Leona O'Neill: I wouldn't charge my kids rent for living at home as adults

Should parents charge older children living in the family home rent? Even though it's a growing trend and the economic climate doesn't look likely to changing that fact any time soon, Leona O'Neill thinks not

When zero-hour contracts are the norm, rent is high and deposits for mortgages are astronomical, mum's cooking isn't the only reason for reluctance to leave the nest

THE issue of charging grown-up children rent has divided parental opinion for some time. Some parents think nothing of asking for money for living at home as soon as the candles are blown out on their child’s 18th birthday cake. Others wouldn’t dream of asking for cash from their offspring.

According to research from Skipton Building Society, more than a quarter of 20-to-34-year-olds in the UK still live with their parents. Many are boomerang kids, those who left home and went to university, perhaps, and find themselves back living at Mum and Dad's.

If you look around you, the reason for that is blatantly obvious. There are few stable jobs around, zero-hour contracts are the norm, rent is high and deposits for mortgages being astronomical make getting a foot on the property ladder almost impossible for most first-time buyers.

Of course there are other reasons to be back home – using somewhere that doesn’t cost the Earth to job hunt, save for a house deposit or even to nurse a broken heart after a break-up. Others just never leave home in the first place.

Whatever the reason, is it ever right to charge our kids rent? I can understand parents expecting their children to contribute to the household bills if they are working, but not to pay a set fee for ‘rent’.

When you become a parent, you don’t cut the child off financially as soon as they hit 18: providing for them is a job for life. I know some will argue that charging their children rent teaches them the value of money and the reality of life outside the parental home.

I too think it is crucially important to teach our children good financial management and how much it costs to run a household. But I would much rather make them aware from an early age of the reality of household costs – bringing them grocery shopping with you and having them pick your jaw up off the floor when the cashier tells you the total, complaining loudly and ceaselessly about how much their bloody phone contract costs and telling them that in your day you got an apple and an orange for Christmas, not an Apple iPad.

However, I wouldn’t stretch that lesson to making a profit from them when they reach a certain age and haven’t yet flown the nest.

If the kids can afford to contribute to bills then they should, of course, but I wouldn’t feel good standing at their door with an eviction notice if their rent was late. Home should be a safe haven, a happy place and it is the job of parents to look our children. We brought them into the world, we can’t tax them for it.

I think home would feel less like home if they were forced to pay for it. I just feel I couldn’t charge my children rent for a room that they have been living in rent free for 18 years.

As a mother I feel that my home will always be their home and I want them to know that they are always welcome. That does not mean that I would be encouraging them to save for a deposit for a house while they were under my roof. I want my kids to have independence so if they had a notion of staying with me until they were 40 years old I’d be making sure I had all my elderly friends round doing pensioner stuff like bingo, bridge and indoor bowls so that my child would be living in mortal fear of catching ‘old’ off us and would work harder to find his or her own place.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with older kids still at home. Everyone’s situation is different. I’m not saying charging your kids rent is wrong – it just wouldn’t be for me.

I’m not one of those mums who gets the kids out the door at 18 and turns their room into a Zen spa or Pilates room. The more likely scenario will be that I am one of these mums who will keep their rooms exactly as is and will no doubt spend my days clutching their childhood teddy bear, weeping and rocking until they come back home again.

Solving all your kids' problems for them will do them no good in the long run. Ensuring your kids know from an early age that money doesn’t in fact grow on a big tree out in the back yard is always a good place to start.

And knowing that home will always be home, a place where they can run to when times get tough – and God knows this world shows them that often enough – is important too.

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