Dear Penny: Can I Dump My Deadbeat Boyfriend and Keep His House?

A man naps on the couch as his girlfriend stands upset in the hallway because of toys spread out all over the carpet from their children. This photo is meant to represent a lazy boyfriend.
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Dear Penny,

I’m not married but have been with my boyfriend for 16 years. We have two children and a home that was purchased seven years ago in his name. He is very irresponsible with his credit and spending. 

A year and a half ago, he purchased a food truck, which he hasn’t operated. He’s been paying storage fees to park the truck for a year. He later decided to open a food truck restaurant and lounge about six months ago. With that decision made, he quit his full-time job to pursue his dream of being his own boss. 

Shortly after he signed a lease and paid over $5,000 a month for an empty building, the city told him he can’t operate the food truck at that location without adding some features to the inside of the building (the lounge). He has been fixing and renovating the building, which still does not have a kitchen. He has not received approval from the city to start operating the restaurant. I don’t see him being successful with the restaurant due to the high cost of rent and overhead expenses that he cannot afford. 

My main problem is that he has not made any attempt to work while the lounge is closed for renovation. He sleeps all day and when I get home he expects me to cook, clean, baby him and complete my studies. 

All the housing expenses, including the mortgage and utilities, are covered by me, which is becoming stressful as I’m picking up per diem work, as well as trying to find time to study.

I don’t think I want to remain in the relationship. Is there any way that I can take over the mortgage on our home since it’s in his name? We tried to refinance the house about a year ago when the rates started dropping, but his credit score was in the low 500s so that did not work. 


Dear T.,

It sounds like you have three children: two kids plus a manchild. Not being in this relationship anymore sounds like a very good goal.

You don’t have any easy options for keeping the house unless your boyfriend would be willing to transfer the deed to you. That seems highly unlikely here, but on the off chance he agreed to it, you’d need to qualify with the lender based on your own credit and income.

But there’s a bright side: Your name isn’t on the mortgage, so your credit score won’t be affected if you stop paying.

You don’t say whether you have any savings. If you don’t, you may want to hold off on officially breaking up to give yourself time to save up for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit on a new place. To free up cash, tell your boyfriend you’re no longer making that mortgage payment.

What he can do is contact the lender about his options. If he bought a food truck a year and a half ago, it’s hard to imagine that the pandemic didn’t throw a wrench into his plans. If he experienced financial hardship directly or indirectly as a result of COVID-19 and his mortgage is federally backed — more than half of mortgages in the U.S. are — he can still request forbearance.

The deadline to apply if he has an FHA, VA or USDA loan is June 30. If his mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is no deadline for requesting forbearance. Even if his loan isn’t backed by the government, he can still ask his lender about his options. But he’s going to need to be the one to sort this out, not you.

The situation you’re in sounds enormously stressful. I’ll be honest: Navigating this breakup will probably only add to the short-term pressure. But focus on what you want your life to look like in a year or two. How much less stressful do you think life will be once you’ve closed this chapter?

I get that it’s frustrating to walk away from this home, especially if you’ve made a lot of the mortgage payments. But that money is gone, so don’t let it cloud your judgment going forward. It’s clear that you want out of this relationship. Consider the money you’ve spent a sacrifice you’re making in exchange for a fresh start.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].