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Financial Advice?


I’m in quite a bind and would love some advice if you are willing to give it…

We were planning to pay my husband’s brother to housesit while we were gone in Italy. He’s responsible and trustworthy and I couldn’t think of a better person to trust with my dear pups. My sister-in-law asked if her sister could housesit because she really wanted a break from her parents.

That should have tipped me off.

Did I mention she’s 19?

Anyway, we arrived home yesterday and our house had a pretty nasty scent. I assumed it was because it was closed and locked tight and that ‘scent’ was simply stale air. We noticed our back window was broken out but I hoped she had a good story as to why it was broken.

The next morning, I woke up and really saw the state our house was in through clear, non-27 hour flight, eyes.

The curtains covering our back sliding glass door were soaked in urine. The urine stains were so bad, we had to throw the curtains away. It had long since dried but the flooring was curled from what had been the area the dogs had relieved themselves in.

Near the front door, the recliner stunk of urine. Obviously the dogs had used this area regularly as well – the floor is destroyed and warping upward.

Near the entertainment unit, the wood flooring is warped and permanently destroyed from standing dog urine.

I sat on the couch and cried… then smelled the couch…….

The dogs urinated so frequently on the couch it stained the back and the seat.

Frustrated and crying, I cleaned the warped floors the best I could and emptied the trash. I opened the door to our California room off the rear of the house and was almost knocked over from the smell. Dog pee and vomit covered the floor. I opened the trash and empty beer bottles and plastic cups nearly filled it. Despite our strict requirement to have no parties, she had one (she fessed up when we called her on it).

My husband and I spent five hours cleaning our house and it still reeks of dog urine. Our dogs haven’t peed in our house since we potty trained years ago but as of now, it looks like they spent two solid weeks locked indoors peeing. We have spent nearly $100 on cleansers that mask urine smells and have to spend another $55 replacing the curtains. We have to custom order the glass for the window (she said my 15 pound dogs broke a window 4 feet off the ground – I say yeah right, sounds more like a drinking game accident) and can’t get a quote less than $100. I haven’t even looked at how much it will cost to replace the flooring near the front door, the rear door, or near the tv because I KNOW I can’t afford it. I drenched the couches in cleanser but have had no luck in making them smell better.

After all this, my brother insists I still pay her.

My mother thinks I should pay her… then send a bill for several hundred dollars in damages.

I don’t want to pay her since she left the dogs left in the house and didn’t care for them but at the same time, I don’t want to start world war III with my brother’s in-laws.

What would you do?


  • Reply Brian |

    Since she is 19, I would bypass the brother completely. She’s an adult and as such should be held accountable. That means she needs to pony up for those damages. If brother insists you should pay her then pay her. Then up his share of the rent as compensation until the damage is repaired. Maybe if he feels the sting from his pocket book, he would change his mind.

  • Reply Dogfood Provider |

    How awful! No, honey, don’t pay her. I love the idea of inviting your brother and sister in law over to smell the couch and then discuss payment possibilities – what a joke. This kid needs a swift smack to the head. You’ll figure it out — there is lots of good advice up here. XOXO.

  • Reply Alice |

    Beks! That is a terrible thing… I can’t believe that he wouldn’t help clean up! If he is so concerned about the family relationship with his in-laws tell him to pay her and you pay for the damages!!! How awful for a brother to behave.

  • Reply writergirl |

    Wow. Just … wow.

    I had to write to say something. If this was a non-relative, what would you do? Consider that first. I would probably note the damages (pix are key) and itemize the costs to repair it, and send a copy with a letter explaining that the fee will be deducted from the cost of the damages. Then because I probably wouldn’t want to deal with small claims court, I’d send her all of this certified mail and offer not to pursue the matter in court if she agrees that payment should be waived in light of the circumstances.

