls get benefits established for sil( wic, school, free lunch, the welfare world) and they understand they are homeless. Boyfriend must be gone by x date, mil had until y to find a place,sil can stay if she can follow rules, and all this info comes from your husband’s mouth, and maybe in writing. Maybe in sky writing. Maybe a billboard, do not be subtle.

  • MrsM

    July 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Ok guys, lets get some perspective here. Encouraging someone to give their husband (who they love) an ultimatum after two weeks of this? Is damaging her marriage with that kind of manipulation worth it?  

    Look past this short-term issue of helping family who is on the verge of homelessness and see what kind of damage that could do to HER family unit after all the boyfriends, teens, pets are gone. 

    Are her in-laws being unreasonable and flat out rude? Yes. Does this couple need to do something to protect their own home so THEY don’t get evicted? Yes. But they should face and solve this solution together. They need to learn how to communicate with each other and stand up to his family together. Causing problems in her own marriage isn’t a good solution. Use this problem as a way to strengthen your marriage in the long run, not damage it.

    My two cents: Pick a place they can afford, it sounds like you were able to find one, and tell them that they can either move there or need to go to other family members house or a shelter. Be frank about why they can’t stay (eviction for violating thir lease). If they choose the shelter, help them navigate finding foster families for their pets and (if you are able) offer to house the teen sisters for a couple months (with an end date!)  until they find a suitable place.

    If you are going to use an ultimatum, then give it to his family and not your husband. 

  • SarahB

    July 20, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Everything Amalah said.

    Give a date. Like, this weekend. And pay for one week of a pay by week hotel, so they have a place to go. That will make it easier to get them out the door.

    “We love you, but this has gone on long enough. We are risking being evicted ourselves at this point. We tried to help you find a rental you could afford. You rejected that help, so it is now up to you. DH is going to help you pack up, and we have paid for a room at ____ Motel for a week.”

    And do call the girls’ school and speak to a counselor. They should know the girls are homeless (and couch surfing and motels count as homeless). There may be some help available.

  • kimm

    July 20, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    A firm move out date, animals gone in a week, a list of places to call about renting for the boyfriend to call today if the Mil won’t. If they are not trying to find a place every minute and arent out by the move out date, you can call the police and report them as trespassers as a last resort, your husbands first responsibility is to keep you and your kids safe and cared for, tell him he needs to do that and when yall get evicted what will he do about it.

    • Joanne

      July 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      No, most folks are fine on perspective. The inlaws are endangering the family and the husband is balking at protecting his own wife and children. OaA has gone above and beyond trying to help these people but they aren’t going to accept the help as long as they can keep using OaA and her family. They have to be stopped before irreparable damage occurs. 

      • Joanne

        July 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

        My reply was for MrsM, must’ve clicked something wrong for it to show up under kimm. My bad.

  • Dorothy

    July 20, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Lawd! No advice but prayers. Please update us when things have calmed down.

  • Heather

    July 20, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Absolutely call the girls’ old school to try to consult with the school social worker or counselor, but know that they typically have 10 month contracts and may not be easily reachable this month (says your friendly student support services person!). The school district person in charge of McKinney-Vento homeless services probably works through the summer and could point you in the right direction for various community resources. S/he will also be a good person to talk to if your mil and family were previously living in part of your same school district, but not in the attendance area for your high school. If the girls have a compelling reason to stay at their last school (academic programs not offered in the new school, usually) the district should provide transportation to and from. Perhaps knowing that will open up mil to looking at different neighborhoods?

    Not trying to mitigate how inappropriate they are all being (I wholely agree with the boundary setting already outlined), but if your mil has social anxiety such that she actually can’t talk on the phone, is she able to keep up with her own meds and therapy? An outside social worker (try your county’s health department if none of the other suggestions up thread pan out) could help. Good luck to you.

  • Becky

    July 20, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Agree with the others that establishing a timeline/deadline and communicating this clearly is priority #1.

    If the MIL’s family is struggling this significantly, what they really need is the help of a case manager/social worker. It sounds like you’ve been doing an amazing job trying to fill this role for them – i.e. determining their needs/income, seeking out properties, etc. – but if at all possible, it’s time to enlist some outside experts.

