Leona O'Neill: What to charge at Hotel Mum and Dad

Whether or not to charge grown-up children rent for living at Hotel Mum and Dad is a divisive question but Leona O’Neill thinks it can often make sense to live at home into adulthood, particularly in times of austerity

Many people don’t have the luxury of being able to move out of the family home so paying rent often makes sense
Many people don’t have the luxury of being able to move out of the family home so paying rent often makes sense

A ROW erupted online in recent days over parents charging their kids rent for living at home once they reach a certain age.

A mum posed a question to parenting website Mumsnet last week over the issue of 'housekeeping money' and asked other mums if she should charge her 19-year-old son, who had just started his first part-time job, rent for living at home. Her husband was keen to charge, she was not.

The response was hugely divided. Some parents felt that their kids should start paying their way at 16, some at 18 and others at 21. Other parents harked back to their own teenage years, commenting that once they got a part-time job, it never would have occurred to them not to contribute something to the household bills. Others felt that taking money off kids was not right, that it was a parent's responsibility to provide financially for their kids regardless of age. Others said they would take the money from the kids, save it and give it back to them when they eventually left home.

Of course there are going to be those who think charging your offspring to live in their own house is a great idea, and just as many who think it is akin to signing up to work for Beelzebub himself. We are all different. Sure doesn’t that make the world go round?

Some parents feel that charging their kids keep is a good way to teach responsibility with money. Personally I don't think I could charge my kids rent to live in the house they were brought up in, even though with four, I could make a pretty tidy profit. I couldn't force them to pay, but if they were working and wanted to contribute, they could.

My parents welcomed me back from Belfast after college and again, many years later, when I landed at their door with a husband and two kids in tow when we needed to stay as houses were bought and sold. They never asked us for a penny.

I’m sure I'd do the same for my own kids. But keep that little snippet of information between ourselves. I do not want all four and their partners and children moving in with me in my twilight years, cramping my future pensioner rock n roll lifestyle. I have some fears that my kids might want to stay with me until they are 50 so I intend to be a hugely embarrassing, outspoken, Ibiza raving, hard rocking, wine guzzling, 70-year-old hippy in an attempt to make them move out and seek their own way in the world.

I may not charge rent, but I can seek compensation. One of my sons has had a nickname since he was 18 months old. Captain Destructo. He has broken thousands of pounds worth of our stuff in the past 10 years, from kitchen cupboards to mobile phones to TV screens. Just this weekend, after banning him (again) from playing football in the living room, he fashioned a DIY football from a multitude of school socks drying on the heater and broke the glass on a huge framed portrait of his sister on the wall.

Thirty minutes later he was giving his guinea pig Charlie Landsborough a bath in the bathroom sink, left a tap running and flooded the bathroom, which came through the kitchen roof and fused the lights in the house. This is my life. That child might not get charged rent in future years, but once he hits 18 he's getting a bill for all the damage he's caused.

According to recent figures, 4.4 million UK 'kids' are receiving financial support from the 'rents', each of them costing their parents £47,324 during their adult years. I would say that is pretty spot on. My mum hands out £20 notes like an ATM machine and my friend calls his mum the Bank of Irene.

Some 1.6 million of these grown-up kids live with their mums and dads who, by subsidising their living costs, including bills and rent, are out an average £2,103 per year, or £175 per month for each child.

According to the same research more than half of those living with mum and dad are in their 20s, a third are in their thirties and 12 per cent are over 40. Hardly surprising in these recessional times when, with student debt, low wages and the costs of running a car, as well as the inability to get mortgages, living at home is a more practical option.

Part of me thinks that it’s my responsibility as a parent to make sure my kids are aware of what it will be like to pay bills when they do move out of home. But then the other part of me thinks that I can’t charge them for what they have had for free for 18 years.

Hopefully by the time I have to face the dilemma I’ll have won the lottery, be living in a house made of solid gold and uncut diamonds and it’ll not be an issue.