Category Archives: Finances & Giving

Penny Pinching

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I was very good friends with a couple who moved to Hawaii twenty
years ago. We kept up a long-distance friendship for a long time, and I
even went there to visit back in the 90s. But for years it has waned to
the point of non-existence. If you’d asked me, I’d still say I liked them,
but I don’t think I’ve had two phone calls in the last five years.

 

Yesterday I heard from the wife, saying the husband had died of
cancer, after a year-long battle. It was a warm email, though in
retrospect it feels like she may have sent it as personal email to a
great many people, just changing the salutation. When I went to the
memory site (with photos and stories and places to post the same,
each page had a very large “Contribute” button at the bottom, to help
defray medical expenses. I’m sure the medical bills were large, but I’m
on a tight budget too. Am I obligated to contribute?

Penny Pinching

 
Dear Pinching:

If you are truly down to counting pennies you are 100% off the hook,
assuming the idea that you have not sent even $25 doesn’t keep you
up at night. If you do make charitable contributions to non-profits, you
could divert a little to send your former friends. But if you are truly so
bust that you cannot afford to contribute, then send a nice personal
note, and an apology for being unable to help out at this time.
Friendships ebb and grow over time. It’s not uncommon for people
who have seemed incredibly important to one’s heart to fade with time
and distance. There’s no shame in having drifted apart. Do what feels
right, and send a heartfelt note. If you have memories or pics to post,
do it. And say kaddish for your friend.

Family Values

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My son is graduating in three weeks. We’re a middle class family that
lives sustainably and frugally. He is graduating with only $10,000 in
debt, has a choice of job offers, a girlfriend, and has generally been a
dream kid (teen-aged years notwithstanding). He lacks for nothing.
We would like to have a graduation party and invite family, friends of
family, and friends of his. Our relatives are poor but very proud. We
want to invite them but don’t want them to feel obligated to give gifts
even though we gifted their three kids handsomely when they
graduated. Is there a way to invite them without shaming? We don’t
mind, btw, accepting gifts from richer friends, but no one should feel
obligated.

Family Values

 
Dear Family Values:

It’s hard to have a party where some people give gifts and others do
not without the non-givers feeling guilty or shamed in some way. You
could include in the invite a note that says No gifts please, or Cards of
good-will only. At a minimum that will deter boxes and overt or
ostentatious displays of congratulations. Most millenials prefer cash
anyway, so those that wish to include gift cards of cash or credit with
their cards can do so, and the relatives will be none the wiser. If they
choose to do that also, have your son use some of the money to buy
them gifts in the future.

 
Be proud of your son and his accomplishments. Toast him lavishly and
underscore the importance of the values with which you raised him.
Lucky him. Lucky you.

Money Momma

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m trying to help my son decide about grad school. He’s a good kid,
perhaps a little sheltered, who got great grades in honors college, then
took a gap year, and is applying for physical therapy school. It is both
very competitive and very expensive. He applied to five places and
through a clerical mishap missed a deadline for one. His two preferred
school are out west but he just got accepted to a very prestigious
program in the metro northeast, the only that actually gives
scholarships. This decision could be the difference between starting a
profession with as much as $150k in debt. How can I convince him
how important it is to not start life in the hole just because he likes to
camp and ski?

Money Momma

 
Dear Money Momma:

In the history of humans there’s never been a family in which parents
didn’t know better than kids what they should do. That is if you ask
the parents. These same folks probably ignored all the well-intentioned
advice of their own elders and bounced back (or didn’t). The moral of
the story: bring right doesn’t always convince anyone how to act.
Help your son keep all his options in play. If there’s a (relatively
minimal) fee to hold his place in the place that said Yes, until he hears
from all the schools, go ahead and pay it. Make sure he understands
that eventually he is going to have to decide but that he’s now in the
fortunate position of being able to use the early acceptance to
leverage the places he haven’t heard from yet. My advice, calling or
emailing the other schools and saying: I got into [prestige school] and
I’m waiting to hear about scholarship money. Can you please tell me
when I am likely to hear from you about acceptance, and whether or
not you do fund any beginning student.

