Q: Our family owns and operates a small apartment building in Manhattan. My husband and I live in the ground-floor unit, and the apartment two flights up is vacant. Because my husband has a chronic disease, we are exploring options for home care. Could we provide that vacant apartment, which is market rate, to a home aide as an employment benefit? What would happen if the relationship doesn’t work out and we want to replace the aide with someone else? Would they still have rights to the apartment, or could we directly tie the housing to the job?
A: People certainly hire live-in home health aides to assist in care, and you can use an apartment you own for this purpose. But first you should make sure that the terms of the agreement are clearly spelled out.
Enter into an employment license agreement with whomever you hire, tying occupancy of the apartment to employment and making it part of the compensation package. In the agreement, specify that the license expires upon termination of the job by you or the employee.
With a market-rate apartment, “the risks are fairly minimal,” said Sherwin Belkin, a real estate lawyer and partner at the Manhattan law firm Belkin Burden Goldman. “I’ve had many clients that provide apartments to employees.”
But what happens if the working relationship sours? “Once in occupancy, there is always a risk that the home aide might refuse to leave if the employment ends,” Mr. Belkin said. If you properly document the agreement, including penalties for failing to vacate in a timely manner, you will be able to recover possession of the apartment — hopefully without drama, but possibly through the courts.
You can also limit your risks with a thorough vetting process. Interview candidates. Hire someone through an employment agency that screens candidates. Or, if you hire someone on your own, conduct a thorough background check. For guidance, contact an organization like the Family Caregiver Alliance, which offers support for caregivers.