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“My adult child can’t afford to move out of home”

6 minute read

John’s dilemma: My daughter is not really a child anymore. Julie is 25, she has moved back in with me and my wife – and she genuinely can’t afford to move out. Rents are too high, wages are too low, landlords are getting stricter with requirements for tenants and her credit rating is non-existent.

I realise this sounds selfish, but we thought that by the time Julie was in her 20s, she would have moved out of home. We were looking forward to being empty nesters and enjoying our time together. We’re close to retirement, we’re not particularly well off and the dynamics of our living situation are stressful.

When Julie left for university, we missed her, but were thrilled she was finding her own way in the world. There comes a time when we should learn how to budget, pay our own bills, plan our lives, deal with adult admin, and take care of ourselves.

Then the pandemic changed everything

Julie had to return home and finish her degree remotely. She struggled with this and was depressed about missing out on the full university experience. Her plan was to find a job after graduation and move out, but four years on, she’s still here.

Stringent rent criteria, credit scores, income proof and references are hard to meet when you’ve never rented before. Even if the requirements are met – or you’ve paid six months’ rent up front, often with a home-owning guarantor – it is hard to find secure flats in good condition for a reasonable price. Landlords who bypass the formalities tend to have grim properties.

Julie is not alone. Plenty of her friends are in similar predicaments and I feel for them all. Since she graduated, Julie has not been able to find work that pays enough for her to rent her own place. None of her friends live close by and she’s not keen on sharing with strangers. All this makes it hard to find flatmates. It has really knocked her confidence.

We all thought this would be a temporary situation. My wife and I would help her buy a flat, but we don’t have spare money thanks to inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Plus we remortgaged our house after the pandemic because we were struggling financially. So, what can we do to help her?

Some useful tips:

This is becoming an increasingly common situation for families up and down the country. It can strain even the closest families, but there are a few steps to take to make everyone’s life easier.

Depending on your daughter’s wages, she might be eligible for Universal Credit to supplement her income and apply for social housing with the local council. A Universal Credit top-up to her income might help her to save up for a deposit and rent a place – and then she may be eligible for further assistance for housing costs, energy bills and discounted council tax. A good first step is for her to visit the nearest Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss her situation.

Also, drawing up a budget based on her income and working out how much she can realistically set aside from each payday for a deposit will give her a financial goal to work towards. There are plenty of good online resources to get started with budgeting, such as StepChange’s free budget template. If she gets a job with better pay, the budget can be recalculated to match her improved circumstances.

Improving her credit score is tough when she’s living at home, but there are a few easy ways to help improve it. This will make Julie a more attractive tenant when she is in a better position to go flat-hunting:

  • Register to vote at your address.
  • Open a current account with an overdraft function, but not actually use the overdraft.
  • Set up direct debits, such as a mobile phone and internet connection. This helps demonstrate a history of paying bills on time.
  • Get a credit-builder credit card. It shouldn’t be used to pay for everything, but if it’s just used for one small expense each month and paid back in full and on time, that shows financial responsibility.

None of this advice amounts to a quick fix and it is likely that the three of you will be living under the one roof for a little bit longer. Julie might want to look into local house-sitting jobs to give her back a sense of independence and give everyone a break from a living situation that clearly gets tense.

Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help – a less-than-ideal living arrangement can affect everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. Relate, for example, offers affordable family counselling. Talking things through with an independent, trained person can give everyone a fresh perspective and offer new ideas for improving the stressful family dynamic.

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