Profile picture for bellakay113

My husband and i rent a room in his parents' home. Is it legal for us to change lock to the bedroom?

We are a young couple (ages 21 & 22), and have been living here since summer 2010. We only rent an upstairs bedroom in their small townhouse. There are times when we are not home for a day or more. We return and are reprimanded about the cleanliness of the room, and that we have all the cups upstairs. Mind you we are strict on expenses and limited on space, therefore the room is simply "cluttered" and not messy. Also, I specifically remember only leaving 3 cups in the room. I am a stay-at-home wife and college student so I clean, do laundry, etc. We have had enough of being treated like their children who lack in hygiene and cleanliness, and allowing the chance of our belongings being looked through by them.

Is it legal for us to change the bedroom lock?
Its basically locked when we're around, and they complain about it being locked. Shouldn't this be violating my privacy? We have many confidential papers and are definitely considering a safe.
  • January 18 2011 - Baltimore
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Answers (19)

Im sorry but I disagree with everyone's responses. It is one thing to be staying there free of charge and them expecting you to keep the room clean and such, but if you are paying rent then those are your quarters.  I mean maybe she needs her dishes back, but I don't think they have the right to enter your room and expect you to keep the room unlocked while in it..I mean doesn't she know you have intimate moments? I'm sorry but he is now married and not their little boy in their room rent free anymore. Of course they rely on your portion of rent because it was an agreement; however, I have children living in my home rent free at the age of 9, 15 and 19 and I don't expect them to keep their doors unlocked when they are changing or anything and I don't rummage through their things. Your in laws have control issues not uncommon in mothers. What will they do for financial help when they run you two off? Give me a break. I would still get out of there quick as possible no matter where I had to go. That is BS!!! I would definitely try to take my cups to the kitchen every morning or evening.
  • January 23 2011
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These are the trade-offs in life. If you are dependent on his folks for cheap rent, you are like children to them. Children are not always neat and don't always put things away.  If they are scrounging through your belongings, they are looking for something - ???

If you want the option to leave cups out whenever you want, then move to a place of you own. This is cost of that freedom.

Otherwise you need to abide by the parents' wishes to keep your space neat and return the cups to the kitchen. It's not that much to ask.  It would be very loving of you to help your spouse avoid having to choose who is right - you or his parents since you are both wrong.  It would be a horrible position for him and you might not like his choice.  Be a big girl and bite your lip and comply.  Their requests do not seem  unreasonable.  

The other possibility is that the parents are not happy having the two of you so close.  Why don't you find another arrangement before this whole thing goes south?  These are your children's future grandparents!

  • January 20 2011
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Bellakay, I have read through most of the posts here, and it is apparent you are in a frustrating no-win situation. I hope venting here has helped, but you may have no choice other than to make the best of it until the day comes when you can move.

It's not easy to get along with in-laws, and living with them is certainly pushing the envelope, especially in what I assume is not a huge home (you said it was a townhome).

Has your husband tried talk to them to work this out - afterall, they are HIS parents?
Do you have family you can stay with until you are able to afford your own place?
Can you get a part time job to speed up the move - you said you were a stay-at-home-wife and student -  might there be some room for you to fit in a job to help  the moving process along?

If the answers to the above questions are NO's..........then buy or bake  a  cake, brew some coffee, and try having a sit down talk with them to see if you can negotiate something that you can all live with. I am sure they aren't happy with the discord in the house, either.

If all else fails - try vodka!
:)
Good luck - here's another saying : "This too shall pass".
You are young, and I wish you a happy future.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for bellakay113
Alan I thank them all the time. I do regret not having a formal written rental agreement though. Then they would have to inform us ahead of time before entering based on what Maryland law states on the state's site. Unfortunately, nothing pertaining to locks.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for Alan Grizzle
Your best bet is to move out. His parrents have checked his room from birth untill now. Old habbets are hard to break. I would suggest you bite your toung until you can get out. Thank them for letting you stay when you leave. You are stuck with them from now on.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for bellakay113
Dan...I have actually been trying to find a similar one, however these doors are the type where simply a screwdriver is needed. There is only one in the house to be used and I could always be sneaky and hide it...but that's just childish to do that. My husband does not wish to mention it because he has dealt with them since he started paying rent 4 years ago. They spend too much even before rent was paid, but I do believe that what they deserve will come to them.

Tiffany...I absolutely love the second quote! Thank you! That cheered me up. I have gotten a mani/pedi and it helps a bit. I do plan on contacting a lawyer for legal advice just to be certain. We'll be moving soon but 3-4 months will feel like eons!

We may speak to my father-in-law because he's a tad bit more lenient. Its my mother-in-law who can be...well, words I cannot say here.

Thanks everyone for your input! <3
  • January 18 2011
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I am guessing you cannot take any action to lock them out of the room, but please verify it with someone who is legally competent (e.g. an attorney). I am not qualified to give legal advice.

Having been someone who has lived in the glass house of not being particularly concerned with every in-law's opinon, I am not the one to start throwing stones...but, drawing those lines will make it even less pleasant in under the same roof. Deep breath and a pedicure might be a better solution if you have a date for departure (tax return time).

I do have two quotes to share with you, neither of which I recall the author of:

- Humans can withstand anything if they know the duration

- God could not be everywhere so he invented mothers, the devil could not be everywhere so he invented mother in laws
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for the_country_hick
There is one thing you could do. It would be pushing but maybe is something to consider. Buy a new lock. (Preferably a similar or the same style) Put it in while they are there and save the old lock so when you move you can put things back to original. No damage would be done you can explain how you are changing the lock (while doing it) so you could have more privacy. You could explain how newlyweds like to do some things without others walking in in them unannounced. It only takes 4 screws and 5 minutes to change a lock. If the argument gets to loud you could always change it back.