 
Then sit down with him and do the math. Be sure to factor in all the
relevant variables, like how soon he might be paying in-state tuition at
the far-off schools, and the likely revenue stream for his first five-ten
years of employment, based on average salaries. Young folks don’t
usually understand the burden of debt. But seeing the numbers written
down in a spreadsheet, and seeing his future disposable income at
low-to- zero in some options and much higher in others might have an
impact. In the long run, he has to be happy, and he gets the last vote.

Got My Own Priorities

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m in a pickle. I made a commitment to take care of my sister’s
apartment while she was camping. But my husband and I just won a
fabulous weekend away at an exclusive gourmet food festival. It
includes everything from fancy dinners to a truffle hunt and visits to
local gourmet food processors. But her tenant just called to say there’s
water coming down from above and it is a plumbing emergency. The
only plumber I trust (learned the expensive painful hard way during
the last emergency, aaargggh) has the flu. My sister runs at the edge
of deficit financing (yes I know she shouldn’t be in the rental business
but she says it’s her “only shot at retirement and better than the stock
market!!”). She thinks I’m going to solve this cheap, but I think she
has to do things right, once and for all. I don’t want to ruin my fun and
I can’t afford to pay for her rental issues. What’s fair?

Got My Own Priorities
Dear Got My Own:

Emergencies happen, and owning real estate, rental or not, is only a
guarantee that you will end up supporting plumbers, electricians,
carpenters, roofers, etc. If Murphy’s Law still rules, and experience
suggests that it does, things will almost always go wrong in the worst
possible way, at the most inconvenient time, and will cost you more
than you prefer to spend, as well as involve discomfort and possibly
dislocation. In the short run, you are your sister’s keeper, and by
extension, the keeper of her property. But in the long run, the wallet
that will be dinged is hers.
Find the plumber who can stop the damage ASAP. Get a written
estimate/quote and try to stay below that, though the reality is that
until the water stops flowing you won’t really know what damage it has
caused. Text your sister ASAP and explain, asking her to check in as
soon as she gets the message. Being incommunicado simply means
she trusts your judgment. If she complains about cost or process, she
can find an alternate backup next time. Go on your weekend and have
fun, once you’ve turned it over to the plumber. And keep your cell
phone on for either or both to check in.

Second Life

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a relationship question that is long-run not short. I’ve been with
my new girlfriend and (I hope) eventual wife for two years. She
started dating me even though I wasn’t fully divorced. And slowly but
surely it has become a strong loving relationship. The problem is that
her 14-year old daughter still refuses to accept me. The ex is a pot-
smoking, guitar-playing, rock-star wanna be who doesn’t get that at
age 45 his chance for fame and glory is long past. But his daughter
adores him. I’m older than any of them and within three years of
retirement from a very high stress job I can’t wait to leave. The
daughter is smart but not get a scholarship brilliant. There has been
no discussion of adoption given her age. And I am happy to help out
with college costs in addition to my usual monthly household
contribution. But I am not eager to prolong my work life misery for a
young woman who treats me with scorn. I know it sounds early but
how can I explain my needs without further alienating her?

Second Life

 
Dear Second Life:

Relationships grow and change over time. It’s the rare parent, even a
bio parent, who has a great relationship with a teenager. And with my
advice I’m am in no way advocating that ant offer of support you make
be seen as a bribe to get her to appreciate you more or treat you
better. That said, be as honest and transparent as you can with both
mother and daughter.

 
Explain that your current level of financial support for the household
will go on even after you retire in three years. Say that you are willing
to contribute towards college costs in addition, but not to work longer
to contribute more. Say that when the daughter does apply to schools
she can count on a firm commitment from you of $x thousand per year
for a specified number of years. Explain that the only criteria are on
going civility and maintaining a specified grade level. Be clear that the
support will end if she drops out, does poorly, or treats her mother or
you with disrespect. Nothing may change or time and familiarity may
improve things. But you can proceed with a clear conscience.

Shocked

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m the person in my circle that people call to brainstorm their
problems with. Sometimes it’s a maybe-having- affair spouse, a
gambling-addiction; help with a resume or job search. You name it and
I’m the local helper/fixer.

