Troubled economy means more extended families share homes

Her name is Rose and she has recently been widowed. On a fixed income, he has opened 3 rooms in his house that he rents to his adult grandchildren. Rose is unfamiliar with sharing her home with family. She and her husband shared their home for almost five years with an adult son, his wife, and five grandchildren. She says that at one point there were nine people and five dogs sharing her modest four-bedroom suburban home.

These types of arrangements are not always easy. One problem Rose faces is the cost of electricity. You recently installed a lock box over the air conditioning controls in your Central Florida home. She says she just can’t afford to let the grandkids drop the air below 75 degrees. There are other rules too. Do not eat in the bedrooms, do not come back after midnight, and you must clean up the mess in the kitchen. Once a week there is a room inspection and your room should be clean. I think he has an excellent perspective on this and I really like his rules.

Rose is not alone. According to a recent report, more than 51 million Americans live with extended family members. Although the most common setup is for younger people to move in with older parents / grandparents to a house that is paid for, this is not always the case. Older people often find it necessary to move with a younger family when they face financial or health problems.

Some find the trend a refreshing return to the living arrangements that were very common not many decades ago. I don’t think any of our families are as idyllic as the Waltons, so some limits and common sense should be considered.

Put your shared living agreement in writing

Not that you plan to end up in court with your family members, but describing the arrangements that everyone agrees on can go a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings.

  • How long will the arrangement last?
  • How will the expenses be shared? Utilities, food, home repairs, etc …
  • How will the maintenance of the house be distributed? (dishes, cleaning, gardening, etc …)
  • Will there be an official rent payment and how much?
  • What are the house rules? It is best to outline this in advance to avoid a family quarrel. This would include visitor limits, time to turn off lights, curfews, parking spots, who can control the thermostat, etc.

Check with your local municipality to make sure your arrangement is legal

There may be local ordinances that limit the number of people and / or pets you can have in a home. You may need to find out if overnight parking is allowed on the street if there are more cars than can fit in the driveway. Converting a garage or basement into additional rooms will require permits and approval. This would especially apply to the construction of any free-standing structure, such as so-called “mother-in-law” cabins or apartments.

Check with your landlord

If you are a tenant, don’t start moving people without discussing this with your landlord. Your lease will most likely address the issue of the number of people living in the home. The good news is that in this economy you will likely get cooperation as long as you take good care of your property and pay your rent on time. This, of course, presupposes a certain level of common sense. Most landlords will not tolerate excessive numbers of people and / or pets, regardless of a flawless rental payment record. The worst thing you can do is hide this from the owner and end up negotiating with him after his tribe is discovered during a surprise visit.

Check with your landlord’s insurance company

Once you start renting rooms, the nature of your property can be considered a rental home and no longer a primary residence. You may need to change your homeowners policy or modify your coverage. Other unexpected problems will also occur. An auto insurer may require that all members of the household of driving age have insurance in order for you to keep your policy in force. So when you move in your 17-year-old niece, you may have no choice but to add her to your car insurance simply because she lives at home.

The biggest problem with local authorities for Rose and her extended family has been parking tickets. With more cars than driveway, someone always stays with their car on the street or parked in the driveway blocking the sidewalk. His family has received multiple parking tickets, but he has had no other problems with his city.


With the subprime mortgage crisis, the high unemployment rate, the prospect of an extended family sharing a home is simply becoming a necessity for survival. These arrangements of necessity are certainly not perfect, but they can be made livable with proper planning and good communication. How you handle things upfront can determine whether you have an Archie Bunker or Andy Griffith-style extended home.

Have you shared a home with the extended family? I would love to read your story and get your opinion. Please use the comment section below to share your experience.

Helping you get the most out of God’s money!

James L. Paris Editor-in-Chief