Whether adult kids should pay rent is an increasingly important question as many 20-somethings are now delaying moving out on their own or coming home a few years later. There are multiple reasons for this but three of the more common ones are:

  1. A weak job market is causing young adults to delay moving out on their own
  2. Foreclosures, credit problems and job losses are bringing them back home
  3. Divorce

In many cases the return is sudden, so some thought on the rent issue should be considered beforehand. It isn’t just a matter of personal philosophy—there are tangible reasons to charge and adult child rent, and tangible reasons why you might not.

The arguments in favor of adult kids paying rent

Adult kids are just that—adults—and the parent/child dynamic changes as a result. Charging them rent to live in your home may be the most responsible thing you can do as a parent.

They’d have to pay rent anywhere else they’d live. This is the ultimate reality—no matter where your kids may live, they’ll always have to pay rent to live there. You’re home should be no different. You probably won’t charge them anything close to market rent, so they’ll get a break there, and that should be enough.

It will cost you to have them at home. You’ll have real expenses to pay if your child comes home. No, your house payment may not increase—though it might if you yourself are renting the home you live in—but other expenses will rise. Kids, especially adult kids, consume utilities, food and water. They also increase the amount of cleaning that needs to be done, as well as cooking and doing laundry. Your expenses will rise, but so will your burdens.

Enforcing responsibility. Paying for necessities is part of responsibility. Even if your adult kids have come home to deal with a hardship, responsibility doesn’t come to a halt. Just like you and every other adult out there, they have to pay their way while dealing with their problems.

You don’t want them too get to comfortable. Once you’ve raised your children to adulthood, it’s your time to enjoy your life—and the full comforts of your home. Having other adults in your home will definitely compromise that effort. You don’t want to give them an incentive to stay home by not charging rent.

The arguments against adult kids paying rent

Some parents can’t comprehend the idea of charging rent to their child, and there are times when that makes good sense.

Some are facing legitimate hardships. An adult child who is going through a divorce may need a safe harbor for at least a time. They’re facing pressures on multiple fronts especially if they have young children of their own. Allowing them to live rent free may be the biggest lift they can get.

You want to give them an opportunity to rebuild. If an adult child is going through a financial crisis, allowing them to live at home rent free may be an excellent substitute for direct financial assistance. This is especially true if you don’t have the money to give them, or if you’re reasonably certain that any cash you would provide will never be paid back. You’ll be helping them to rebuild their lives so they can become independent and move on with their lives.

By not charging them rent they can rebuild more quickly. You probably are fully willing to allow a temporary home, and one of the best ways to insure that it is temporary is to make it as easy as possible for them to recover from what ever situation brought them home in the first place. By not charging them rent, you’re helping that to happen more quickly.

You never stop being a parent. I once heard a saying “bigger kids, bigger problems”, and have found it to be true so far. You don’t stop being a parent just because your kids are adults and the problems are bigger and more complicated. You’ll help any way you can at what ever age they’re at. Ultimately, the decision to charge or not charge an adult child rent may come down to what the particular circumstances are that brought them home.

Would you charge your adult child rent?

Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.