 

A friend whose life has finally settled down after three tumultuous
years that included job changes for her and her hubby, an
out-of- wedlock baby by her eldest son, a major accident by her
youngest, and a sudden death-by- heart-attack of her father-in-
law, just surprised me with her New Life Plan, announced with bold,
large-font, capital PLAN. She wants to sell their house, relocate to a
big city two hours away, buy a five-bedroom home and turn it into an
Air B&B, and retire to become an innkeeper. If she took meds I’d say
she was off them, but she’s generally pretty rational. This feels like an
explosion of change without a clean strategy to make her Plan a
reality. To top it all off she asked if I would be interested in investing
in her new hostel with some of my liquid capital, and offered an
interest rate far in excess of what I could possibly get from a bank.
This is a friend that I love and value. But (A) I think she’s hallucinating
riches, and (B) no way would I lend money to such a sketchy venture!
How can I say those last two in much less confrontational ways? I do
not want to lose this friendship. Mostly I’d like to talk to the husband
but he rarely gets the last vote in their marriage.

Shocked

 
Dear Shocked:

I agree that your tone and word choice will matter. Also that what
seems like a PLAN to your friend seems like an out-of- the-blue,
disruptive, irrational response to trauma to you. But her life is her life,
not yours. The best way to be, and to stay, a friend, is to remain very
calm, supportive, rational, and non-confrontational. Often I suggest
writing an email to line out important thoughts you want to be sure
are not lost or misinterpreted. In this case, I suggest a series of coffee
klatches.

 

Tell your friend you want to meet her and ask her to bring a notepad
and pen. Then say very clearly, I understand you want to start over,
and that the difficulties of the last few years have left you shell-
shocked. Personally, I think your Plan is a little pie-in- the-sky without
enough information, at least for now. So No, Thanks to investing. But
I’m interested enough to want to hold your hand while you pencil it
out, do some solid research and a market analysis with financial
projections, and generally be a supportive bystander. If your numbers
persuade me, I’ll jump in and write a check. If not, I hope you’ll
reconsider the plan. Ether way, I love you. So let’s get to work. That
makes it hard for her not to do the serious homework that seems
lacking in a fundamental and expensive life change. If her market
analysis surprises you, both of you will feel better. If the numbers are
unsettling, maybe she’ll see the light.

Single Again

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What’s an appropriate birthday gift for someone you have been dating
for two months? I like this woman and can imagine continuing the date
her. But I’m not in love or even committed to dating only her. Her
birthday is two weeks away. She just handed me a flyer for a special
foodie event: a seven-course dinner with wine pairings, at $80 a
person! I was planning on getting her a gift and taking her out for
dinner, but not for $200. What’s a polite way to decline but not make
her think I don’t like her? I should add that my ex always said I was
cheap, but I think I am pragmatic about money, not a spendthrift.

Single Again

 
Dear Single Again:

I think you politely say, Gee that looks like a wonderful thing to do
with one of your foodie friends. I had other plans in mind. Then you
follow through with a gift and a nice meal. And you continue to date
her, and whomever else you want. If this is a way to ascertain what
values you share (or don’t) around money, hooray for a quick and
cheap way to find out.

Frustrated

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I know you get these sorts of questions annually, but every year I am
irritated, offended, and frustrated when I shop at the local markets
and malls. Right after Thanksgiving there appear like magic flocks of
bell-ringers who sit outside store entrances like guard dogs. They’re
the ones who collect for various charities– almost always Christian
charities—from morning till night. Often they are disabled, or mange to
look very uncomfortable sitting in the cold 24/7 (I would be). They act
shaming and smugly superior when they wish you “Merry Christmas!!”
every time you pass by them without giving a donation. One woman
seems determined to get my goat. Every time I go in she says Merry
Christmas and every time I go in I say “Happy Holidays,” “Happy
Hanukah,” “Holy Kwanzaa,” and so on to let her know that not
everyone in the world is Christian. Is there something that I else I can
do to make the point that the whole world does not revolve around
December 25, and that America is a diverse cultural landscape?

