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Summary

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.

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    My wife had this problem once (before we ever met) and solved it by packing someone's suitcase and leaving it outside the front door. It took three attempts but worked in the end. – gnasher729 Feb 4 at 16:06
  • @gnasher729 I worry that if we do/say nothing now, taking similar action will be the only way to get them to leave. It would be much more preferable to convince them that we are sincere and they need to get their act together so this doesn't happen. – user32349 Feb 4 at 16:16
  • Is there any chance that your guest might suffer from depression or some other psychological condition that might just render them unable to act? – Jan Niklas Fingerle Feb 4 at 16:38
  • @JanNiklasFingerle that's a good question; I've edited my question to add a response at the bottom as it seemed a bit long and perhaps too relevant to any advice given to leave in a comment. – user32349 Feb 4 at 17:24
  • Would it help to put in writing? No justifying why, just your needs. – Yosef Baskin Feb 4 at 23:20
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Assuming this is not a mental health issue, I don't think there's much you can do except firmly assert that the deadline will not be moved.

This person is an adult capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. If they are hoping that you will eventually back down from your ultimatum the only thing that will convince them otherwise is the deadline moving closer and closer. At this point they might be in for trouble but as harsh as it sounds, that is on them and not on you.

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 you give in to such demands shortly before the end of the deadline, your credibility is damaged, they might then repeat this strategy the next time the deadline approaches and so on ad infinitum, each time becoming more convinced that you're not serious about really meaning it this time. So once you've set a deadline you must stick with it. Of course, this isn't a black and white issue, if there is a serious reason such as a medical emergency a deadline extension might be unavoidable.

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.

Does this person normally get upset or emotional easily? Or is this an attempt to manipulate you into doing what they want? If it's the former simply continue the conversation at a later time after they've cooled off, if it's the latter, make sure that there is no way they have missed your point, if necessary slip them a letter under the door, send them an e-mail etc. and then refuse to discuss the matter further except in a calm, non-emotional manner.

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.

I don't think there's much you can do here other than stand your ground and hope that as the deadline approaches, they will realize that you are indeed serious and take action on their own.

EDIT: Adding some personal experience to back this up (I believe that should be okay because this is inherently subjective):

I have been in a similar situation with my ex-girlfriend. We were living together, broke up and I asked her to move out since we could no longer live together peacefully and I could afford to rent our flat alone while she couldn't. I also had the legal power to force her to move out if necessary (which, like you, I wanted to avoid).

But just asking her nicely didn't work. She said she would prepare to move out but never did.

At this point I was stuck in a dilemma: I didn't want to kick her out, but I also wanted to set her a non-negotiable deadline for doing to herself. But these two things contradict each other, if the deadline is non-negotiable, that implied I HAD to be willing to kick her out. The only other option would have been a white lie: tell her I would do it if necessary without the intention of following through. I don't think lying is ever a good idea to resolve social conflict to that was not an option for me.

So that left me with only one choice: plainly tell her there is a deadline and be willing to follow through.

She also got very emotional when I kept asking her to please make preparations to move out, engaging with her in this state led nowhere, there was no rational discourse to be had as long as one of us was upset or angry. Only when I took a step back and refused to talk to her unless we were both calm and collected could we make any headway. I found it especially helpful to talk to her via text messages at times like these because that added a level of separation that helped prevent things from getting too personal.

So, what could I do? The problem was that I had to make her believe I was serious so she would move out on her own, but I had no real way of achieving this. How could she have believed it if she had never witnessed me stick to an ultimatum, (previously this had never been necessary) or been in a situation like this before? She couldn't have and therein lies the root of the issue.

So the only thing I could do was not cave in even a little bit to demands or pleas and abstain from emotional conversations and fighting. Making it a non-negotiable and purely rational issue and refusing to treat it any other way eventually made her realize that I was in fact serious and not going to change course at the last minute. That's what eventually led to her taking the necessary steps to move out.

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  • Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I think you're spot on with the dilemma of the situation. I'm not sure if we've completely come to terms with this yet; maybe that's why we've struggled so far. – user32349 Feb 5 at 13:13
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How do I convey to a family member that the deadline for moving out is non-negotiable when they responded emotionally to a previous attempt?

I read the entire story. I also read the other answer. Very good advice, especially at the end with regards to proving with little things leading up to the deadline that one is calm but firm about rules. What I would like to add is that you provide a written statement (and keep a copy for yourselves) that they must be out by such and such a time on such and such a date. You can put that in a spot where you know they will find it, possibly where you put their mail. That way, you won't have to face their immediate emotional response.

In that statement you can document all the things you are willing and able to do to help them find a place and move. You may have to decide whether to make the deadline truly non-negotiable and accept the consequences of possibly making your family member homeless, or whether to put up with them as long as they wish to stay while strongly urging them all the while to leave. If you decide to be firm, you can inform them that locks will be changed.

Don't tell them exactly when the locks will be changed lest they "happen" to be "sick" and in their room on the deadline. You want to change the locks when they are out of the house.

Some things you and your spouse can do that are more subtle is talk in your family member's hearing what life will be like after they are gone, e.g. how you will rearrange the furniture in the house for the baby, how much more room you will have for footwear and jackets on the first of March, how you and your spouse will arrange your stuff in the bathroom to make room for the baby's stuff. Obviously, your family member will deduce that you are leaving no room in the house or bathroom for them. Having been the unwanted family member, I know what a sharp reminder this is that it's time to be gone.

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