When ‘coming home’ creates legal dilemmas

Guest Column:
Frank A. Lombardi
Someone once said that, “Home is the place that you go where they have to take you in.” More

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When ‘coming home’ creates legal dilemmas

Guest Column:
Frank A. Lombardi
Posted 10/22/12

Someone once said that, “Home is the place that you go where they have to take you in.”

Given today’s economy, those words are ringing true in Providence and beyond.

With the onset of the Great Recession, the world’s most powerful economy went into a deep and extended contraction and correction. As a result, millions of people have lost jobs and experienced a catastrophic loss of equity in their homes, if not an out-and-out loss through foreclosure or short sales. And so, scores of family members, both young and old, are coming home.

By “home,” I mean that place where 60- to-80-something seniors are living with their 30- to-40-something children, who in turn, are living with their infant, preteen and teenage children as well. Throw in aunts, uncles, and cousins with their significant others, and you have some or all generations of a family living under one roof.

A quick reference to history reveals that multigenerational homes were actually the norm. It was only after World War II that we began to see the advent of single- or dual-generation homes with mom and dad and 2.5 kids living in single-standing homes or apartments.

Later, with the economic boom, the houses became so big they were called “McMansions.”

I will not speculate as to whether there will ever be a return to the McMansion housing phenomenon, but for now, I am seeing the beginning of a great shift of people into multigenerational households where grandparents, uncles and cousins are living together. Since a good part of these homes are condominiums, this merits a special discussion.

A first scenario: an association that prohibits leasing. But what if the unit owner’s mother and father move into the unit and the unit owner gets a job transfer and moves out? Are these parents who are left behind tenants? Unless they are paying rent, I would argue that they are not. Suppose more relatives come to live in the unit. In that situation, associations may consult with the zoning ordinance, which may have a limit of occupants per bedroom. I would tread carefully on this issue, though, as attempting to remove these people or fine their unit-owner relatives may trigger state and/or federal regulations prohibiting discrimination on familial status.

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