Dear Annie: One of my young relatives came to me when she was thrown out of her house at the age of 23 by her parents for "no reason," she claimed. I agreed to cosign her lease so she could get an apartment, and I also agreed to pay her rent until she could find a good job. Two years later, she hadn't found a job, and I was still paying for her apartment. I informed her I expected her to start contributing a small amount for rent. She became angry and stopped returning my calls. Then she vanished. Her friends told me she was now living with some guy out of state. The manager of her apartment contacted me and said I still owed rent for the next 10 months, as I was the cosigner, unless I could find someone to take over the lease.
My question is: What should be my reaction to this level of dishonesty? Should I try to find her and take her to court or just forget the $18,000 dollars I've spent along with the $7,000 more I still owe? Is this cause for some kind of retribution? Disown her? Upon my death, she was to get my $200,000 house, and now I don't believe she deserves anything. Is it reasonable to expect a 26-year-old to be responsible?
Just as an addendum, my nephew did something similar years ago, and she knew all about it and how it had upset me. Did she figure I was a soft touch? I wrote my nephew out of my will. Doesn't she deserve the same fate? — Financially Abused Father Figure
Dear Financially Abused: In a word, yes. Yes, there's a good chance that she saw how her brother took advantage of you and decided that she could do the same. And yes, I think you should write her out of your will. There are many more deserving people than her.
As for recouping your expenses from the apartment, your course is less clear. As credit expert LaToya Irby wrote for The Balance: "Either the lender or a debt collection agency ... can file a lawsuit against you for any unpaid part of the debt, even if they don't sue the person you co-signed for." Your best option might be to look for someone who can sublet her apartment for the duration of the lease, if the lease permits subletting. If the lease does not permit subletting, perhaps you can work out an agreement with the landlord to do so, given the circumstances.
It's always worth consulting with an attorney and a financial adviser on matters this serious, so I encourage you to do so.
Dear Annie: I read your recent column regarding the couple that gives so much to family and friends, yet get little in return ("Feeling Used"). I thought your reply was spot on from a practical perspective.
Additionally, "Feeling Used" mentioned the theme of the pastor's homily being "as you give to others, so you will be rewarded." I think perhaps what they missed in the pastor's homily was "in giving to others, they are serving the Lord and will be rewarded by Him" (Colossians 3:23-24). In other words, their generosity will not necessarily be reciprocated by those to whom they give, although I think that's what they're looking for by way of at least a little appreciation, which is understandable.
I just thought that was worth mentioning. By the way, writing this was harder than I thought it would be. From here on out, I'll stick to my day job. — Mike
Dear Mike: Whatever job you have, I hope you continue to keep finding time to share your insightful thoughts with the world. Thanks for writing.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]