Re: Legality of membership agreements. Is it discriminatory?
From: Dick Margulis (
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 05:01:30 -0700 (PDT)
On 3/12/2018 4:51 PM, Barbara Opyt wrote:
We were thinking of having prospective buyers sign a statement something
like "I have read the member handbook and will support the requirements of
living in this cohousing commnity."  However, a realtor in our midst says,
" Just so you all know, it is illegal to have potential buyer's sign
anything in the state of TN because it looks discriminatory. As a realtor,
it is actually illegal for me to discriminate- it is clearly stated in our
rules. I know we wish for like minded people to be in our community but as
Realtors, we are not allowed to turn down an offer based upon some of
things you have listed above since this isn't a Co-Op."

Has anyone had the legality of their membership requirements questioned?

We went through this exercise in CT, which I suspect (blue state and all) is at least as vigilant about protecting people from discriminatory practices as TN is. Plus we are using state money to subsidize the prices of our affordable homes. So we've had to jump through many hoops and sign many nondiscrimination pledges.

Bottom line, as long as you're not discriminating against an individual based on that person's membership in a protected class, you can require that they commit to your principles. You can require that they read specific materials about cohousing, that they attend orientation or training sessions, that they meet with members of the community, and that they agree to abide by rules and policies (that last part would be true in any condominium anyway), including whatever work policy you have in place. You can do all this as long as you agree to waive any and all requirements that someone cannot fulfill on account of a disability. That would fall under your obligation for reasonable accommodation.

In any case, if you envision the process of joining your community as the prospective resident deciding whether it's a good fit rather than the community deciding whether it's a good fit, you'll be headed in the right direction. The minute you confront a prospect and say "We don't want you to join," you're in trouble.

Most if not all of this is federal fair housing stuff. Check with your attorney to find out if Tennessee has something even more restrictive, as your real estate person claims.

Dick Margulis
Rocky Corner cohousing
Bethany CT
• 13 days from closing on our construction financing
• homes still available

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