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Housing Agreements

By MAD21

Everyone deserves a second chance. An opportunity to get back on their feet again after making some poor choices in their life, or after just plain bad luck. It's our responsibility as followers of Christ to help take care of each other, but how do we help others without being taken advantage of (i.e., doormat). We need to be available and willing to help those who need it, but we also need to be responsible with the resources that God has given to us.

I had the opportunity to help a friend out a number of years ago who had dealt with long-term addiction and all the problems that went along with it. She desperately wanted to get her life together, which included having a safe place to live.

I had a good job, and was renting a great little house from a friend of mine at the time I began considering helping her out. I told her that before I would even entertain the idea of her living with me, that she had to do certain things before I'd even talk to her about moving in. For example, she had to be sober and hold a job for a year.

Once she had accomplished that, she again came to me and asked about us being house-mates. I told her I'd think about it. I was still very nervous about it. I consulted some wise friends of mine about how I could help her but also protect myself in case she succumbed to her addictions again. How could we have a living arrangement that would not only hold her accountable and help her to grow and change her life, but also protect me from losing everything.

It was suggested that I make a contract, a housing agreement. It was a brilliant idea. It took all the pressure off of me. Everyone understood all the house rules and responsibilities and I never once felt like the "bad guy." Something else that it did that was unexpected was that it also protected our friendship. It kept the business separate from our relationship.

I think it's important to remember that when we are trying to help someone out, no matter what it is, that we need to make sure we are helping them make a better life for themselves, not just do everything FOR them. I tell my kids that all the time... "I will help you, not do it for you." If I did everything for them, they would never learn to do for themselves.

In this situation, if I had just let my friend live with me with no rules, it would have been really easy for her to fall into her old habits and I would have just ended up providing free home and board for her. Without the accountability, I would have only been helping her to stay where she was in her life, helping her continue to make the bad choices she'd been making for years and potentially drag me down with her. With the accountability, she knew that she had to work hard to do the right things or she would lose everything.

Some of the things you need to be sure to include in the agreement are:

  • House Maintenance
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Personal Space/Property
  • Cleaning Arrangements/Expectations
  • Use of Food
  • Visitor and Phone Call Policy
  • Smoking/Drinking Policy
  • Copies of the House Key
  • Rules that are pertinent to the person you are helping, for example in my situation, my friend was required to attend at least one AA meeting a week and attend church.
  • Housing costs and when/how they will be paid.
  • CONSEQUENCES for violations to each part of the agreement.

This is the HOUSING AGREEMENT that I wrote up for my situation (I've obviously removed the names, etc.) These rules were specific to the needs and responsibilities of my friend. Some may seem a little more strict than others, but these were the rules that we came up with and agreed upon together. You can also find more housing agreements online. They tend to be more on the legal side, very formal. But that may be what you need.

Also, remember that the agreement needs to be reviewed once a year, and updated as your life changes. In my situation, I got married a year and a half after my friend had been living with me. The new house I bought with my husband had space where my friend could continue to live, but it required some new house rules. So we drew up another agreement and we all signed it.

At this point, you may be wondering how things worked out with my friend. Well, unfortunately about six months after we were in the new house, she got hooked up with some old friends and started drinking again. We were all devastated because she had been doing so well. But, per the agreement we'd had for years, she had to find another place to live. We helped her get into a local rehab center during which time she found another place to live. It was a very sad consequence, but one we had all agreed to.

It hurt us all when my friend made such a bad choice, but I am so glad that we had our agreement before everything fell apart. It could have ended so much worse. Nine years later, she has a job and a place of her own and seems happy with her life.

I highly encourage anyone who wants to help someone out by opening your home, whether it's a friend or relative, that you come up with an agreement together. I personally think it's a must-have.

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Reader Comments (1)

This sounds clinical or too technical, but I believe you are absolutely right. It takes the unexpressed expectations off the table. If we don't put these things out there, resentment can build and it doesn't have to be that way. Also, I've seen where some people get a "free ride" in this regard they end up very angry and lash out at least partly, I feel, from having this gift "hanging over them" even if that's not the case. They feel like they aren't pulling their fair share and resent it. We humans are a complicated lot!

This is a very helpful practical suggestion. Thanks for all you do, Ginny!

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJasonS

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