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Moving in Together?

My 75-year-old mother met a man two months ago and now he is moving in with her. 

Those were the distraught words of Beth, a woman I spoke with last week. Her mother is widowed and lonely and looking for love and attention. But, who is this man? This stranger she met on a website?

On the one hand my husband and I are sure he is up to no good. He was invited to my daughter’s graduation party and came wearing a suit jacket with the tags on it. My mother gave my daughter a gift and signed his name on it.

This man claims to have no relatives and claims to be selling his current residence to move in with her. When my husband and I raise our concerns, my mother shuts us down. She feels she has nothing to lose and is thrilled to have a man showering her with love and affection.

Alarm bells ring in my head as I listen to this tale. If Beth’s mother allows “New Man” into her home, how will she ever get him to leave if it turns out he isn’t as marvelous as she thinks today? Of course New Man seems great now; he is in a rush to move in, and on his very best behavior two months in. How do you know he is truly selling his current home? Did he show any proof? Has she seen his bank accounts? Or his credit report?

The man is her age and has no job and no references. No friends either for that matter. Doesn’t that strike you as unusual?  But, my mom doesn’t care.  She doesn’t want to be alone and she doesn’t want to question this man and have him leave because he is insulted or ashamed. She doesn’t want to risk losing him — although of course she doesn’t even know who he is.

I imagine this scenario is not all that uncommon. People meet, oxytocin and dopamine flow through their bodies, and in the haze of emotions, with the best of intentions, they decide to move in together and seal the deal.  Love is a powerful emotion.  But, beware, the person who is not living with you can and no doubt will be very different than the person you find yourself living with after he or she has notified the post office that all mail should now be forwarded to your place.

Finances (or lack thereof) can get lost or be intentionally hidden in the midst of the great love story.  While it may seem rude and feel awkward to ask the difficult and probing questions, you must recognize that once you allow someone to move in and live in your residence, the laws in every state make it very difficult to get that person out.

While you may not feel comfortable asking to run a full scale credit check, as a true landlord would, to learn intimate details about the person … if he or she has a criminal record, has filed for bankruptcy or is a poor credit risk (although I think that is perfectly reasonable) … please, please make sure you ask as many specific questions as possible before you grant your new lover the keys to your castle.

  • About employment.  How long has he been at his or her job or if retired, from what job, for how long and how successful was he?  Ask to meet work-friends, and then ask a lot of questions.
  • About personal history.  Has he had addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling)? What is the story of his past relationships with lovers and family members?   Note any red flags.
  • About other live-in relationships.  How did they pay for and divide joint living expenses, how long did they live together, and how did they disengage when the relationship ended?
  • About current and anticipated living expenses.  Do his current expenses and lifestyle habits match up to your expectations of what things will be like after he moves in?   Who will be responsible for the costs of not only the heat and electric, but also the basics of detergent and toilet paper?  Little costs add up and every penny counts.  Don’t give yours away, or leave it to hope and chance that the question of how to divide living expenses will all work out.

Although it is difficult to ask someone point blank about money, the price you will pay if you don’t can be disastrous, emotionally and financially.  Take the time and ask the scary questions, before you turn over your keys to the “greatest lover” because we all know, what you see is not always what you get.

After asking these questions, and even if you don’t, use the internet.  A Google search will provide a wealth of information that may confirm what your gut is telling you, but your heart doesn’t want to hear.  Open your eyes (and your ears) to serious issues you should be considering.

Doing your research now, while no guarantee of what will happen in the future, will at least make you a bit more foolproof.

About Michelle Gershfeld

I’m a debt settlement and bankruptcy attorney who negotiates resolutions between clients and their creditors. I am also a real estate attorney involved in both sides of purchasing and selling distressed real property. I am passionate about teaching people about money and helping individuals of all ages achieve financial independence and success in a "no…

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