Evicting a Young Adult Child

Parent Q&A

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  • Due to increasing alcohol and drug use by our 26 year-old son, which has generated complaints from several neighbors, we have started the eviction process to remove him from our home in San Francisco.   Due to his behaviors we cannot leave our home for any extended period of time for fear of who he may bring in to our home or more complaints from our neighbors.  We have offered to pay for a rehab program but he is unfortunately in denial about the extent of his substance abuse.  

    Are there any low cost living alternatives for him? It is unlikely that any of his friends would let him couch surf with him for very long and we do not want him to become homeless.  

    What difficult and painful situation you are in. Several years ago, when my son was 18, I asked him to go into treatment or leave the family home. As hard and painful as that was, he found a way to keep himself safely sheltered—at first couch surfing and eventually living with another family for a while. He's now 22. Although he still uses, he is functional—full time job and pays his half of the rent for a one-bedroom apartment he shares with a roommate. 

    You didn't mention if your son has a job, or is on public assistance. Because he is not willing to address his substance use and his use is an issue for others, his options for relatively stable housing are limited. Any non-profit or government programs that house people will want to address the substance use. Given his age, it's probably less likely another family will take him in, but friends may. He may need to couch surf and bounce around for a while before he figures something out or is willing to address his use. He may hear of affordable options (apartment/house shares, etc.) through his network. My son eventually landed in an apartment complex in Hayward that is tolerant of his lifestyle. It has a 24/7 guard and is reasonably safe for the way he chooses to live, but it does mean he lives hand to mouth with most of his paycheck going to rent.

    I hope you have support during this very hard time. If not, consider looking into an ITC, Smart Recovery, or Al-Anon parent meeting. The future is unknown, and it's clear that you love your son.

    As the parent of an addict myself, my heart goes out to you, If you haven't already done so, please consider Alanon meetings -- some are in-person, some on Zoom, some both -- for parents of addicted children.  There are definitely meetings in San Francisco; if you'd like helping finding one, please contact me.  The impulse to continue to protect your son is absolutely normal. However, preventing him from becoming homeless may also prevent him from fully realizing where his addictions have brought him.  You need to take care of yourselves.  In Alanon, you will meet many, many parents who have traveled the road you're on.  Best of luck.

  • My son, who is 20, is looking for a room to rent in shared housing in the East Bay. He's been searching on craigslist for months, with no luck. My questions: 1. Are there other rental websites he could be searching on? 2. Do you know of any shared rentals he could apply for? and 3. Do you know any other young people looking for housing who he could work with on finding a place together? Thanks! 

    First of all, is his budget reasonable? It is going to cost a bare minimum of $1,000, and probably closer to $1,500 for a room in a desirable area. Next, keep in mind that everyone wants to live with women. Women want to share with women, and men want to share with women. Sorry the world is so sexist, and sorry to be the one to point this out. His best bet might be to rent a whole house or apartment himself, and then find roommates. It is certainly a big responsibility, but it also gives him more control. He may want to check NextDoor or FaceBook for rentals. He may also want to try putting "room wanted" ads on CL, ND and FB. If he does place ads, he should make them short and sweet. 

    - check out roommate sites like spareroom.com

    - It's not as common as in NYC but he could hire a broker to find places. 

    -If he really want to think out of the box, could he qualify to buy a below market rate unit? Here's the link to SF's program as an example but perhaps there are similar programs in the East Bay. https://sfmohcd.org/current-bmr-homeownership-listings

    It should be no problem for him if he is within the "budget" and has a couple of good references!
    Tell him to try:
    Facebook Market rentals

    It is true that most people (specially older) will prefer a woman than a man but most definitely not all! Good luck to him!

  • Evicting adult child

    (7 replies)

    I would like to communicate with any parent who has gone through the process of legally evicting an adult child from the family home.  I met with an attorney through the Alameda County Bar Association referral service, but if my adult child and child's significant other choose to contest the eviction, I cannot afford the lawyer's fees, so I will be handling this on my own.  I have the Nolo Press book for landlords.  I was shocked to learn that, at some point over the last 24 years, I became a landlord and my child, a tenant, according to the law, even though no rent has ever been involved.  (My child's significant other became a tenant simply by dint of having lived at my house for X amount of days.)  The situation involves drug use, assault (multiple police calls) and a fire (the fire was accidental, but drug use by my child's significant other was involved).  Though I am over 65, there apparently are no legal services for seniors that assist landlords.  It would be helpful to talk to someone who'd been through this.  Please feel free to contact me directly.  Thank you.

    I would also contact adult protective services. Because of your age you are able to receive support from being abused or taken advantage of my others. Good luck!

    Hello.  I had a similar situation with my 80+ father a while back.  The routes we took were calling Adult Protective Services and calling the local police re: elder abuse.  We did not get lawyers involved, but I'm sure there are drop-in lawyers at your local senior center would do pro-bono work.  Even if you are an athletic senior and in very sound mind, I suggest pulling the "age" card,,,,And there is always having the couple busted for illegal substances.  Then you could get a restraining order.  All of this is hard to do, I know, but it sounds like you have already explored several other avenues.  

    btw, these are things Family Sanity takes about at their groups for parents of young adults.  You may want to attend a meeting.  www.familysanity.org.

    What about getting a restraining order against them?

