Over Christmas my spouse and I took in a family member who needed somewhere to stay temporarily. They contacted us because we were (and still are) the only family who had a spare room and, despite not having regular contact with them over the last few years, my spouse felt obligated to agree so they were not homeless. They are still living with us now. However, we have a baby and we want to be able to enjoy this time by ourselves; we don't want anyone else living with us.
Background (tl;dr - questions are at the end)
The stay was initially agreed to be a few days whilst they sorted out some relationship issues with their long term partner (of nearly 20 years). However, when those issues weren't resolved within the few days they asked to extend their stay to two weeks. We agreed, expecting them to resolve the issues in that time. On the weekend marking the end of the two weeks they returned to our home in the afternoon saying that the relationship was over and that they were moving out of their home. This seemed to carry the implication that they could extend their stay with us. Naively, neither of us were prepared for this outcome. My spouse tried to start a conversation about this by saying that we weren't looking for a lodger and was going to ask how long they thought they might need to find somewhere to live longer term, but they interrupted and immediately steered the conversation back to the day's events with their ex-partner. After giving us the full transcript they left the room.
My spouse and I talked and agreed that we still did not want anyone living with us but that we didn't want to make the family member homeless either. They don't have any savings and they've only been in their current job since the beginning of the year. Whilst they are working full time, their pay is currently close to minimum wage and they appear to be working as a 'contractor', with no written contract. My spouse and I decided that we would give them until the end of February (this year) to find their own place, and given their financial situation we rallied support from other family members and came up with a generous grant to cover a deposit and a loan to cover the first month's rent.
We decided we would speak to the family member the next day to let them know about the deadline and the financial help on offer. In the morning they came downstairs visibly upset, and before we had a chance to start the conversation we had planned, they launched into an emotional rant about how they had been awake most of the night worrying thanks to our comments of not wanting a lodger. Crying, they went outside to smoke. We wanted to show understanding given what they were going through, but needed to let them know that staying with us was not an open ended offer. When they returned they apologised, and we were able to tactfully inform them of the deadline for moving out and about the money we had secured for them. They seemed calm and understanding about the deadline and grateful for the financial help.
We also suggested that over the next few days they secure a written contract for their work, an increase in their pay which they claim is currently below market rate for their experience, and start looking for somewhere to live with immediate effect. They seemed to agree that these are all good ideas, and to begin with sounded convincing and upbeat about improving their situation and finding somewhere to live.
However, three weeks on and with less than four weeks to go we've seen no tangible progress. They have not spoken to their boss and they have not viewed any potential accommodation. When questioned they've responded that they haven't decided quite where they want to settle down yet (they're new to the local area, having lived an hours drive away before) or if they can afford to live by themselves.
My spouse is stressed about trying to confront them assertively knowing that it may lead to another break down, but we really want our home to be exclusively ours again as soon as possible, and certainly no later than what we have already agreed. I find assertiveness difficult; I know that under the 'pressure' I am liable to say something that gives the impression we think their reasons/excuses are valid and won't uphold this deadline. I've read guidance on how to ask someone to move out assertively, but none seem to deal with a situation where you know the person is likely to break down and storm out, and how and when to follow this up with continued assertiveness.
So far the rules have come from my spouse (the family member is from their side of the family), but I'd like to step in at this point to take the pressure off my spouse. I want to be prepared for another emotional response.
My questions are:
- How do I state clearly that the deadline for them to move out is non-negotiable, and will not be affected by anything they say, do or don't do? I worry that they will respond by trying to convince us it's not possible for them to find somewhere to live, or that some aspect of their job will stand in the way, and that we should take this into account and yield to further deadline extensions.
- If they respond in an emotional manner, getting upset, leaving the room/house mid-conversation, etc., how and when do we continue the conversation? I'm concerned that if we don't, they will think that their response has worked and can continue their inaction and that we will extend the deadline. I want to make sure that they understand that they cannot use this kind of behaviour against us, but I don't think chasing them outside is a good idea.
- How can we ensure going forward that they are making headway? Leaving them to sort things out by themselves for the last three weeks has resulted in no progress. I'm concerned that they might appear to agree with our deadline and not contest it, but then continue with inaction, perhaps because they don't believe we are truly serious.
Thank you for taking the time to read this; we are very grateful for any advice you might be able to offer.
Responses to comments
I've only met the family member on three occasions prior to them moving in so my knowledge about any possible psychological conditions is limited to the behaviour I've witnessed so far, and my spouse saying that they've "struggled with depression in the past".
What we've seen over the last few weeks is them spending every evening in 'their' room "watching YouTube" and drinking beer (one or two cans/bottles a night). At weekends they've been spending time with their teenage children. I don't have the experience to tell if this is as a result of a psychological condition that renders them unable to act, or if they're simply not acting. We are willing to help further, be that shortlisting properties, accompanying them on viewings to give a second opinion, or contacting some kind of professional support service, and could make this known as part of addressing my third question, but it doesn't change the deadline.