Q: My children recently built a beach home, which they are primarily using for short-term rentals. They also use it several times a year for themselves. Should we insist on paying if I visit with some of my friends and my kids do not want to charge us rent? — Beverly
A: In my law practice, there are many times when I am asked to give practical as well as legal advice. Disputes often involve relationships gone awry in some way, and the most common I see are disputes between family members. Because there are deep feelings involved, along with money or land, these disputes can sometimes get heated. Solid communication and good planning are the best ways to avoid a problem with a family member.
In some families, you might be expected to pay rent since you are taking the time from paying renters. In others, the children would be happy to give you the benefit of a beach week as some small repayment for raising them.
You should discuss this issue with your children beforehand to set expectations. When everyone has the same understanding, most disputes are avoided or minimized.
Tell them that you want to use the beach houses with your friends and are willing to rent the property for the week. If your kids tell you rent is unnecessary, take them at their word and accept their kindness graciously.
That said, leave the beach house cleaner than you find it and fix anything that breaks. If it makes you and your friends feel better, get the kids or your grandchildren a nice gift as a token of your gratitude or take them all to a fancy restaurant.
From a legal standpoint, if you pay rent, you will be a tenant rather than a guest.
These are different relationships that come with differing duties and liability exposure. Your children should check their insurance policy to ensure both are adequately covered. You should make sure there is proper insurance in case one of your friends gets hurt on a loose step and ends up suing your kids to pay for their broken leg.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.