Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: What are the rules for housesitters?

By Jamie Lauren Sutton  | May 16, 2012 - 3:06PM

Dear Ms. Demeanor,

We bought a beach house in Massachusetts over the winter and we are taking the bold step of spending the ENTIRE summer there.  A college student who is the niece of a friend will be taking care of our apartment, plants, and fish while we are away. 

What is usual long-term housesitter protocol?  The student is staying at our apartment rent-free.  Do I give her a list of rules?  Does she bring her own sheets?  Does she pay the cable bill?  

We kind of jumped in to this thing without thinking through the nitty gritty details.

Please help!


Sweating the Summer


Dear Sweating,

Don't sweat it.  It is not too late to lay down ground rules and set expectations.  

Preparation is the key to your success in this venture. 

Discuss concerns with family members - spaces in the apartment that are off-limits, where the housesitter will sleep, policy on guests (overnight and otherwise), locking up the good booze... 

Write up a 'welcome to our home' manual that gives emergency contact numbers (e.g. super), tips about how to use the electronics, helpful neighborhood suggestions and pointers and put any strongly felt rules and prohibitions in writing. 

Any bills you would normally have to pay over a summer in the city should be covered by you (cable, electricity; extras like movie rentals are negotiable.  

You then need to meet face-to-face with housesitter for an orientation, a review of said manual, and invite him or her to comment/critque.

Have a wonderful summer.  I can't promise that the fish will survive but hopefully the apartment and your good relationship with the housesitter will.

Ready for summer,

Ms. Demeanor

Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to [email protected] and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.

See all of Ms. Demeanor's advice here.


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