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Ask Dave

You Lacked Clarity

Thomas and his wife allowed a family to stay in a rental property after the family suffered a fire. They've paid no rent. Dave tells Thomas they handled this poorly from the beginning.

QUESTION: Thomas in Nashville is calling because he and his wife allowed a family to stay in one of their rental properties after the family suffered a fire. For the past 17 months, they’ve made no effort to pay any rent. His wife wants to write it all off and give her the house and title. Dave tells Thomas they handled this poorly from the beginning.

ANSWER: You put her in there on a charity basis, and then five and a half months later, you changed the deal.

Let me back up and just tell you that you guys have handled this very poorly, and I hope you’ve learned your lesson. Your ability to communicate with clarity what your expectations of her were is horrible. It’s taken me a few minutes to get it out of you. She didn’t know what to expect because you weren’t clear with her. Now you’re acting like she owes you 17 months of rent. I don’t think she does. I think that’s on you.

Now you’ve got to decide one of two things. Were you providing 17 months of free housing for someone who was struggling, or were you providing a free house for someone who was struggling? I didn’t hear anywhere in this process you were supposed to give her a house. I don’t know where anybody would’ve gotten that expectation.

God’s done awesome stuff for me, but I’m not sure I’m handing over the keys to a house because I don’t want to deal with conflict.

The way I want to look at this is try to say okay, God is a loving, heavenly Father. He’s giving you His wealth to manage that’s His. You’re managing it for Him. He’s your dad, and He’s this lady’s dad. What does a loving, heavenly Father do? We expect our children to grow, to brush their teeth, to do their homework, to have discipline in their lives, and to engage in behaviors that are good for themselves. I haven’t heard that about this lady yet. I heard she had a catastrophe and a tragedy, but I haven’t heard her get control of her life yet. I’m not sure you’re not giving a drunk a drink because 17 months later, she’s still not on her feet.

Go sit down with her and say, “Here’s the deal. We’re concerned more about you winning and about your eternal life than we are concerned about this house. Here’s what we want to do. We’re going to waive the 17 months, and we’re going to give you six months”—you make up a number—I don’t care—“more free rent. At that point, you need to plan to move because we’re going to sell the house.”

Honestly, I’ve been doing evangelism and Christian work all my adult life, and I very rarely see someone commanded to give someone a house in order to lead them to salvation. Can you forgive the debt? Sure. Forgive the 17 months. That’s a no-brainer. That’s on you for misbehaving and not being clear with this. Give her some more free rent maybe. That’s okay, but I’m not sure you’re called to give her a house. I’d have to be really sure about that.