Should You Charge Rent to an Aging Parent?

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

Charging rent to an aging parent is not unusual, but it can bring up complicated questions and emotions. There could be several scenarios where charging your aging parent rent is a reasonable solution. People live longer, and families continue to try creative ways to care for their elders while keeping everyone financially solvent.

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Most older adults say they want to age in place, and this is possible with enough planning for care needs that are likely to increase. Scenarios where you might charge rent include living with your aging parent or owning the home they live in. Discussing finances with your aging parent can be tricky. But with a plan for these conversations and a respectful attitude, you can reach a consensus on the best way to charge rent to an aging parent. 

Can You Charge Your Aging Parent Rent?

Yes, you can charge your aging parent rent. But you should have a rental agreement in place and reach a mutual decision on what the amount should be. In deciding the amount to charge your aging parent, consider the following questions:

  1. What are the tax implications of charging rent? Rental income is taxable, so consult a tax specialist on how to handle the additional income.
  2. Are you turning a home you own into a rental property? If you own the home where your parent lives, how does that affect your taxes? Is it better to deed the home to your parents and have them pay you or keep the house in your name? Consult a financial advisor on these matters.
  3. How do you determine a fair rent? If your parent lives with you, consider other expenses, such as utilities, home maintenance, and property taxes. You can calculate a reasonable rent amount based on their income, the current market for rentals in your area, and your financial needs.
  4. If your home expenses increase, do you want to factor in yearly rental increases into the rental agreement? Or if anyone’s financial situation changes significantly, can you plan to re-negotiate the rental terms? Include these scenarios in the rental agreement.
  5. Do you want to include an option for ending the rental agreement by either party? Provide specifics on how much notice each party would need to give. 

How Do You Know If You Should Charge Rent for an Aging Parent?

Speak with a financial and tax advisor on the short- and long-term financial implications of charging rent to an aging parent. Finances are not the only consideration in deciding whether to charge your parent rent. Before deciding whether to charge rent, consider:

Your parent’s financial situation

If you don’t know the full extent of your parent’s financial situation, now is the time to have a complete and transparent discussion. If you don’t know their financial situation, you can’t be fair in assessing a reasonable rent to charge. Suppose your parent has limited assets and income. You may want to reconsider charging them rent. As part of this assessment, plan for increasing care needs and the possibility of assisted living in the future.

Your financial situation

One reason you may wish to charge your parent rent is because you need the money. If your aging parent is living with you, costs overall can be high. There are additional utilities, food, and caregiving responsibilities to pay for. Your financial situation may be tenuous because of debt, a change in job, or supporting your children.

Your relationship with your parent

Your relationship with your parent could be complicated. Perhaps the two of you have had a lot of conflict and disagreements. If charging your parent rent will damage your relationship further, you may consider letting it go.

On the other hand, if you feel your parent has taken advantage of you over the years, you may want to set boundaries by charging rent. If you cannot reach an agreement during the process, consider hiring a mediator to help you both assess the situation and reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

Long-term care needs

If you expect your parent to have significant long-term care needs, you may not want to charge them rent. The costs of care could strain their budget and result in you having to shoulder the burden of costs later.  

Tips for Talking to Your Parent About Paying Rent

How you talk to your aging parent about paying rent will help determine how things go. Money is a sensitive topic for many people. Don’t be surprised if the conversation doesn’t go as expected. Follow these tips to maintain the integrity of your relationship with your parent.

Be flexible

You may have a preconceived idea of how much rent to charge your parent. As your discussions with your parent progress, be flexible in your approach and compromise if you need to. Your parent could become resentful, and you’ll need to maintain calm. Realize that you may need to have several conversations about this topic to reach an agreement.

Be respectful

Paying rent for your parent could be humiliating. It might cause them to feel dependent and accountable to you when they have always been in control. Using a respectful approach and tone will help everyone reach reasonable conclusions and agreements in these conversations. Empower your parent by asking them for suggestions on how to handle the rental situation. Ask them what they would do in your situation.

Re-frame the topic

Instead of using the term “paying rent,” talk about “sharing expenses.” Sharing expenses sounds friendlier and less business-like. As part of the discussion, talk about household expenses, such as a mortgage, utilities, maintenance, yard care, and insurance. Compile costs so the two of you can review and decide on a fair amount. 

Seek compromise

Compromise means not everyone gets everything they want. It is an effort to meet each other halfway to reach a reasonable agreement. When two people get locked into their perspectives, it is challenging to talk to one another. You should each be willing to compromise little in discussing paying rent. 

Know your limits

Your relationship with your parent is unique. You may need to decide what your limit is in deciding to charge your parent rent. Are you willing to set firm limits, or can you let the idea go and not charge your parent rent? These are tough decisions, but you’ll want to assess your relationship with your parent and what you are and aren’t willing to do.

Don’t get mad

If you need to charge rent and your parent refuses, try not to become angry. Think about alternatives to rent. Talk with your parent about the cost of independent or assisted living. Have pricing available to compare. It might surprise them how high rental prices are elsewhere.

Enlist help from siblings

If you have siblings that can be helpful in these discussions, ask them to take part. They may have ideas and approaches to the subject of paying rent that you haven’t considered. 

Alternatives to Charging Rent to an Aging Parent

If charging rent to your aging parent isn’t workable, there are some alternatives to consider. Perhaps your parent can’t afford to pay rent on their income, or you can’t reach an agreement. Offering alternatives can be a way to satisfy both parties.

Increase your portion of the inheritance

We suggest that you speak with an attorney about this option and involve your siblings in the discussion. The idea is that you are giving your parents a rent-free place to live, and your portion of the inheritance increases proportionately to the amount you would have charged them.

Grandchild or child care

If there are children or grandchildren that need care, your parent could help provide that care. Daycare is expensive, and as long as they’re competent, they might be happy to do child care, and everyone benefits. Think about ideas like reading to a child or helping with homework.

Participate in other household duties

If your parent is physically able, designating household duties is one way to offset rent. Some ideas include cleaning, shopping, pet care, and cooking. Your parent may have some creative ideas, as well.

Pay a portion of household expenses

Although rent sometimes includes other household expenses, perhaps your parent can pay a portion of the utilities, insurance, or property taxes. That arrangement might be more agreeable than paying rent and cost less, too.

Trade services

If your parent has a particular trade or talent, consider trading for rent. For example, perhaps your dad is good at maintenance work and can help with repairs around the house. Landscaping and gardening services are other ideas to think about.

Charging Rent to an Aging Parent

Charging rent to an aging parent can work out well for both parties. Take your time as you have these discussions and be willing to compromise. In the end, you want your parent to feel respected and empowered by whatever conclusion you reach. 

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