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Dave Says: You Lacked Clarity

Dear Dave,

About 17 months ago, my wife and I allowed a lady who had lost her home to a fire to move into an empty house we own and had thought about selling. During that time she’s made no effort to pay rent. My wife wants to write it all off and just give her the house and title, but I think she owes us something for putting a roof over her head. What do you think?

Thomas

Dear Thomas,

Honestly, I think you handled this situation poorly from the very beginning. From what you’re telling me, you put her there originally on a charity basis, and now you want to change the deal. You didn’t say anything about giving her a house, but you didn’t set up a rental agreement either. And now you’re acting like she owes you 17 months of back rent. I don’t think so. I think that’s on you.

Now, you have some decisions to make. Were you providing free housing to someone who was struggling, or were you providing a free house to someone who was struggling? I understand this lady has experienced a terrible tragedy, but even with that, I’m not hearing lots of evidence that she’s moving toward gaining control and getting her life back together. You may be giving a drunk a drink, if after 17 months of this situation she’s not back on her feet again and out on her own.
If it were me, I’d sit down with her and have a gentle talk. Let her know the last 17 months were a gift, but you want to see her making her way and winning at life again. Set a reasonable time limit, whether it’s six months or even a year, and tell her you’ll be selling the house at that point. This is fair to her and to you guys as well.

—Dave

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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