    A lot of resources depend upon where you’re located, but since you mention a downtown area, I’m going to assume it’s not completely rural. Some possible avenues:

    1) The school guidance counselor – most are trained to deal with homeless youth and may be able to help point you in the right direction.

    2) Are you near a United Way office? If you’re not sure, try calling 2-1-1. While the agency can’t help you directly, they can refer you to social service agencies in your area that may be able to help.

    3) Homeless service agencies – Most people think of these as a resource only for the homeless, but there is greater and greater focus on preventing homelessness. Case managers can often step in to help in precarious housing situations, especially if there are children involved.

    At the end of the day, they’re unwilling to accept/consider help from the resources available, then you can stick to your firm deadline with a clear conscience knowing you did everything possible. But as Amalah pointed out, right now they’ve got a pretty comfy situation with no real consequences for their behaviors – a situation that’s ripe for manipulation.

  • Kat

    July 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Get an attorney IMMEDIATELY. One who specializes in landlord-tenant law and property rights. In some states, people living with you for more than a certain period of time can be considered tenants with legal rights, even if they weren’t on the lease. You absolutely need someone with expertise to help you navigate this awful situation.

    • KATHY

      July 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm


      My mother offered her home to a high school friend whose house had been flooded by Hurricane Sandy. What was supposed to be a three month stay turned into 2.5 years. We ended up having to go to civil court in order to force her out of the home so my mother could put hers on the market. She had the same attitude as OPs in-laws (with the exception of she had a job, albeit a low paying one). It was a nightmare.

  • z

    July 20, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Realistically, it seems like both the OP and her husband are conflict-avoidant and having a very hard time standing up for yourself and enforcing any boundaries whatsoever.  So telling them to kick them out isn’t very helpful.

    OP, I suggest you both need therapy and that would give you some coaching on how to stand up for yourselves and feel good about doing so, and how to work as a team.

    If your MIL and her BF are over 60, check with your Area Agency on Aging.

  • Cobwebs

    July 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    It is…kind of hilarious that the whole package includes not only humans, but pets in both the mammal AND reptile category. I would recommend starting by finding foster homes for the pets; most areas have breed-specific rescue organizations for dogs and herp rescue groups for snakes/turtles/etc. If you lead with, “I know it’s especially hard to find rentals with a liberal pet policy, which is why I’ve found good homes for your creatures,” that kicks one of the struts out from their argument that they can’t find a decent rental. (It also cuts down on the money they need day-to-day, because even the most minimal food and vet bills add up quickly, plus it helps communicate that you really are serious about getting them out in a fairly nonthreatening way.)

    • Cobwebs

      July 20, 2015 at 9:09 pm

      And the site refused to accept my comment with more characters, so to continue: After that, then I’d definitely agree that you kind of have to play hardball. Find them a rental which fits their budget and tell them that they have to move into it to save you from possibly pissing off your landlord. If they refuse, then it’s pretty clear that they really *don’t* care about you and get them out by any means necessary. Also check your state laws because some states have laws which amount to, “if you live there long enough you can’t be evicted except by extraordinary measures even if you don’t own the property.”

  • K

    July 20, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    As a fellow person who has an in-law who would absolutely abuse any such hospitality she was provided in the vein that the OP seems to be giving, I can say without a doubt and without regret that no adult who loses their home for lack of action will ever stay in my house. I understand back injuries, job loss, divorce and illness (as someone who worked with banks on foreclosed properties), and I know bad things absolutely happen to good people. But the difference is this: the people who want to take responsibility for themselves and for their families do just that. They do their best to find every possible service that can help them achieve stability, and the luxuries (yes, pets are a luxury!) they once enjoyed are no longer part of their decision making process. When I see that the OP’s in-laws are refusing offers of sensible solutions, I’m only more convinced that the problems are much deeper than a set of unfortunate circumstances. SO – no more help. Set a reasonable date. Stick to it. If your husband can’t have the conversation with his family, guess what – you get to have it (that’s the price we pay for marrying someone who doesn’t yet have healthy boundaries). Get yourself into some therapy to help yourself deal with the fall out. Good luck – you can do this!! Do it for your kids, they deserve to see what a healthy boundary and up-front communication looks like. Now is a great time to start.

