DEAR DAVE: My husband and I have been following your plan, and we're debt-free. Recently he invited his sister, her husband and their two kids to live with us. His brother-in-law recently lost his job, and he did this without talking to me first. I agreed after the fact, but do you think we need a roommate agreement or some kind of understanding while they stay with us? They have about $70,000 in debt, and they haven't been very responsible with their money.
DEAR AMANDA: I've got to tell you there's zero chance that my wife or I would invite someone to live in our home without the other's knowledge and agreement. Pulling a stunt like that is just plain wrong, and you two need to get on the same page long before you try to move these people into your house.
Now, once you've straightened things out between the two of you, and if you're both in agreement, you need to understand that your purpose is to help these folks get back on their feet. Your home is not their home, and this is not an offer for them to stay as long as they like.
You're going to have to ensure that they're taking the steps necessary to straighten out their lives. This means working, and it means they start managing their money by living on a budget. Don't charge them rent, because the “rent” will be that they work and go over their finances with you. Plus, you put a limit on the time they're going to spend with you. Regardless of what happens, they're out and back on their own by a certain, specific date.
I wouldn't suggest allowing $70,000 worth of time for them to get back on their feet. I'm thinking maybe four to six months, but don't let this thing drag on with no definitive end in sight. That will only cause trouble and hard feelings down the road. You guys might be able to pull this off — and keep the relationships intact — if you set fair and loving expectations on the front end.