    Because she’s a relative, I’d mail the photos and list to my brother first. I’d tell him the same thing, that seeing how she’s a relative (of sorts), you generously won’t pursue damages but considering that her fee is less than the cost of the repairs, no fee will be paid.

    if he flips his lid over it, it’s his problem. Your sister-in-law’s sister should be ashamed of herself. Your sister-in-law should be embarrassed on behalf of her sister, and your brother should be apologizing to YOU.

    There is some family dynamics here that I’m not understanding.

  • Reply writergirl |

    I just saw your latest response to the comments. Your brother has a LOT of nerve. If he wants to pay her, he can. Never mind sending him the photos since apparently he can see it for himself and still doesn’t have the decency to feel remorse. It’s true that relationships are worth more than money, and for that reason, she should be bending over backwards to make this right and she’s not. In her stead, your brother and sister-in-law should be trying to make amends with YOU! Something just isn’t right here. They (your brother’s in laws) must spend their lives making a lot of excuses for this girl if they think this situation is acceptable.

    I guess now your main issue is with your bro and sis-in-law. They can pay the girl if they want (crazy!) but they should also be paying for part of the damages.

  • Reply Dogfood Provider |

    Ohhhh it’s the bro and sis who live with you. Well, that does complicate things.

    His in-laws, though, are NOT your problem! Oh what a mess. I totally agree with writergirl.

  • Reply Wren |

    All I can say in response to your brother’s assertions is, if his relationship with his in-laws is that important, then he can pay his sister-in-law himself, and perhaps move in with his in-laws, since they appear to be more important to him than his own family. His relationship with his in-laws is not your worry. No more than my sister’s relationship with her in-laws is my responsibility. You would think, since he lives with you, that he would have helped you clean up, and then feel some remorse over his sister-in-law’s actions. Since he can’t, then he can be responsible for paying her. You have other things to take care of.

    If it were my home, and one of my brothers’ in-laws who had agreed to take care of things and follow the rules I set in exchange for an amount of money, and then when I came home and found that not only had the rules been broken but my home was in worse shape than when I left, I wouldn’t pay, my brother would either be helping me clean up or packing his things, and I would be sending the offending party a bill. I do expect my family to stand by me in situations like this, especially as you are not in the wrong here. But, whether they did or not I would stand my ground, because if the shoe were on the other foot, you would be expected to pay for your mistakes. Heck, out in the real world, you might also be sued for damages and reckless endangerment of the animals. Your brother might not appreciate that reality, but it is what it is.

  • Reply Ashley @ sunnysideshlee.com |

    I agree with everyone else. Although she’s part of your extended family and familial relationships are delicate…she didn’t do her job when housesitting. The agreement was to be paid for a service that she provided. Obviously, if your dogs were neglected like that, she wasn’t doing her job. Who knows if she was even there or fed your dogs at all while you were gone!! I agree with Wren, that if your brother wholly believes that your sister in law’s sister should be paid, then your brother should fork up the funds to pay her and to also pay for the damages from their referral. Bottom line: She didn’t do the job she said she would. She should be paid for a service that WAS not provided.

  • Reply Ashley @ sunnysideshlee.com |

    Beks… I just saw that the brother also lives with you and hasn’t offered to help with the damages! ABSOLUTELY NOT! He’s so concerned about the relationship with his in-laws but is completely disrespectful of his relationship to you! He and his wife should be absolutely ASHAMED!

  • Reply Andy |

    As far as your brother’s concern over the relationship with his in-laws he needs to understand that part of being an adult is dealing with difficult situations face to face. This is one of those situations. And don’t for a minute think your SIL is off the hook here either.

    It needs to be brought to the 19 year old’s attention that this was NOT appropriate behavior. And above anything else – what could have happened had 19 year old & Co. been caught consuming alcohol on your property????? Between the potential liability issues and possiblity of arrest for you and your husband I am not sure why your brother thinks this is a joke – BECAUSE IT”S NOT.

    I agree it is up to you and your DH to address this with her, but it is up to your brother and SIL to respect how you handle the situation. There is nothing shameful or terrible about addressing a problem – it is the RIGHT thing to do. When issues like this are left to fester is when things turn into WWIII.

