Sometimes family and business mix as well as oil and water. My brother-in-law made that crystal clear. I’m Clyde, an engineer by profession. I do house renovations for a living. This is what happened that caused my brother-in-law and I to sever ties, and it was all his fault.

Thanks to my job, this saga has been unfolding for the past couple of years. It involves my brother-in-law Jeff, a hefty renovation project, and an ocean of drama. Strap in because it’s quite a ride!

A few years back, Jeff approached me with a big ask. He wanted me to renovate his dingy, unfinished basement. He wanted the full works—several rooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a family room. We weren’t as close, but I saw it as nothing more than a client’s ask.

As I run a renovation business, he trusted me to take on the project. Given we were family, I offered him a solid discount, pricing the whole job at $38,000. This was incredibly generous considering that a similar ask would cost him about three times the price I gave, on average.

While reconstructing his basement, Jeff would ask for changes here and there. He did this despite already approving the floor plan and layout.

Fast forward to the completion of the renovation. The basement was transformed. What was once a dark, uninviting space became a vibrant, living area. Jeff was satisfied, to say the least.

However, when it came time for payment, Jeff turned evasive. Each attempt to discuss his dues was met with excuses or delayed promises. About half a year later, his excuses began to turn into signs that he wouldn’t pay at all. He NEVER paid. He always had excuses, and he’d throw around lines like:

“We’re like real brothers now that you married my sister, would you ask for money from your brother?”

I tried talking to my wife about the situation, but she was supportive of her brother. She defended him and tried to persuade me to forget the payment. However, I had already shelled out my own money for this. I paid for the materials and the wages of my workers.

Two years of this dance passed. Then, Jeff needed to sell his house. His fiancee landed a job in a different city, and they agreed to move to accommodate her work. Suddenly, he called me on the phone. His voice was a mixture of anger and panic.

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?! Why can’t I sell my house?!” he exclaimed.

“Because you haven’t paid me for the work I did. That lien is quite real, Jeff,” I replied with a slight giggle.

The silence on the other end was palpable. You could cut the tension with a knife. Jeff promised, again, to pay as soon as the house sold. He even tried to guilt trip me into saying he was like my brother, but I wasn’t buying it this time. I replied:

“No, Jeff. Pay me what you owe, then we talk removal.”

It wasn’t just me he tried to manipulate; he even tried to pull my wife, his sister, into his financial mess. One evening, in our own living room, he tried to guilt her into covering his expenses. That was when she switched to my side.

“You’re my older sister, that’s what sisters do, help out.”

“Jeff, paying for your responsibilities isn’t helping, that’s enabling. You need to settle your debts.”

His audacity to twist familial bonds for his gain shocked us both. But when that didn’t work, he turned to my parents-in-law, hoping to tug on their heartstrings. They called, voices heavy with concern.

“We’ll pay what he owes. We can’t see him lose the house.”

“Fine, but he pays you back or it comes out of any inheritance. And interest starts accruing from the day of the loan.”

They reluctantly agreed, and the news of this arrangement set Jeff off once more. My wife was just as mad knowing that her inheritance money would also be deducted from her because of her brother.

Jeff said, “How could you involve our parents and talk about inheritance like that?!”

“You involved them, not me. You pushed this situation, Jeff.”

Finally cornered by reality, Jeff took out a line of credit and paid what he owed, with interest. The house sold for more than asking, largely due to the renovated basement, but not without leaving a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths.

The whole ordeal has strained, maybe even severed, some family ties. But it has reinforced my belief in standing firm on principles, even when it’s uncomfortable. Mixing family and business is tricky, and without clear boundaries, it can lead to situations nobody wants.

Like Jeff, another person was taught a valuable lesson by a family member. Sadly, the lesson cost her what could have been a nice familial home.

My BIL Asked Me to Renovate His House and Refused to Pay For It, but Karma Caught up with Him Soon

I never thought I would have an ungrateful daughter with whom I share a sour relationship. However, our eldest, Lucy, made it all possible.

A little background: I am a stay-at-home mom turned full-time homemaker, deeply involved in our community. Thanks to my husband’s overwhelmingly successful career, I was allowed this privilege. My husband and I have been married for over three decades. We have three wonderful daughters. Our eldest, Lucy, got married last week.

Lucy married her college sweetheart, Brian. They met during their last year in university and have since been together. Unfortunately, our family hasn’t spent as much time with Lucy since she left for university. We would only talk once a week or so.

As I can tell, Lucy and I don’t share the same interests. She is a career woman – a go-getter. It seemed that being a stay-at-home wife was not her option. In contrast, it was my full-time job and happiness. Still, I supported her in what she wanted and always showed kindness to her husband-to-be. I knew they would take good care of each other and treat each other well.

Their wedding was beautiful, filled with joy and celebrations, as weddings should be. Our family paid for most of the wedding expenses. Besides that, we still gave them a wedding present. For our gift, my husband and I decided to give Brian and Lucy something truly meaningful — the key to our cottage house. This cottage was a cherished place for us, steeped in family memories and love. It has been with our family for years.

The day after the wedding, Lucy called us. It was the very first time she ever spoke to us with such a tone, one that caught me off guard. She said:

“Thank you for your present, but honestly, I expected something more expensive than this shack. We will probably return it to you.”

I was speechless but managed to respond with, “No problem, dear.” Before the call ended, Lucy hinted that our gift was pretty cheap, with no sign of gratitude whatsoever. I didn’t expect such words from someone who I raised and was taken aback. I had to pause to digest her words and decide how best to address this situation.

Yesterday, we invited all our daughters and their spouses to the cottage. The plan was to show Lucy the true worth of this so-called “shack” she so readily dismissed. The cottage had recently undergone renovations, enhancing its charm and comfort while preserving the memories it housed. Of course, Lucy did not know this.

Lucy did not even want to go to the cottage and had an annoyed face when we met up at a nearby gas station to convoy. Upon arrival, everyone was taken aback by the beauty and transformation of the place, but Lucy’s reaction was the most dramatic. When she saw the refurbished cottage, her jaw LITERALLY dropped.

The cottage was transformed into a modern vacation home with big ceiling-to-floor windows. There was also a veranda with a breathtaking view and an outdoor fire pit. As we knew Lucy loved to cook, the kitchen was designed with high-quality appliances and even had a television.

The place wasn’t ginormous, but with its ample size, we were able to reconstruct a nice family home. As Lucy looked around, her eyes shined.

She exclaimed in awe, “How did you do this? When? Thank you so much for your present!” I replied with a calm smile:

“Honey, didn’t you remember? You returned it back to us.”

Her face turned a deep shade of purple as realization dawned on her. She began to scream and curse, utterly embarrassed by her earlier ingratitude.

The situation escalated quickly, and everyone was taken aback by her reaction, especially Brian. He was shocked not by the beautiful renovation but by his wife’s appalling response. Brian least expected his new wife to show such behavior in front of her own family.