‘Our son’s girlfriend has moved in with us during lockdown. Can we ask her for rent?’

Our 23-year-old son still lives at home. In mid-March he asked if his girlfriend could move in with us too, as they wanted to be together if the country went into lockdown.

We have always got along well with her and didn’t expect the lockdown period to last more than a few weeks so said yes. However we are becoming less and less happy with the arrangement. 

Both have been put on furlough as the restaurant and theatre where they work had to close. Now they sit around all day, watching what they want on television, drinking our wine and eating us out of house and home. The cost of our weekly Ocado shop has gone from £150 to almost £200.

We are also having to spend more on heating and water and have found the internet has slowed down with everyone at home using it. They are not very good at helping out with the cooking or cleaning either. 

At first we said she would not have to pay rent, but can we now change our mind and ask her to contribute? 

She is still receiving 80pc of her salary while on furlough and is no longer having to pay her landlord as she has arranged to take a break from rental payments while not working. We’re not struggling for money, we just feel it’s not our duty to be paying for her to live for free. 

AF, Surrey

You made a very generous decision in welcoming someone into your home. However, you did so in full knowledge that the lockdown could go on indefinitely. 

Some readers would say it is your own fault you have ended up in this situation, as it would have been foolish to expect such an extreme national emergency to be over in a matter of weeks. 

If you say you are not struggling, why do you need to demand money from a young person who likely has a pile of student debt already? Working in hospitality, she may not be very well paid and will be even less so now she has been furloughed.

She should be saving as much of her salary as possible at the moment as she will still have to pay back the cost of that rental holiday at some point – in most cases landlords are agreeing to delay payments, not cancel them entirely. She may also be worried about whether she will have a job waiting for her when this is over.  

However, others may be on your side and argue that if your son’s girlfriend wanted free bed and board she should have gone to live with her own family. After all, a month or two is not such a long time to be separated from a partner. 

An extra £50 a week on your food shop is not an inconsiderable amount. Over the course of an eight-week lockdown that would add up to £400, not taking into account the extra bills.

It must also make it much harder to be generous if they are not being helpful around the house. 

Perhaps there is a compromise to be made. You could ask your son and his girlfriend to pay for a few of the grocery shops. Asking just one to pay and not the other may seem unfair and cause friction. 

Alternatively, if you are both working from home and they are not you could ask them both to help out by doing the housework. That would save you a lot of time and teach them some important lessons about pulling their weight. 

Remember, if this is someone your son really cares about, it’s likely you’ll have to spend a great deal of time together in the future, so make sure not to burn bridges too soon.