  • S

    July 20, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    This situation happens in health care facilities. They have to give notices to people who want to be taken care of but should be in the community as they are healthy. You did exactly what the social workers do, call around for affordable housing. They responded exactly how the clients respond which is to turn down realistic options. As other respondents mentioned the family needs a caseworker. The family cannot keep the animals, many places don’t want them. These are some of the most difficult situations the social workers deal with, but creative solutions can be found. Child protective services requires a safe place to live, so they might move up on lists compared to single adults. Part of the whole process is the family needs to be a family in their own place, everyone can then move forward, including your husband. Some states have an info line for services to try and deal with these issues in a systematic way. Some states have voluntary child protective services family with service needs and programs can be accessed this way. You will find a solution. Good luck.

  • Amy

    July 21, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Hey, I’m a landlord, and everything has pretty much been covered except that it might be a lease violation (and grounds for eviction) to have adults who are not on the lease living in the house.

    Getting the dogs out may not solve the problem. Read your lease carefully.

  • Alison

    July 21, 2015 at 3:22 am

    I am having this same problem with my younger brother. He moved in for a couple of weeks. Two years ago. We gave him a date he had to be out by. That was a year ago. How do I physically get him out of my house? He won’t look for a job or an apartment. He has a disability but he can’t get assistance because he can’t manage to make and keep appointments with his therapist. He’s 27. He’s lived on the streets in the past when no one was willing to take him in so there’s nothing we can do to make him not want to stay here. Having no internet or cable or whatever is still better than living on the street. How do I get him out?

    • Erica

      July 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Alison, you’re breaking my heart.  If it were me, I would either buy new locks and learn how to install them so that I could lock him out OR have a locksmith on stand by to show up immediately when he is out of your home.  Have helpers come pack up his things and have them outside for him to collect. Have information on shelters, social workers, and other resources available.  Maybe even take the advice given above and pay for a week at a motel so he can take action on those things. Have emotional and physical support at home when this happens so that you are not facing his anger or wheedling or sadness at your action on his own.  Doing something like this will mean that you are taking a day off of work and have support on standby or arranged to come on the day you choose.  That’s how I would handle it.

      If he physically never leaves your house, then you need help to make that happen and I don’t know where to find that.  But if he ever leaves the house, then you can take action with lock changing.  It’s harsh, it won’t be pretty, it will feel like you are being mean.  However, ending enabling behaviors is a way of helping your family member and yourself.  The relationship will be tense afterward, but it’s not in a good place now, so measuring the cost might be an easier job.  Then if you succeed, get some counseling on maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships if only so that you feel supported in your decision making here, because you deserve that.  Blessings to you on this journey.

  • Caroline

    July 21, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I have an idea and it is devilish. Speak to the landlord, get out ahead of it. Get him involved and get him to come over when they are all there and announce that they MUST leave within a fortnight or you’re all out. He can even mean it…
    this makes it completely out of your hands and they will be FORCED to be accountable for themselves and their terrible decisions. I won’t even get into the selfish, ungrateful, useless pieces of crap that the adults actually are (”I have social anxiety and thus cannot take responsibility for anything ever… you do it, there’s a dear”), and focus on ways to get them out pronto. Do it. No more nice. Sit down with all of them and list out where it’s not working and then say that the landlord has called and they must be out by that date. If they have nowhere to go, unfortunately your priority is your toddler and child and you will rent them a small storage unit for their stuff ”until they get settled”. You have laid out various very reasonable options, they have chosen to ignore them. Now you are drawing a line. Do it today and if your husband will not play ball, then you go and rent somewhere yourself and take your children with you. Yes. It is that serious. He sacks up or you’re out.

  • francine

    July 21, 2015 at 9:02 am

    they need to go to a family shelter. in our city it’s run by the ywca. call the shelter for details, then have them pack up their stuff and drop them off there.

