(NOTE – This article deals with sharing a home with an adult child. If the adult child does not share a bathroom or kitchen – that is, they live in a self-contained unit like a basement apartment – then this is not sharing, this is a tenancy situation, and the Residential Tenancy Act applies. This is beyond the scope of this article. See the guide to the RTA here. You should seek legal advice from us in that situation.)
An older adult may have an adult child living with them, or moving back in with them. It is a sign o’ the times…. This arramgement may lead to problems. Minor problems can be dealt with as follows. More serious problems may amount to elder abuse, and should be dealt with here.
When an adult child is living under your roof, expectations can be unclear. They aren’t just another adult sharing a house with you. They have had some history with you, it may be seen as their childhood home to them, not just a house. You have been a care provider for them. You may expect them to take on all the responsibilities that any unrelated adult would when living with you, but they may not. They may ‘regress’ to be more dependent, or irresponsible, than you would like. It helps in these situations to set down the expectations in writing, in a contract. Attached is an example of a contract to use when adult child shares your home. Click here: Contract for an Adult Child Living at Home You shouldn’t just present this contract to them for signing. Contracts should be negotiated, if possible, so both sides feel they have had their say and have come to a mutual agreement. The contract is in Microsoft Word format so you can edit it to fit your situation. Contact us if you need assistance – firstname.lastname@example.org
What if They Won’t Sign?
Your adult child may refuse to sign any agreement with you. They may have their feelings hurt. They may wonder why you are turning a family relationship into a contractual relationship. You should stand firm though, that it is your house and you expect them to live by the house rules. You can tell them you were treating them like an adult by setting it up as a contract. But if they still refuse, you can simply set out the house rules in writing yourself, along with the results if the rules are broken and present this document to them. A version of house rules you can give them is attached here: House Rules for an Adult Child Living at Home.
When the Rules are Broken
The house rules have provisions for what happens if they are broken. There might be an increase in the cost of room and board, to more adequately reflect the cost to you. There may be ‘fines.’ The ultimate remedy for you, if your adult child will not live by your rules, is to make them leave your house. If you share the bathroom and kitchen with them, this is a simple process, as this is not a tenancy situation. You simply give your child notice that they are to leave. If they refuse to do so, they are a trespasser and the Trespass Act applies.
While a notice to leave can be given orally (you just tell them to leave), putting it in writing makes it clearer and avoids problems about who said what in the future. There is no specific regulated form for a trespass notice in BC. Here is one you can use: Trespass Notice. If they refuse to accept service of this notice, you can leave it at their feet. If they refuse to leave at this point, you can call the police. The trespass notice includes explanation of what the peace officer will do if called, and a separate page for you to set out the circumstances of serving the notice.
Once your child has left the premises you should consider changing the locks or lock combination, or having the locks changed by a locksmith. Does your child have keys/codes to your vehicle(s)? You may want to have these changed as well.
Belongings Left Behind
You cannot simply dispose of your child’s belongings left behind. You are considered in law to be holding any belongings (clothing, electronics, etc.) for your child for a reasonable time, and you are required to provide reasonable access for your child to retrieve them (in law this is known as a “bailment” situation).
If your child comes to return their belongings, or in any subsequent visit, and refuses to leave when told to, it is again a trespass with the same option of calling the police.
While trespass notices, involving the police, and lock changing all sound like rather draconian actions to take against your child, in most cases these won’t be necessary. The fact that your child knows you are informed about these possible remedies and are prepared to use them if necessary will likely mean you thankfully won’t have to.