    I am SO angry for you and sorry that your fabulous trip ended by coming home to this. Please enjoy the upcoming weekend and take a little time to celebrate your DH’s raise – it was well deserved.

  • Reply Melanie |

    I read this yesterday and have been thinking about it quite a bit. I agree completely with Wren (above), but what I also find troubling is that your brother’s feeling is that his relationship with his in-laws isn’t worth hassling over the money; the flip of that is that his relationship with you is. This shows such a lack of respect and empathy that it boggles my mind. Does he care nothing about you and the value of all your hard work?

    Now, it’s true that I am a long-term grudge holder (working on that in therapy for years now!), but I would find it very hard to forgive him, mostly for his blase attitude about the neglect of your pets and the destruction of your house. You may be much more forgiving than I am, but I would have to wonder how much damage has already been done to the relationship with your brother, maybe even permanently. I know that I would kick my brother out and get new roommates, as mentioned above. There are lots of good people in tough times who would be overjoyed to have a nice, safe place to live.

    And if you’re worried about suing the girl (which I highly, highly recommend as well), you might check out some court TV (it’s on Fox all day long, where I live), particularly The People’s Court and Judge Judy. There are tons of these types of cases that come up, and it’s always a shock to the “kid” that they are responsible for those thousands of dollars of damages (to a car, to a house, for hospital bills). Hey, maybe you could even go on one – you get a stipend for appearing, and the damages awarded to you come out of the defendants’ stipend!!

    Good luck negotiating not only the repairs to your home but also your relationship with your family.

  • Reply betawriter |

    I’m with the other commenters who have been long-time readers but haven’t commented until now. Definitely do not pay her! She had a party at your house, which broke the verbal contract and broke a window.

    I hope you take her to small claims court as well, but that probably won’t happen. Hopefully that girl will grow up quickly and become more responsible!

  • Reply Jean |

    What an awful thing to come home to after a vacation that you worked so hard to save for. And I don’t know which I would be more upset about – the damage to the house/furnishings, or the fact that my animals were not cared for properly.

    Definitely do not pay her.

    And I like the idea of raising your brother’s rent to help cover the expenses/damages if he doesn’t think that this is such a big deal.

    Always tricky when families are involved. Hope you’ll be able to find a solution that you’re happy with and that doesn’t destroy your relationships with your family.

  • Reply TK |

    I posted last night out of pure instinct…..then thought about this some more because the situation is so outrageous.

    I just read Melanie’s comment and that is the place I came to as well. Why is it ok for your brother to ask you to shell out LOTS of money to cover damages, pay this girl….all for the sake of his relationship with his inlaws.

    Why isn’t he approaching her and telling her that given he recommended her for the job, he expected that she not accept her fee and that she help pay for the damages as well as profusely apologize to you for her irresponsibility and the neglect/abuse of your beloved pets because his relationship with you is worth more to him than the $$ she would recieve from the job.

  • Reply Starr |

    Sorry, it’s your brother’s in-law problem now unless he’s willing to write the check himself. I agree that if his inlaws are so great, he can move in with them rather than stay with you and dictate your business.

  • Reply kyla |


    when is she ever going to learn how to be responsible and learn consequences if you accept this behavior as a job well done??

    Trust me ,I coach kids and I can tell the ones whose parents and adults around them do not hold them accountable for their actions…it is not a good thing for them in the long run!

    You should send her a bill instead of a check! She should have to come work off the damage done to your house for sure!

  • Reply Carol |

    Oh, I am so sorry to read this. What a horrible way to end your long awaited vacation. I also would not pay her a dime. I would invite her and her parents to come to your house for a meeting about this. As mentioned above, they will smell the damage and be able to see it first hand. I would calmly hand them a list of all the damage w/estimates attached; bill totaled. I would go over each damage line item by line item. Then, I would ask this young lady how she would like to repay you. What type of work can she now do for you to pay this off? Maybe a combination of her paying part of this bill and some service she can perform for you on a regular basis ( obviously not taking care of the dog!) She needs to be made responsible, not just get a slap on the wrist. This is some serious neglect and damage. Maybe a little time donated to an animal shelter included in her payback! So sorry about all this Beks.