  • francine

    July 21, 2015 at 9:03 am

    ps. PLEASE send an update, whatever happens!! best of success to you!!!

  • Lara

    July 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve watched my mother deal with my mentally ill uncle for my whole life in situations like this.  I know how hard it is to kick family out (and their children, abd their pets), and all of the backlash that comes with it.  As someone who was raised witnessing this, please, please, do whatever is necessary to free you and your children from this.  I can tell you that your children are learning their own boundaries right now and the lessons you teach them in this situation will be there for a long time.  The day my mother finally said “no more” and made the extremely difficult moves to protect us from the chaos of her brothers life is etched in my memory.   It’s worth the pain and guilt and hardship right now to protect your family.  Best of luck, my heart is with you.  

  • Ros

    July 22, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Ok, wow. Worst in-laws. (Peeing on your floor and making you clean it while living in your house rent-free???!?!?! WTF???) First, your husband. What’s he doing? I don’t hear anything about HIM cleaning pee off the floors??! He needs to be on board with the final decision, because if he says ‘oh, of course they can stay’, then they’re not going to leave, obviously. Second.

    For the people who say that giving the husband an ultimatum is that difficult: no. It isn’t. I’m sorry. My husband had friends who liked to bouce into our city with no notice, stay at our (tiny) apartment with 2-3 hours notice (and be up all night, eat our food, drink all the good bourbon and not replace it, make noise all night when I had to be at work, etc.) I put up with it 3 times, and then they decided to try again while I was going through stressful period of 70-hour-work-weeks. The husband said “but I CAN’T tell them they’re not welcome, they’re my friends (and cousin!)”. To which I answered: “Next time, if they’re here, I won’t be. Figure out your priorities.” (And now they say I’m a bitch. You know what? I’d rather be a bitch with boundaries and no moochers than be a doormat with an empty fridge and 6 people in my apartment.) Is it EASY to have that discussion with someone you care about? No. But it’s a hell of a lot easier than living with the consequences of NOT having that discussion.

    • z

      July 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      Ok, but realistically how is the OP going to do that if she can’t even stand up for herself re: pee on the floor?

  • Stephanie

    July 24, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Wow.  I am so very sorry you’re dealing with this.  I can only imagine how awful it is.  I understand the desire to help family in a bad situation.  But you really do need to take care of your family (you, your husband and children).  
    My husband’s family dealt with something a little similar to this, two homeless adults (just quit their jobs, stopped paying the mortgage and lived in the house until they were physically removed).  There were no children or pets involved, thank goodness.  The situation is mostly resolved now, but it was really difficult and created some rifts that were unexpected and still there, to some degree.  
    You sound like you have huge heart and just want to help, but the things that you listed as “minor” are very much not minor.  Please, please find a way to stand up for yourself and get these people out.  Use the landlord as the bad guy.  Call your county health department for resources.  Offer to keep the teenage girls for a short time, with a definite end date–but only if you’re comfortable with that scenario.
    My heart goes out to you.  Please update Amy when things change.  
    Good luck.  

  • Gretchen

    July 29, 2015 at 5:01 am

    Ah, the freeloading relative, the lack of boundaries, the inability to communicate with kindness the realty of what needs to happen: “GTFO of my home!!” I’ve been there, and it was awful.

    In my situation, my husband and I invited my older brother to move in with us temporarily (that’s right, we did it to ourselves) to help us care for our new baby for a few hours each weekday morning. We ignored the numerous red flags beforehand, i.e. that he has always been a carefree freeloader. “He’s like a fun, hippie dude; he’s always been my best friend” I told my friends beforehand. Well, he moved into our basement, never looked for a job outside of the house, ate all of our food, drank all of our drink, was super messy, POOPED in the toilet and didn’t flush (that only happened once, but it was scarring and stinky), and pretty much hogged the baby all the time. Much-dreaded conversations about “please leave the house once in a while so that [husband] and I can have a dinner with the baby” fell of deaf ears.