Frustrated

 
Dear Frustrated:

This is a great chance to combine cultural education with creative
messaging. Also to enhance your computer skills. Go into your favorite
word processing, spreadsheet, or make-a- drawing program. Print up
pages of colorful and creative holiday messages. Avoid red and green,
angels and holly boughs, or other traditional Christmas imagery. Print
up messages like Thank you for respecting cultural diversity., Happy
Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, Celebrate Solstice, etc. etc. Make the
messages things that when opened will educate the person who sees
them. Yes the message will probably annoy and irritate them, but
that’s partially our goal, correct? Put each in a gift little gift envelope,
the kind that you might use to tip the newspaper delivery person, and
hand write Happy Holidays on the outside. Keep them in your purse
and when you see the bell-ringer and she says Merry Christmas give
her your biggest brought-you- a-gift smile and stuff one of the
envelopes in her donation can. She will soon get the message, though
I doubt she will also come to some unflattering conclusions about you.
We live in an increasingly polarized world. Unless we can find a way to
remember how to be kind to one another, and to honor the message
that every one of the great religions brings to us– Love your neighbor
as yourself. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. etc-
-we are headed down the wrong track with great velocity. I don’t have
answers, and I share your frustration. But only kindness can defeat
hatred.

Generous, But Running Out of Cash

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For the last six weeks I’ve been laid up after surgery. I had a variety
of helpers early in the process, whom I paid $10-20/hr until I figured
out whose style worked with my cleaning standards and healthcare
needs. I eventually settled on a woman who rents a room from one of
my friends down the block. She’s intelligent, helpful, and very useful.
I’ve paid her $5-10 more per hour than anyone else for the last
month. While it’s cost a lot of money, it’s really felt worth it, though
thankfully I am using her less each week. Now that the holidays are
coming, I’m trying to figure out how I can say a special “Thank you” in
ways that are not monetary. Do you have any good ideas?

Generous, But Running Out of Cash

 
Dear Generous:

I’m among the people in life that doesn’t like gift cards. While
recipients may like the discretion of choosing their own gift, I think
just giving a coupon is not nearly as personal as a gift that feels
chosen. So I’d make up a gift box for your help that covers the gamut
of a day. Perhaps a special soap, something attractive to wear, a pair
of earrings, and something wonderful to eat, whether that’s fancy
chocolate or baked goods. Most importantly, I would include a very
personal handwritten card that says, I appreciate everything you have
done in ways beyond what money can express. My healing would not
have been as strong or fast if you were not in my life. Thank you,
thank you, thank you. Best wishes for the new year.

Not Rich Either

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

A friend helped me out when my car broke down. She ran me to a
doctor’s appointment I could not miss, on her way to her job. In her
rush to help unload me and my gear, she locked her keys in her car.
Fortunately AAA came within a half hour, but she got docked pay. I
said thanks for the help and gave her $10 to cover gas and her time
before we said goodbye. Should I compensate her for lost work?

Not Rich Either

 
Dear Not Rich:

Anyone who is working an hourly job for which they can be docked pay
deserves your generosity, even if you feel tight. A missed doctor’s
appointment would inevitably have cost you far more than an hour’s
pay for her. I’d offer her cash, and of she refuses, send her a gift card
to the local market. She was kind. You should be too.

Feel Taken Advantage Of

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My 101-year- old aunt passed away in February. I was power of attorney and
executor of her estate. I’d helped her after being contacted by social services
when she was in her late 80s, because neither her brother nor her sister wanted
anything to do with her. I was warned to stay away by the family, who said she
was not a nice person. Very insulting, etc. She was my father’s sister, and even
he fought with her constantly. During that time I packed up her apartment and
moved her to a very beautiful, and very expensive, assisted living. She did not
get along with anyone. During this time I drove her to all her doctor, dentist,
gynecologist, colonoscopy appointments. I even had to change her diapers when
we went to some doctors. I moved her again. Same thing, and finally moved her
to a very good nursing home. Eventually she ran out of money. I was told to pay
for a prepaid funeral, as that was required for her to be on Medicaid. When she
died I was out of town. My cousin, who is ultra, ultra orthodox happened to be in
town. She called to tell me that she was taking care of everything. I asked that
she wait, but of course she went right ahead for a quick burial without consulting
me on costs that were not included. Now she wants me to pay almost $300
towards the funeral home and an additional $200 for the stone. I volunteered to
give her $100 and wanted to find out about a less costly stone. Do you think I am
obligated to pay any of these costs? Also when her family comes to town, they
eat like it is going out of style (at the restaurant) and NEVER offer to pay
anything.