  • Reply Angela |

    Just checking back to see what’s up with everything. I have to reiterate what so many are saying. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not feel like you should have to take this on your shoulders. The girl may “only” be 19, but 19 is old enough to be held accountable for your actions.

    This is not going to be a fun thing no matter how it comes out, but I agree with others who feel that this is one of those cases when you need a good meeting.

    And Good Heavens!!!! To wonder if it was OK to be angry? *I* was angry and I’m not the one dealing with it? And I was very upset for your animals in particular.

    Your feelings are OK! And valid! And you absolutely should feel good about taking a stand for yourself in this case. Obviously no one is parenting this girl, so you are being a kind and caring person by asking her to be accountable. Whether you ask her to pay or clean it up or fix it or whatever, she needs to do that. *IF* she makes good (through paying you or working it off or whatever you can agree too), THEN you might decide to pay her. AFTER SHE FIXES IT.

    If you need help with negotiating skills, let some of us know. There’s lots of good ways to say something that will help you.

    As for the brother. As you said, he is basically asking you to pay out thousands of dollars to protect HIS relationship. He needs to get involved in this scenario. If HE wants to pay to replace the floor, the window and the couches (and everything else) to prevent you from going to the girl/family, then he can do that. If he’s not willing to do that then he needs to step aside.

    Is there something valuable of his that you could help him understand (i.e. if she had taken, without permission, and wrecked your car what would you do? how would you feel?)

    ~Angela 🙂

  • Reply Mar |

    Did your brother see the damage she caused by not taking care of the dogs – did she even feed them regularly = and by partying in your house? In my opinion, she gets NOTHING and if ANYONE in the family wants to argue over that, they can pay her and they can pay you for enabling her irresponsibility, immaturity, self-centeredness, and extreme selfishness. She may grow up some day but not if people keep protecting her from her own actions. What a brat!

    By the way, did your neighbors notice the partying or anything? They could be able to bolster your position, not that you really need it.

  • Reply Mar |

    Two more things – my 15 year old read your post but none of the comments and said you would be insane to pay her! Maybe I’m doing something right in raising her…

    If your brother is worried about his relationship with his in-laws, he can pay her and THEN he can worry about his relationship with his blood relatives by paying you for all the damages. How shaky is his marriage if he thinks rewarding this behavior is necessary for him to maintain a relationship with her family?

  • Reply emmi |

    UGH! God, so awful. You don’t need another chorus member telling you not to pay her, but i can offer another piece of advice.

    Hire TWO petsitters who do not know each other. That’s worked well for us when one of them slacks off on visits.

  • Reply Suzanne |

    Nope. Not one dime. Don’t feel bad at all. When people show you who they are, believe them.

  • Reply beth |

    All I can say is WOW!! So sorry you had to return home to such a mess. Since the previous comments have hit on all the important points I won’t restate them. As a pet sitter and house sitter the actions (actually non-actions) of your SIL’s sister are totally unacceptable and a disgrace.

  • Reply Andi B. @ Modern Tightwad |

    It sounds like this is your brother’s wife’s sister? I’m not sure I get the dynamic completely, but not only would I not pay her, I would absolutely lay into the person who recommended her because the state your house was left in reflects on the referrer. I know there are people saying don’t start a family war, but when my pets are involved, everything flies out the window.

    I would only pay her if she came over and repaired your home to the level it was when she arrived, as is her responsibility. She was being paid to be a home caretaker, not a home ruiner. Maybe the 19 year old is having a hard time at home because she has no sense of the consequence of her actions. My family has a saying…”Who lit the fuse on Mrs. Murphy’s tampax?” My fuse would be on fire right now!

