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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.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 [email protected].

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
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Kerry

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… Read more »

Amy Renee
Guest
Amy Renee

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… Read more »

Cheryl S.
Guest
Cheryl S.

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
Guest
Suzy Q

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

Erin
Guest
Erin

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
Guest
LLP

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
Guest
Christen

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… Read more »

Suzy Q
Guest
Suzy Q

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
Guest
z

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
Guest
MR

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… Read more »

Mir Kamin
Member

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
Guest
Anne

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… Read more »

MrsM
Guest
MrsM

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… Read more »

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

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.”… Read more »

kimm
Guest
kimm

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
Guest
Joanne

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
Guest
Joanne

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

Dorothy
Guest
Dorothy

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

Heather
Guest
Heather

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… Read more »

Becky
Guest
Becky

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:… Read more »

Kat
Guest
Kat

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
Guest
KATHY

THIS.

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
Guest
z

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
Guest

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,… Read more »

Cobwebs
Guest

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… Read more »

K
Guest
K

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… Read more »

S
Guest
S

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… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

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
Guest
Alison

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… Read more »

Erica
Guest
Erica

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… Read more »

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

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…… Read more »

francine
Guest
francine

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
Guest
francine

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

Lara
Guest
Lara

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… Read more »

Ros
Guest
Ros

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… Read more »

z
Guest
z

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
Guest
Stephanie

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… Read more »

Gretchen
Guest
Gretchen

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… Read more »

liz
Guest
liz

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
Guest
Margaret

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… Read more »

seashell
Guest
seashell

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… Read more »