Re: Minimum standards for Membership
From: evdavwes (
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2011 04:43:44 -0800 (PST)

Yes, the "unit" of participation in consensus is the adult resident, not the 
owner.  Owners are named in the Bylaws as the actors in certain circumstances 
(voting for declaration changes, for example).

Our membership rule is problematic because it implies that you have to meet all 
the requirements to be a member.  The declaration, on the other hand, makes 
clear that all owners are members.  We could have an owner who has never set 
foot in the United States, and that person would still be a member.  We can't 
change that reality.  We could, however, say that approval of a sale will 
require the buyer to meet all the requirements.  An unapproved buyer will take 
an extra 30 days to complete the purchase and be subject to our substituting a 
buyer we prefer.

Buyers state to the Sales committee (and I think the Sales committee is 
supposed to record the answers) that they have met the requirements.  This 
helps to separate those who say "I don't care about your requirements" from 
those who are willing.  

The association has discussed whether we would want to actually purchase a 
unit.  It would be possible, but I would think it unwise.   In my opinion, the 
best we are likely to do is to find an alternate buyer to whom to transfer our 
"right of first refusal."  Possibly a current owner who has the ability to buy 
and find a renter.  


Message: 1
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 16:47:08 -0500
From: R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Minimum standards for Membership
To: CoHoL <Cohousing-L [at]>
Message-ID: <C97C6A0C.1CE8F%rpdowds [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain;   charset="ISO-8859-1"

A few interesting things here:

 --- It looks like the franchise accrues equally to each and every resident
adult, not to the unit or the household.  If a household has four adults,
then its ?voting? weight is four times that of a household with just one.
 --- I?m not convinced that you can exclude a unit owner from exercising
rights or participation in the Association because s/he did not attend the
right meeting, or forgot to read the memo.  And how would one know that the
documents have been read (and understood)?  Is there an examination as part
of the purchase and sale?
 --- The community?s right of first refusal is usually a valid deed
restriction.  In practice, however, it will not have much force, effect or
consequence until and unless the community creates a reserve fund for that
very purpose.  It?s somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible for
a few dozen households to gin up $400,000 on short notice, just to forestall
a sale to a dubious purchaser.  Mercifully, however, what we mostly find is
that people who buy in here are open to the possibilities of cohousing, and
people who are not finish their shopping elsewhere.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

On 2/12/11 7:29 AM, "Fred H Olson" <fholson [at]> wrote:

> David Clements evdavwes [at]
> is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
> Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
> after deleting quoted digest
> --------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
> Fran,
> FYI the below is from the bylaws of Westwood Cohousing.   I am not a
> lawyer but refer below to what I think are legal realities.  Please
> correct if I am wrong.
> In my opinion our bylaws could be improved.  We have the right of
> first refusal if someone wants to sell their house.  This is in the
> declaration.   I think a stronger way to state the membership rules
> is that approval of a possible buyer is contingent on their meeting
> the requirements.  If we fail to approve a potential buyer, they still
> can buy unless we find a substitute buyer within 30 days (very hard to
> do in this market).  This right of first refusal is the only authority
> we have to select or screen owners.  I have the impression that this
> sort of discrimination is legal, although discrimination on the basis
> of race, religion, gender, and other criteria mentioned in the Fair
> Housing Act is not legal.
> We have not set up our declaration properly to be able to insist that
> those who want to rent need to follow certain guidelines, such as
> getting approval and following the steps to membership noted above.
> Because restricting rentals is a restriction of the owner's rights,
> owners need to agree to this by putting it in the declaration.  If
> they do not, any restrictions are voluntary and perhaps less
> effective.  In our community some who rent their houses or have
> roommates have had the renter meet the "requirements for membership,"
> but many have not, and we have had a number of renters who did not
> participate in the community.
> David Clements
> Section 2. Membership: All adults shall confirm to the Association before
> joining that they have:
> a. Attended at least one community supper and one business meeting of
> the Association as an observer,
> b. Read the Cohousing Book, current edition,
> c. Read the Member Packet,
> d. Understand that their occupancy and use of a Lot is subject to the
> Declaration, Bylaws and these Rules and Regulations (of which they
> have been provided a copy), and
> e. Understand that Members of the Association, as defined below, shall
> have the right to vote as provided in the Declaration, the Bylaws and
> these Rules and Regulations; and that ???Members??? shall be the
> residents of the Development eighteen years of age and older, living,
> or expecting to live, in the community three months or longer, and
> such other persons as are voted thereto by the Association.
> -------- Original message -------------------
> I am a member of a group working to develop a cohousing community.  We are
> looking for samples of formal requirements for member participation, e.g.
> requirements articulated in bylaws.  Ideas under  consideration include
> owner-occupancy, intent and capacity to participate in decision-making.
> intent and willingness to commit to a minimum level of hours to participate
> per month.  I'd appreciate advice and copies of bylaws used.  Thank you.
> Fran Lunney
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