  • Reply Wanda |

    Couldn’t wait to read what the responses were from others. Dying to hear how this “works” out.
    Do NOT Pay. Don’t deduct the costs from what she would have been paid. She owes you. I don’t care if this is a relative.
    I liked the advice about insurance, as well as the suggestion about her working around your house, supervised of course.
    You will never get one cent and there will be family strife but not by anything you have done.

  • Reply hishersmoney |

    You DO NOT pay her and you make her PAY for the damages. There are consequences in real life for doing things like this and it’s obviously time that she learned them.

    I wouldn’t even consider budging on this at all.

  • Reply Chris |

    Sticky situation. If I were you, I’d invite my brother, his wife and the 19 yo house destroyer over for a visit. Walk through the house and the damage you found. Talk through it. What is the right thing to do? You have an opportunity to teach this young lady a life lesson about personal responsibility. I say seize it!

  • Reply margot |

    I’m so confused — why on earth would you pay someone for a job she did NOT DO??? And she essentially abused your dogs, too. You should not pay her. Before you clean anything else, you should have her and her family come over to give them a detailed tour of all the damage. You should send her a bill and document all the damage. And then if she doesn’t pay, you should sue her in small claims court. In the long-term, you’re doing this woman and her family a favor. She and her family obviously have no boundaries, and she clearly needs to learn some basic life/human skills.

    Also, most of your blog posts over the last few weeks have been about bad financial events (except for the raise) and having unexpected finances pop up. I think this is the universe sending you a message: DON’T go traipsing all over Europe on an overseas vacation while you’re deeply in debt and without major savings. You don’t deserve it, and it’s irresponsible. Stick to staying at home or your cheap camping vacations. I’m betting that will bring you better karma and worldly rewards.

  • Reply Kari |

    I think one of the previous posts mentioned this-the neglect your dogs suffered is is animal abuse, plain and simple. Think of the consequences if she had been caring for human children, not dogs. She would probably be in jail right now.

    I am wondering if there are some deeper issues with this girl. Her actions are not those of a person who is mentally stable and responsible.

    At the end of the day Beks, you will have to make the decision on how to move forward. Even if you choose not to make the girl (or her family) pay for what she did, at the very least I would want to ask her, point blank in front of her family, WHY she did what she did.

    Oh and Margot – I checked Beks’ original post, and she is asking us for advice on how to handle the specific situation upon her return from her trip. Not a judgement on if she deserves to go on a trip, nor her financial responsibility. After what she went through, do you HONESTLY think she needs this kind of judgement? What you say about karma is certainly true…your cruelty will come back to you.

  • Reply rosie |

    I would like to add my “no you should not be paying this woman” to the ever increasing list of commenters.

    Forgetting for a second the ‘house/doggie sitter. I think you need to examine your relationship with your brother and sister in law. While I am not entirely sure of the housing arrangement you have, I believe that you mentioned in the comments that your brother and sil (the one who made the initial recommendation) live with you and your husband, I am not entirely sure of the ‘why’? Whatever the reason perhaps it is time to sit down and look at the arrangement to determine if it is mutually beneficial. Unless I have missed something there has been no mention of your sil apologizing for her recommendation, your brother has said that while he agrees there is damage, you should still suck it up and pay house/doggie sitter. I will suggest that neither are behaving in a manner that is respectful of you, your husband, your property, your dogs or even the relationship you have with them (the brother and sil). While I agree that sharing housing is a great way to save money, I am not sure any financial savings is worth living with people that appear to have no respect for you, your property or your dogs. Further they also seem to have no issues with allowing others to harm you (psychologically at least), your property and your dogs.

