Dealing With an Intrusive Landlord—Who is Also Your Mother-in-law!

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband and I have been married for 7 months, and we currently rent our home from my mother-in-law who lives within driving distance of us.  The problem is that she comes over all the time without calling first — even though we’ve asked not to.  My brother-in-law does the same thing.  What should we say to our family about this situation without offending them?


Dear Reyna,

Ah yes, the old “uninvited relatives dropping by” scenario!  To be honest, you’re in a rather unique situation since you are renting your home from your relatives.  If they are giving you a great deal on the rent, that complicates things even further.

You didn’t mention in your e-mail WHY they come by.  Is it to do maintenance on the house, do yard work, or get tools out of the garage?  Since they are the landlords and you are the renters, they certainly have a right to do those things, provided they give you a reasonable amount of advance notice.

On the other hand, if they are simply dropping in to chat or hang out, that needs to be addressed differently.  And since we’re talking about your in-laws, your husband is the one who needs to bring it up.

Hopefully this can be solved with a good-natured, non-defensive family discussion.  I suggest your husband start the conversation by telling his mother and brother how much you love them and appreciate the opportunity to rent their home.

But he should explain that as newlyweds, you are trying to establish your new life together, and that you need a certain amount of privacy.  Let them know that they are always welcome to come by, but they need to let you know ahead of time.

If you are met with defensiveness, you may decide that living in an apartment on the other side of town is looking more and more attractive.

Thanks for writing, Reyna.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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