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Can parents charge kids rent for vacation home?


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Owning a second home is a dream for many, providing a place to relax, enjoy vacations, or even house family members in need. But what happens when you want to charge rent for someone living in your second home? Are there tax implications, and can you benefit from deductions like depreciation and utility expenses? In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of second home ownership and rental income, exploring the rules and guidelines set by the IRS.

1. Second Home Ownership

Before we explore the tax implications, let's clarify what we mean by a second home. A second home is a property that you own but do not use as your primary residence. Typically, it's a vacation home or a secondary place of residence that's not your main dwelling.

2. Charging Rent for a Second Home

The good news is that if you own a second home, you can choose to rent it out to tenants. This includes renting to family members, friends, or even strangers. In your scenario, your in-laws own a second home and want to charge their son rent for living there. Charging a nominal rent, such as $200 per month, is permissible.

3. Depreciation of the Property

Depreciation is a tax benefit associated with rental property. It allows property owners to deduct the cost of the property over time, effectively recognizing that the property's value decreases as it gets older. This is usually beneficial for landlords who earn rental income.

However, here's where it gets a bit complex. Depreciation is typically associated with properties used for income generation. If your second home is primarily used for personal purposes, depreciation is not usually allowed. In the case of your in-laws, if a portion of their second home is rented out to their son, they may be eligible to depreciate that portion. This requires proper allocation of the property's usage, and it's advisable to consult a tax professional for guidance.

4. Tax Write-Offs for Second Homes

Tax deductions for expenses such as utilities, property taxes, and mortgage interest are often associated with rental properties. However, these deductions are usually limited when a second home is used primarily for personal purposes.

In the case of your in-laws, if the second home is used as a personal vacation property, their ability to claim deductions for expenses is likely to be limited. The IRS typically restricts these deductions for properties used for personal purposes.

5. Rules for Renting to Family Members

Renting a property to a family member can trigger special considerations. The IRS often scrutinizes such arrangements to ensure they are legitimate and not merely a way to transfer money within the family while avoiding taxes.

To navigate these rules effectively, it's important to establish a fair market rent, which means charging a rent amount that is consistent with what an unrelated party would pay for a similar rental property in the same location. By treating the rental transaction as you would with any other tenant, you can demonstrate that it is a genuine rental arrangement.

6. IRS Guidelines and Consultation

The IRS provides detailed guidance on the taxation of second homes, rental properties, and related deductions. These guidelines can be complex and subject to change, so it's essential to stay up to date with the latest regulations.

To ensure compliance with tax regulations and make informed decisions about their second home and its rental arrangements, your in-laws should consult with a tax professional. A tax professional can provide personalized advice based on their specific circumstances, helping them navigate the nuances of the tax code effectively.


In summary, charging rent for a second home, even if it's not your primary residence, is allowed. However, the ability to depreciate the property and claim tax deductions depends on various factors, including the property's usage and whether it's a legitimate rental arrangement. It's essential for second home owners to consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with tax regulations and make well-informed decisions regarding their second home and its rental agreements. By doing so, they can maximize the benefits of their second property while staying on the right side of the tax code.