    Despite his bad behavior, for months I was defensive of my brother and felt trapped in the middle of the situation. My husband and I were both highly stressed and our relationship hit a low point. My brother, on the other hand, was happy as an f’ing clam with his cush setup. 

    Anyways, after six months, I told my brother that he had to move out. For real. I found him an apartment. My husband and I came home from a weekend away, during which I had expected my brother to move… he was still at the house and had not packed a thing. I packed his stuff, carried it to my car, drove him to his new apartment, carried the stuff up four flights of stairs, and left my brother there, looking sad. I felt sad too.

    It was all really hard. My relationship with my brother is broken, maybe forever. I did my best to communicate to him what I needed out of our arrangement, and why. It was all for naught: he was very happy with freeloading and he was never going to stop unless forced. I had to force him out of my house and reclaim the adult life that I have worked so hard to build. 

    So, from one anxious “fixer” to another: you are not alone. Sometimes family members are selfish and sucky. You’ve done your best to accommodate them and to move them forward in their lives, and they are abusing your kindness. Egregiously abusing your kindness. It happens, but it is not okay. You have to do what is right for you and your husband and your kids, the sooner the better. It will probably be very painful; they will probably be really pissed at you. It is still the lesser evil and you have to do it. I agree with other commenters: blame the landlord, but be very, very firm. Give them two weeks at the absolute most, because a generous timeline probably won’t make any difference to them; they will just stay as long as they can. Get them out now before the BF ups the ante to pooping on the floor. It could happen… It will happen.  

  • liz

    August 7, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    At least get the pets out of the house and the BF, too! He can stay at his own relatives’ houses. 

    I’m pretty sure if you kick out the animals and the BF, the MIL will follow. If you are up for keeping your sisters-in-law, more power to you.

  • Margaret

    November 18, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I know that this was written wayyyy before I read it but has no one realized that social anxiety is an actual illness? A mental illness is no different from a physical disability, whether or not it’s diagnosed. Admittedly, we don’t have near enough information on the parameters of the mother’s illness, and regardless of the illness, the OP has the right to ask the family to leave, but I find it hard to read everyone condemning the mother so badly. Social anxiety is not laziness or abdication of responsibility — it’s a paralyzing illness. Please have some compassion for her struggle, which we know nothing about. That said, the MIL, her common-law husband, and their children and pets, still need to move out. I think Mrs M, who replied above, has the healthiest suggestion for a resolution. Go Mrs. M!

  • seashell

    February 19, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Sigh. I’ve not been here with in-laws but I’ve been here with housemates. I think one in particular, if you’re coming back here to read in the months after this has gone down, might help your feelings settle. 

    This housemate had had a hard life. I felt for him. I tried to help him. At times I was very very wrong in how I approached him–his friend used me in a way that felt very much like rape and I screamed and screamed at him and threatened to kick him out for something that wasn’t his fault.

    That aside, he didn’t pay rent for six months. I took care of him. He almost got me kicked out due to his dropping cigs on the downstairs neighbor’s porch instead of an ashtray. I gave him a job with my business and he almost single handedly brought my business down. I helped him find a job, which he promptly lost due to his alcoholism. When I finally kicked him out he left the room in awful condition. Moldy food, a couple vodka bottles full of pee, vomit on floor. He kept the key and didn’t return it to me which caused me extreme anxiety because of the issue with his friend.

    All of this pain, and I didn’t even help him, not even a little. I think I even hurt him. I was just enabling him to sit and drink. My anxiety tripled around him. I took loans out on my credit card to take care of him. Someone like him needs a therapist and rehab, not a hurting young codependent woman mommying him. Probably your MIL needs major therapy (so do I, I’m not lobbing an insult and I say this with compassion). That’s not something you can give, even if you did have the degree and experience. Therapists don’t counsel their own family for a very good reason–no professional boundaries.

    Please don’t do this to yourself. You have no obligation. You’ve gone far and beyond what is reasonable. You’re a wonderful DIL but you don’t need to rip yourself apart for setting very very reasonable boundaries. Please take care of yourself first. You’re better able to help yourself if you yourself don’t end up homeless. Check out the book Codependence No More by Beattie if you haven’t already.