Feel Taken Advantage Of

 
Dear Taken Advantage Of:

Your feelings are legit. They are also overdue. Your cousin’s family has
become so used to taking advantage of your generosity and good
nature that they’ve managed to forget your fifteen years of helping
out. My guess is that you have not done a good job of communicating
all that you have done during the past while, and that they got very
lazy and hazy about how things were being taken care of. But that’s in
the past.

 
The fact that your cousin made the arrangements without your
knowledge or consent implies she’s on the hook for all of it. Your offer
of $100 will not placate her, but I would send the check anyhow. If she
complains to the family and you hear about it, just remark quietly, I
wish I’d heard from them as much during all the years I was doing all
the care-taking and shlepping. That’ll end the complaints, and if it
doesn’t, you can still feel good about how you took care of your aunt.

Sort of Like an Aunt

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My best friend’s son is graduating from college this year. He’s going on
to a professional program in a year, but first taking time to travel and
detox from 21 years of school. He and his girlfriend are going to travel
in South and Central America, taking not much more than backpacks
and smart phones. It reminds me of my youth. I like this kid and wish
him well. I’ve also helped him a lot in the past five years, primarily
with editing his college essays and scholarship applications. As a result
he’s been able to accrue almost no school debt. I expect to help him
again this summer, to get his apps ready for the next set of
submissions. The question: What should I give him as a graduation
gift? I generally hate giving money, but he really lacks for nothing. If I
give cash, how much?

Sort of Like an Aunt

 
Dear Sort of Like an Aunt:

If this kid is like family, you should give him something you won’t be
embarrassed about. Even though you say you’re used to helping him,
you’d never have said No if he had come asking. So while your time
and effort are certainly worth something, they are also a gift you have
already given. It would be slightly churlish to keep rubbing his face in
your help, and to use your editing as some kind of quid pro quo for a
gift.

 
That said, you don’t have to give more than you are comfortable. My
guess is that he and his girl will be staying in hostels and eating on the
cheap. Think about a card, accompanied by a check of say $25-50,
that says: Have a wonderful time on your great adventure. The
attached is to be used exclusively for a lovely meal and a place with
your own bath and copious hot water. I expect to hear great stories
when you return!

No Hot Water

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Can you help me with a contractor problem, please? I work with a
handyman type guy who is a MacGyver sort. There is literally nothing
he has not worked on at my house, from the irrigation system to
painting, deck and stonework to bathroom electrical. A long time I ago
I stopped counting his hours and he stopped charging me by the hour.
When I ask what I owe him, I wrote a check for what he says. I have
never been disappointed or felt taken advantage of, and he has come
to my rescue in a couple situations when I escaped big damage
because of his timely arrival. But he installed my new dishwasher in a
manner that protrudes from under the countertop, and does not allow
the bottom bin to slide out easily. The original install was fraught with
problems, because the owner-builder I bought the place from had
jerry-rigged the plumbing. When I asked him to fix it, there was,
again, one complication after another. Am I obligated to pay twice for
the same job? I like him, and want to continue to use him, but I think
his personal problems have intruded on his work.

No Hot Water

 
Dear No Hot Water:

Not having hot water and in the proverbial hot water are both
situations we try to avoid. You’re describing what sounds like an
ongoing relationship with the kind of guy most of us long to find:
someone skilled, reliable, and versatile who is a good problem solver
and unafraid to correct the mistakes of others. I’d be generous, not
scrupulous in your dealings with him. Continue to pay him what he
asks, and express your appreciating by feeding him when he’s around,
giving him little gifts of baked goods, and a bottle of something for his
birthday.

 
I promise that the day he retires you will feel as badly as if you’ve
gotten divorced or had to put down a pet. If you’ve established trust,
rely on it rather than breaking it. If the same feelings come up again,
ask how he’s doing and if everything is okay. Then decide if you need
to act differently. But for now, be kind and continue to write checks.

