The multigenerational house: legal options

Houses where grandparents, parents and children live under the same roof are becoming very popular. The most important reasons for this are the changes in our lifestyles (both partners are employed with little time to take care of children), the trend to more densely populated buildings (good use of land, which is becoming more and more expensive) and the increase in life expectancy (a new phase of life follows retirement).

A suitable building

The prerequisite for this form of living is a suitable building. Not every traditional detached house can be so used or even suitably redesigned. Sometime even building regulations preclude such an option.

Requirements of each generation

The space layout must, moreover, consider the requirements of the different generations. The oldest generation must be domiciled in a house which is as handicapped accessible as possible, while the youngest need plenty of room to play and let go of their energy. Peaceful co-existence is assured over the long term only when there’s a clear boundary between the individual living areas and «meeting areas» are well defined.

Organising the boundaries

To what extent the required boundaries are legally organised is left up to those involved. Everything is possible from the «light version» according to the motto «let’s just try it out» up to the permanent division into independent units.

Right of abode or partial usage

If you want to divide up the property only for a limited time frame or stage of life, a right of abode or partial usage rights in favour of the eldest generation are sufficient.

Protection is important

But when the eldest generation has invested assets in the property or perhaps even gifted this or transferred it as an advance on an inheritance, they’ll justifiably also want some sort of legal assurances. In this case, right of abode or partial beneficial rights will be entered into the land registry and can be made applicable to anyone (even if the house is sold).


The interior spaces in a multigenerational house should be designed to meet the requirements of the various generations and be set up handicapped accessible (photo: epr/SchwörerHaus).

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