Rights and Responsibilities

Posted on: April 15th, 2019 by
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Blog post 4/15/2019

As the community comes together, it consists of both condominium owners and apartment renters, and a member not yet living on-site. Here is a first attempt at defining the rights and responsibilities of each group, and an approach to rights and responsibilities in general.

There are two households in the complex who are not interested in being part of cohousing. They are part of our larger community.

Building 3130 will soon be four condominiums, building 3116 is four apartments.

Types of Community Members:

  • Cohousing status
    • Cohousers
    • Non-cohousers
  • Ownership
    • Renters
    • Owners
      • HOA members – Bldg 3130
      • North Oakland Cohousing LLC/Jenny – Bldg 3116
  • Living on site or off
    • Residents
    • Non-residents – people participating in the community and planning to move in, also possibly others who want to participate

If things go according to plan, all Owners will be Cohousers. However if someone buys and then drops out of the community, they will only participate in building maintenance decisions.

Hopefully the cohousing community will try to make sure that, if an owner rents out their unit, they rent it to someone who wants to participate. I don’t think we can legislate that, just keep a good outreach list to use when someone is looking for a renter. Then that renter will be a cohousing renter, the same as Cohousers renting in the other building.

The condominium owners will be required to have a Homeowners Association (HOA) which will have CC&R’s plus Rules and Regulations. The Rules & Regs can be developed by all Cohousers together, and apply to both owners and renters.

It’s looking like it divides into:

  • Renters who are not Cohousers – no change, they just keep their rental agreements with the LLC
  • Renters who are Cohousers
  • Owners

 

Who has a say in decisions, and the responsibility to carry them out? (Please no rights without responsibilities):

All Cohousers

  • Meals
  • Meetings
  • Other community activities (game nights, process training, etc)
  • Noise
  • Constructive communication
  • Garden – need authorization from owners for trees (planting/cutting down, not for trimming) and for digging up concrete and MOST IMPORTANT: only drought-tolerant plants in the planting areas along the building, because of moisture concerns. So, no vegetable gardens there. Watering is fine in the front, where it drains away from the buildings. Also fine in containers. Other than those things, the Cohousing gardeners can decide what to do.
  • Common area use and aesthetics:
    • Parking
    • Trash cans
    • Furniture
    • Personal items outside
    • Smoking

Owners

  • Building and pavement maintenance, including aesthetics (paint, type of windows)
  • Fences, gates
  • Ongoing sharing of the two driveways

Crossover

  • Pets – I’m pretty sure the entire community will want to have a say, but I think the buck stops with the owners
  • Some aspects of landscaping
  • We will probably find more gray areas as we go along

If we have off-site community members, I think their level of participation in decisions will depend on their level of participation in the work. I anticipate that this will happen naturally as long as we have a culture that says you don’t have a say in areas where you aren’t helping out, but we can create additional guidelines if needed.

In the table below I didn’t make a column for Non-Coho Renters because they won’t be involved in any of these projects. I did add a column for Non-Coho Owner in case we end up with one, because they retain the right to have a say in maintenance matters.

Types of Decisions & Responsibilities Renter Owner Non-Coho Owner
Meals X X
Social & Community Activities X X
Garden X X
‘Big’ Landscaping
X?
Common Area Mgmt X X
Pets some input X
Building & Pavement Maintenance
XX
Fences & Gates
X?
Continued Sharing of Driveways
XX
Community Meetings X X
HOA Meetings
XX

We are creating a culture where members have a say in areas where they are contributing, and mostly stay out of the way in areas where they don’t take an active part. Hopefully this will reduce the need for requiring a certain number of work hours.

Transition of rights and responsibilities: We are just starting out as a community. Most communities that are just getting their initial members don’t have an existing property to work with; they’re all starting out together. One difference is that I already have some systems in place, and the question arises: should the new community be able to scrap existing systems and start from scratch, immediately? I would like people to start by working with the systems I have in place, and only make changes after they are familiar with how things work. For example, I have done a lot of work to plant hardy, drought-tolerant groundcovers to keep the weeds down. If someone new comes in and digs it up to plant a vegetable garden – which is wonderful but much more labor intensive – and then abandons the project, someone will have to start over. This is why I think it’s best for people to work with what’s in place for a time, at first. For some, this might raise concerns that I am trying to hold onto control, but really I’m not, I just don’t want to be left with a weed patch (literal or figurative). It will be an ongoing discussion about flexibility: my ability to let go, and new members’ ability to work (for awhile) with an existing system, even if it’s not one they would have chosen.

On the other hand, there are plenty of areas (like meals and meetings) where I don’t have any system in place and it’s entirely up to the community from the start.

Another thing to keep in mind: Certain rules that a 100% cohousing community might expect to be followed might be difficult or impossible for me to enforce with legacy tenants. For example, if the Community decides to not allow smoking in the courtyard I would not be able to enforce that with my one smoking tenant. It’s also very hard to enforce with some guests and construction workers (and some of my in-laws, but that’s another issue). We need to keep in mind that this space is not 100% intentional community, and there are cultural differences.


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