Dunned

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ll say it up front: I am old; I am not used to anything to do with
dating; I am a strong consumer advocate; I don’t like feeling foolish.
All these have come together in a personal and financial issue. I was
widowed five years ago. I spent a long time grieving the long true love
of my life. Friends kept trying to fix me up with eligible gentlemen of
my age (sixties) but it led to awkward after-effects in a small circle of
aging Jewish professionals. I decided to try online dating. I signed up
with a very well-known service, after carefully looking for the best
deal. It cost about half of what they advertise, and the person with
whom I signed up assured me that if I initiated at least five outreach
emails/contacts each month and was still single after six months, the
second six months would be free. That’s essentially 75% off so I
signed up, and yes gave my credit card. You can write the story. After
seven months (of no romance) I saw a charge on my credit card for a
full price six-month membership. I have made four phone calls
explaining everything above, and in each and all of them the only
answer I have received is “Mxxxx.com is not a refund company.” I am
angry and frustrated. I can afford the charge but do not want to.

Dunned

 
Dear Dunned:

I’m going to generalize my answer, since it applies to most similar
circumstances. You don’t say if you got the name of the original
salesperson, and recorded the date of the conversation. In future, any
time you get what sounds like a deal that’s too good to be true, start
an info file on the details. The second thing you should do is to make a
mark on your calendar a full week before the expiration date of such a
deal. That’s to call back the same 800 number and talk to customer
service. When you are faced with the barrage of vmail options, none of
which addresses your circumstances, keep saying Agent, Customer
Service, or waiting till the last option which may finally include a
sentence like, If you need to talk to a company representative. Explain
what you were promised and get a guarantee of what will follow. Get
the person’s name and id number, regardless of what you are told.
Then monitor your credit card.

 
Assuming, as has happened to me in similar circumstances, you are
charged for future services, immediately call back and complain, citing
all your previous contacts, including name and id. Get that ino about
any agent you speak with. If you are still told XYZ.com is not a refund
company, an infuriating declaration, immediately dial your credit card
company. Explain the outline of the problem, and say you can
document all the contacts you have had. According to at least one
major credit card rep That’s what companies say when they don’t want
to give a refund. They can say that all they like. But we will reverse
the charge and block that merchant from future contact with your
credit. That option will eliminate the specific site as a future dating
option. But there are many such places to go fishing. And your willing
friends would rather bathe in the yenta glory of a good fix-up, so don’t
count them all out.

Renting to Own

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Years ago I bought a house as an investment with a good friend. I’ve
lived there for the past fifteen years, and we have used the rental
income from the downstairs unit to reduce our principal payment. Now
he wants out and a different friend has offered to buy his portion, but
only if I agree to a big set of deferred maintenance. It will cost me
about $10K out of pocket (actually out of retirement savings) but the
alternative is having to sell my home and start over. I have agreed to
kick in the money if we can agree on the list of repairs, some of which
I know need to be done but some of which seem unnecessary and
ambitious. Some are cosmetic, some are structural, and some would
make it more modern for future resale. But I am only 65 and would
prefer to live here till the ends of my days. I’m appreciative, and I
don’t mind putting up with tenants below me, even noisy ones, but I
do want security. Ideas on how to talk to her?

Renting to Own

 
Dear Renting:

If your name is on the deed you are renting from yourself and the
bank, not from a landlord. But co-investing, co-owning, co-occupying,
and co-planning are not always the same thing. You don’t say if you
had a set of understanding and agreements with the original friend
when you bought the place. But now is the perfect time to lay them
out with the friend who wants to buy in. Note than any relationship
that does not have financial equity built into it is already unbalanced.
The point of the agreements is to have a level playing field. And just
like any new work or relationship situation, the earlier you can agree
on the rules the better. If she wants to recoup her money sooner than
you want to move, finding out sooner is critical.

 
Sit down with the new investor and make lists. Cash flow projections,
lists of needed repairs with estimates (even machete level ideas, times
$1.5 because construction always costs more), and agreements on
style. The latter is important because, for example, a new granite
countertop will cost you a whole lot more than wood or linoleum. Ditto
paint versus wallpaper or tile. Try to ascertain how much “artistic
control” your new co-investor will want. If you have a budget, then tell
her what it is and make it clear where your money is coming from and
that it is limited. Build into your agreement a condition that sale
requires the consent of both parties, as do repairs and improvements
that cost more than $X thousand. Then rank the needed repairs and
practice negotiating. It may take you a while to find agreement, but
the investment in communication is worth it.