Who Controls the In-Law Suite?

March 29th, 2024

Parents believe their financial help gives them a say

guest room, by Yves Guillaume. Used with Ask Amy column on who controls the in-law suite

Since the parents helped finance their daughter’s new home with an in-law suite for their use, they aren’t happy that she’s using it as a guesthouse for friends. See what columnist Amy Dickinson advises.

Dear Amy:

We are having an issue with our daughter and son-in-law regarding the use of a guesthouse. They live a day’s drive from us, so when we visit we like to stay for several days. We try to visit at least monthly.

We decided to find a home that had a mother-in-law unit separate from the main house. We helped (substantially) in the purchase of their home in order to have this unit be our separate space. We felt this was a better option than buying a small studio or condo (about the same amount regarding the investment) to be close to them and the grandchildren.

They were excited to do this with us.

Now they are using it as a guesthouse for friends when we are not there.

Often it isn’t as clean as we leave it, and there has been conflict at times with friends visiting when we planned to be there. We don’t feel comfortable sharing our private space. We have talked with them several times about our feelings, but the issue keeps recurring.

Are we wrong to ask them not to have guests stay in our place?

– Disappointed

Dear Disappointed:

You helped substantially with the purchase of this home, but you don’t seem to actually own this separate unit, and so this whole arrangement is riding on an understanding.

Your daughter is not respecting the original intent or the impact on you, but if she doesn’t respect your wishes and sensitivities after discussing this several times, the issue reveals how she and her husband regard you.

You are not “wrong” to expect exclusive use of this guesthouse, but you should realize that going to the mat over this could affect your relationship in the longer term.

If both parties agree that this is “your” unit, you could install a lock with a changeable code; if they would like to borrow the unit for guests, they would have to contact you for the code. This would at least put you in charge of access to the unit.

Advice: When parents move in to an in-law suite

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a contentious in-law suite to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2024 by Amy Dickinson

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