    As to the housesitter, I do hope that you have documented the damage. Not only should she not be paid, but she should have to bear the full cost of repairing the damage, and yes that includes the flooring, the window…ALL of it. If the damage was the result of an accident (say the hot water tank blew, there was a fire, etc) then I would not hold her responsible. The fact that she broke the rules of her employment (she admitted to having a party) and completely neglected her duties (as evidenced by all of the destruction) means that she is responsible for the damage and needs to be held accountable. Although I would hold her accountable (present her with a bill and make sure that everyone knows how irresponsible she is as you definately do not want her teling other unsuspecting people that she has experince house/doggie sitting), it seems that your sil’s family does not hold her accountable as an adult, as such I would talk with her parents and let them know not only that her behaviour is beyond belief, but as a consequence of her actions a number of things need to be repaired and replaced and as such you not willing to pay her.

    I appreciate that doing this would be difficult as a number of people will likely be very upset with you (I belive that they are angry at the housesitter and themselves), but in the end all you are doing is insisting upon respect, plain and simple, nothing more.

  • Reply Lisa |

    Ditto to Chris on 10/31! Have her look you both in the eyes and explain if she earned and deserves her pay. Then ask her what she will do to correct her mistake.
    Any family member who defends her or thinks it should be “swept under the rug,” is only enabling her selfish behavior. She isn’t a baby anymore, just appears to act like one. She’s old enough to enlist and she’s old enough to be held accountable. She needs to “woman up.”

    As for taking her to court, I don’t think it would be wise for the long term. Ever thought about having a family gathering with her parents in your home? Have them sit on the couch and see what their daughter is responsible for and state firmly but calmly something like, “Your decisions caused a lot of physical damage to a home I’ve worked very hard for. By holding a party here, you put us at risk for being liable for anyone who could have gotten hurt or caught for underage drinking. You neglected my dogs and let them live in their own waste. Most of all, you’ve lost my trust and respect which hurts and angers me the most because you’re family. You are an adult and solely responsible for this. Your age has nothing to do with your poor decisions. There are 12 year-olds who would have been more responsible than you. You knew enough to try to lie to us about the party. You knew that was wrong before, during, and after it happened. What actions are you taking to correct this?”

    While some may see this as, “Kids will be kids,” it really should be addressed. Don’t keep it to yourself, talk it out. It will be healthier for the family to be frank and upfront on how you feel. If you keep quiet, the anger will show elsewhere and probably in a non-productive way (like a Thanksgiving dinner 10 years from now where she will end up with a black eye and a gravy boat on top of her head and have no idea why).

    Good luck girl! Stay strong and look forward!

  • Reply Jen |


    There are 12 year-olds more responsible than this! And it’s animal cruelty!

    I would itemize everything and show them the bill. And I would say that her poor service, animal cruelty, and utter lack of responsibility is why she is not getting paid.

    As for whether to pursue getting her to pay the cost of repairs, I would ask, but not expect anything. For the sake of family peace I wouldn’t take her to court, however. But I certainly wouldn’t listen to the SIL for any more recommendations!!

    Beks, I am so very sorry for what happened to your home and your pets. It’s really, really awful and I can’t imagine how awful it must feel to find your home trashed 🙁

  • Reply v |

    Your brother and his wife live with you, so they’re full aware of the damage. I think you should sit down and have a chat with them and ask them to pitch in to resolve this problem, after all they are asking you to overlook a lot of damage in the name of family, I think they should basically help out, with the same justification.


  • Reply N |

    Oh, how awful. I’m so sorry!!

    You absolutely should not pay her. It sounds like she needs to grow up. She’s obviously been coddled and protected her whole life, and now she needs a harsh dose of reality. Don’t contribute to the babying of this adult by allowing her to get away with it. She learns no lesson and will just do it to someone else’s home and someone else’s pets.

    Not only would I not pay her, I would hold her responsible for the destruction, even if that meant small claims court. She’s an adult, and she needs to be held accountable.

    That’s the problem with young adults these days. No one shows them consequences for their actions, so they don’t have respect for other people or their property. I’m sure she’s expecting not only to get away with it, but to be rewarded for it, by you paying her.

So, what do you think ?