Re: Do you wish you had a rental policy?
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 04:22:17 -0800 (PST)
Melanie Mindlin <sassetta [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

We have a rental policy that says we can only have a limited number of
units rented at one time, can only rent for two years and that
potential tenants need to be shown a written document we have prepared
that explains lots of useful information along with some of our
expectations of renters.  We've also asked for an opportunity to meet
(have tea) with prospective renters before a final decision is made.
We expect participation to be done either by the renter or by the
landlord if they are able to do so.

This being said, it seems unlikely that we would actually stop anyone
from renting their home if they need to leave for any reason.  I mean,
that would be a really intense financial burden that we could not
bring ourselves to impose on our friends.

I believe the information packet has only been given to renters after
they have been chosen and have moved in, although I'm not absolutely
sure of this.  Our attempts to meet renters ahead of time have
generally been rebuffed by those vetting tenants for the reasons
Philip states below about how hard it is to find a good tenant.
Community landlords do not seem to want to limit potential tenants by
asking them to do this.  The one person who rents out rooms in her
house has even found it too burdensome to even let us know when a new
person is moving into her home, which we find particularly

Finally, I will say that limiting rentals to two years has been a good
policy for us.  Exceptions may be made to any policy, so this really
acts as an opportunity to review our relationship to a long-term
renter.  We had a long-term renter who was not fulfilling our
expectations for a member of the community, nor were these being
fulfilled by the owner who had moved out of the area.  The two year
limit provided a forum for addressing these issues and moving that
situation toward resolution.

Although most of our community is owner occupied, we have had quite a
few renters here over the past few years.  Some of these are great
members of the community.  These have tended to continue to rent in
different homes as they come available or are on our wait list to buy.
Others are fine people in and of themselves but find they don't really
want to spend much time with us, and don't really understand why they
should act any differently here than they would in any other rental
situation.  Most, pretty much all, don't believe they have the same
responsibility to maintain the commons (either physical, social or
organizational) as owners do.

I believe these difficult financial times are making it hard for
people to make a change when they want or need to.  I think we will
all see an increase in rentals in our communities as this down-market
extends into the future.  Most of our homes are valued well below what
we paid for them, and people very reasonably want to wait until things
improve before selling.  This doesn't prevent the rest of our lives
from continuing to change, so folks will need to rent their homes as
they wait it out.

As a small community (13 homes), we really need most people to lend a
hand to take care of all that is needed and wanted here.  Good luck
with your conversation.


Begin forwarded message:

> At Cornerstone in Cambridge, MA, our expectation of course is that
the units will be occupied by resident owners.  By and large, this is
the case for all but a few units.  Nonetheless, the community has more
than a few tenants, because some resident owners take in renters, and
some owners rent out their units while they are away on an extended
leave of absence.  Occasionally, a family may have an au pair.  All
told, I'd say about 15% of our adult residents are tenants, not
owners.  None of this is guided by any deed restrictions or
intentional policy.

> The vast majority of the tenants are good folk ? so I can't say that
we are "having trouble" with rentals or tenants.  What we have trouble
with is understanding where non-owners fit into the community culture.
One view is that adult tenants should have the same rights and duties
as adult owners, and be integrated into community life as fully as
possible.  An alternative view is that it's very hard for an owner to
find a good tenant ? and would much harder if the landlord imposed
cohousing expectations on the pool of candidates.  At the moment, the
latter view prevails, not because we've formally adopted it as a
policy, but because we've been unable to organize a good discussion
about it.

> On Jan 23, 2012, at 12:17 AM, Lisa Lackey wrote:
>> Well, Brian, some of us are trying to change it, but there are people in our
>> community who feel it is very important to have and don't want it to change.
>> That is why I am asking if any community who doesn't have a rental policy
>> has troubles so that they wish they did, so I can get a real world sense of
>> the troubles communities are actually experiencing not having a rental
>> policy.
>> So, far I am not really hearing back that people are having problems, except
>> in your community where there is a real problem with cohousing units
>> becoming rental investment property.

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