    I wonder if you are looking at this through the correct lens.  Is it a landlord-tenant issue or a domestic violence issue?  Domestic violence is not just intimate partner violence; it can be child against parent as well.  If an adult child has been assaultive/abusive (even emotional/verbal abuse), a parent should consider looking at resources for victims of domestic violence, including restraining order clinics.  There are many local resources (STAND, Bay Area Legal, the Family Justice Center, and the Alameda and Contra Costa Superior Court websites).  The Domestic Violence Restraining Order forms are pretty user friendly, and the courts have trained facilitators who can help people who are self-represented (as most people seeking restraining orders are). If a person has grounds for a restraining order, a court may order the restrained party to immediately move out of the home.  

    You do not need to feel unsafe in your own home.  

    Just exactly how you handle this may depend on the city you are in. Different cities have different rent control laws which may pertain. I would suggest that even if you cannot hire an attorney for the eviction, you hire an attorney who helps property owners with similar problems in your city for a consult. If there is no rent control in your city, it may be a little bit easier. 

    You are correct that adult children (and their friends) living in your home have rights, even if they have never paid any rent and do nothing but eat your food, leave dirty dishes all over the house, and lie around smoking weed and playing video games.

    However, these rights do not extend to being able to remain in the home after assaulting you. The law is very clear on this. The documented violence and any threats of violence is where you should put your focus. The "tenants" may be able to explain away the fire as "an accident" and if their drug use is primarily marijuana and alcohol, they may be able to claim this is "a lifestyle choice" -- but the one thing that cannot be waved away is violence.

    You need to file a restraining order (RO). Download the forms from the Alameda County website and follow the instructions. Include the dates when the police came out (and the police report numbers, if possible). Describe any injuries and if you have any photos of bruises, etc, attach these as an exhibit. You do not need a lawyer for this or any other stage of the process. You will need to have the restraining order personally served (handed to) your adult child by someone over 18. This does not have to be a professional server but it cannot be you or anyone directly involved in the restraining order.

    If your adult child's partner has been threatening or violent to you, file two separate ROs. If that person has not been abusive to you but has simply sat back and watched you being abused, I think your best bet is to hope she/he moves out with your adult child rather than trying to do an RO without sufficient cause which could backfire on you. Likely this person will not wish to remain living in a home which your child cannot come near.

    Once your RO has been granted, it is important that you make use of it consistently and do not start to feel sorry for your adult child and let him/her back until a significant time has passed and the behaviors which led to the abuse (substance abuse, inability or unwillingness to control anger, a sense of entitlement) have been addressed and overcome. Remember that allowing a situation to continue in which your child is assaulting you is not actually protecting your child. This behavior practiced outside the home could lead to your adult child getting shot or sent to jail. 

    Once you have the RO, keep it handy and call the police every time your adult child shows up at your home. The police will then take your adult child to jail. (By law, they must.) This process will lack any of the stress-release your adult child may be getting from bullying you and will instead convey in no uncertain terms that mistreating you is unacceptable and illegal and has immediate unpleasant consequences.

    As far as having your adult child get his/her belongings out of the house after the RO has been served, they will have to arrange for a neutral third party to come and collect the stuff. Stay strong and remember: whatever problems your adult child may have, even if this includes mental health problems and drug addiction, this does not give your child a free pass to abuse you. Violence tends to escalate so you need to make use of the court system and the police to stop it before it gets worse. You have the right to peace and safety in your own home and tenant laws do not grant a tenant the right to assault or threaten you. 

    Also, you can contact the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland:


    They were very helpful to me when I had to file a RO against an ex.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Getting an over-18 child to move out

Aug 2006

How do you force an over-18 child to move out? We thought we had his voluntary agreement to move elsewhere (5hrs. away) with friends, but he seems to be backing out of it. There is a history of explosive anger here too. Please no responses concerning whether or not we should take this step--just advice from those who have successfully done so. Thanks Anonymous

we have also struggled with needing an over-18 kid to move out, despite the fact that he said this was a huge priority. he meant to move over a year ago -- when he was barely 18, recently graduated from HS, and had not really worked before. the financial realities of living on one's own, another year of maturing, and having a full-time job for several months have brought my son to a point where he is behaving decently, and finally really is almost ready to go out on his own. he is packing boxes, even!

we went through a whole lot earlier, though, which resulted in us sending him away for over a year when he was a minor. that did give him some tools to get by on his own, and us some time to recuperate from the ''explosive anger.'' if he was acting that way now, we would change the locks and call the police if he tried to break in. [that is close to where we ended up before -- i did call the police on my own out-of-control boy, before we got him away to treatment.] there is no way we are going through that stuff again.

so, i wouldn't question your decision at all. but, here are some considerations:

1] can he support himself?

2] does he need mental health help? is he willing to try that? is there insurance to cover it? if he's in school, there might be help there.

3] if you changed the locks, where would he go? what would he do? if he would bash windows, you'd have to call the police. that might get him to some social services, but not in an ideal way. it could grab his attention, though, if you have nothing else.

4] would he consider family therapy -- where he could air his problems, and everyone else could air theirs? it doesn't have to happen with everyone in the same room all the time. a therapist might be able to negotiate boundaries and how to handle issues.

there are some programs for young adults, to help them better cope. an educational therapist might help with locating them. you can't force an adult child into these programs, but it might be a good alternative if he agrees. they are expensive, though.

depending on his issues and situation, there may be cheap or free resources. AA or NA is free. there may be free or cheap groups for other issues. job searches are easy with sites like craigslist.com, or monster.com. craigslist is great for finding housing. the more he can take control of the process of separating, the better off everyone will be.

take care. another mom