Re: Common house designation for legal purposes
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2017 14:27:43 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 5, 2017, at 9:33 AM, librarymaggi [at] wrote:

> Is the common house legally a private or a public place? For purposes of 
> fundraising, showing movies, etc. this is an important designation. Anybody 
> have experience with this?   

Ultimately it depends on the laws in your state and the kind of legal structure 
you have.

Takoma Village is a condominium and we went through the same questions — are we 
public or private? From several interactions with city agencies we have 
clarified this in functional terms — how we are treated by them.

Our grounds are public and must meet standards for public spaces. The reasons 
residents have argued about this is that we each own a percentage of the common 
space as if it were our own yard. 

But animal control, for example, says no. Many people own percentages and you 
are organized under DC laws for "real estate schemes”—the true designation for 
condos, etc. Thus the grounds are public space. If we allow dogs to roam 
without a leash the whole community is liable for damages to residents or 
guests or just people walking by.

The housing people require that our play structures meet requirements for park 
and school safety.

The fire rules for the CH are the same as other public spaces in terms of exit 
signs required, maximum capacity signs posted, etc.

Only the interiors of the units are owned by residents and considered 
residential space subject to codes for sleeping space. Sleeping seems to be the 
operative activity to measure "living.”

But if we were a cooperative, this would change. Individuals would own the 
whole space cooperatively with the right to occupy a unit. Different rules.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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