They may see that as a sign of independence that is needed. They may not.

As far as what happens to them once you move out that is not really your concern. They got by before without your rental income I am sure they could do it again.

If you can afford it, and want to you could always send them some money. However I do know that people who are fiscally challenged do not handle their money better when they are given money. If anything they depend on that new income source and spend even more money they could not really afford.

When they lose this small amount of income they will either learn to live within their means or they will suffer until they do. Worrying about their finances to much will only limit you and what you can do. Do not put yourself in financial (or personal) trouble for them. They made their choices and they are old enough to live with any consequences.

p.s. make sure you mention that you would like to find another apartment. That way they should not depend to much on any rental income from you.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for bellakay113
Thank you Tiffany...well, to be honest, being on the in-laws' good side is not a priority of mine. We have been getting by and have stood our ground. However, they are making things difficult. It sounds disrespectful and rude, but as parents and adults they would get a failing grade. Although I am young, I have unfortunately been through and learned much from experience and education.

And I suppose chain locks are no different? That was the first thing my husband and I were considering. Actually, the door is broken. My stepmother-in-law broke it down YEARS ago. My husband and I have even considered repairing it out of our own pockets.
  • January 18 2011
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Dan I totally understand, and of course I am thankful for them for offering a place to stay. It just gets worse when they start to rely on our payment to get by when they are not financially savvy, they ALL waste electricity, enter our rooms unannounced, etc. What becomes of them when we leave?

Trust me, getting out of here immediately is a priority. We have found a place but are awaiting on our tax returns. I" do believe though that there is and/or should be a line drawn when it comes to privacy. I'm only complaining because that's all they do when they are far worse, and it is sickening. Definite hypocrites who claim to be good Christians.
  • January 18 2011
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There may be different rules governing room rentals v. whole dwelling rentals for entry. You may need to call a legal aid line. However...

"However, here on out, we will be viewing this as a business deal--paperwork or no paperwork."

Since it's family, and they are parents, it doesn't actually matter if you are viewing this as a business deal. They are very unlikely to change or alter their behavior to accomodate your wishes to have a more business-oriented relationship. If you want to change the relationship you will probably have to move out. Not really real estate advice, just that of a married woman.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for the_country_hick
Bella, it sounds to me like this is less of a renters right issue than it is a family issue. I am sure they would not rent that room out to anyone outside the family. They are doing this only to help you out. Instead of trying to be legal instead be reasonable.

Understand that you are living under their roof and their rules. The best and really only solution is to move out and shut up until then. If you are not careful you risk upsetting the inlaws and that could be a problem for many years to come.

This may not be what you want to hear but it comes down to one thing. You both as a couple need to have a simple straight forward talk with the folks. Explain how this is an issue and try to talk about some ways to make it better. You saying that you might be undressed and having the room locked makes you feel safer. Be reasonable instead of upset. It should help IF all parties there can be reasonable. If that is impossible finding a rental elsewhere is your best option.

Do not complain to much when you are being helped out like this. It could be worse. They might not have done anything and then where would you be?
  • January 18 2011
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Yes unfortunately. However, here on out, we will be viewing this as a business deal--paperwork or no paperwork.
  • January 18 2011
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Profile picture for droopyd
When you live in Mommy and Daddy's house, you have to live by Mommy and Daddy's rules.
  • January 18 2011
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Ohh ok...thank you to you all! Hopefully we'll be out this spring because they are getting out of control. They criticize about the door being locked even when I'm in the room, which i think is rude. What if I'm not dressed or sleeping or whatever else? At times they do not even knock.

Tiffany, I have been looking through Maryland Landlord-Tenant laws and still nothing about changing locks. I'm still looking though. It simply states the usual where the landlord cannot enter unless given a 24-48 hour notice, which they do not do at all.
  • January 18 2011
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Unfortunately, real estate agents are not licensed to answer legal questions. I can tell you as a landlord, every lease I have ever used specifically prohibits changing of locks without written permission. This is due to safety reasons (fire, etc) as well as my need to access for regular repairs with appropriate notice.

One of the problems with renting from family at a reduced rate is there is a much higher cost than the actaul cash amount out. If you want privacy you may want to consider your own place, or at a minimum rent from someone who isn't family.

I do have to disagree with Nathan. If you are paying rent without a written agreement, most states would consider you to have month-to-month tenancy and the rights associated with that. You can google the landlord-tenant laws for your county for more information.

  • January 18 2011
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I'm assuming that you have not signed any kind of formal agreement. Basically, you're a guest in their house. You have no right to live there, much less lock them out of part of their house. You need to get along with their rules or find you own place.
  • January 18 2011
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No paperwork was signed. So theres no written contract at all. It was basically a verbal agreement till we found our own place which will hopefully be this spring. The agreement obviously involved paying rent (approx $360/month), help around the house, etc.

I do them mostly to be considerate about my husband's long and changing work schedules. Such chores include dishes, etc. Yet I'm told not to do them so its odd. It used to be seen as just family taking care of one another but things are just getting out of hand.

  • January 18 2011
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Did you sign a lease and what areas does it cover? While you're paying rent, you do inhabit someone else's home and privacy will be difficult to maintain.  Just imagine the situation in reverse as it may be in future years.

Until you disclose more facts this is a tricky question, so I recommend an initial discussion (by appointment) after which you may be in the market for a new location.  A  survey of other rental opportunities may be in order before you attempt to work out the details here.  Different states offer different rights.
  • January 18 2011
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