Re: Legality of membership agreements. Is it discriminatory?
From: Diana Carroll (
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2018 04:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
I'll share my limited knowledge of the legal situation below, but first I
wanted to ask WHY this issue is important to you.

I'm guessing it's because you are fearful that someone will move into your
community who isn't into the whole "community" thing and just wants the
house. You worry that that person/people will not follow consensed-upon
guidelines, and won't be a good, community-minded person, perhaps even
disrupting the community.

We (Mosaic Commons) worried about that a lot!  It turns out our worries
were unfounded. Mostly, people who move into cohousing do so because they
*want to live in cohousing*. Our houses are smaller than other houses they
could get for the money. You have to park your car a long way from your
unit.  The of the neighborhood is, which
many find unnerving and invasive.  People who aren't into that just *don't
move here. *

We do have some people who seem more or less committed than others to
participating actively/a productive way in the community, but that's going
to happen regardless of what people sign when they purchase.  Every
cohousing community reports the same thing. Even people who THINK they want
community don't always like the realities of it when they move on. Friendly
neighbors and low crime? Yes! Going to meetings and making rules by
consensus?  Not so much.

Okay, that said, here's what I know about your actual question....

All HOAs and condos require home owners to follow rules. Those documents
are provided to the buyers before purchase. I don’t know if the buyers are
required to literally *sign* those documents, I imagine that depends on
state law.  (I believe in MA you need to sign that they were provided to
you, not positive on that.) Ask your realtor how that works in your state.

I'm guessing you are legally limited to only requiring what is in your
official condo/HOA documents.  Your email didn't state anything about how
far along you are in the process...planning, building, moved-in... (helpful
to include that info!)...but if your condo entity is not yet registered,
you can make those the documents say what you need said.

When we at Mosaic Commons created our condo docs (10 years ago), we thought
very carefully about what to include.  We had already decided on several
"rules" for our community, ranging from our consensus process to a dog
leash rule to how many consecutive nights members could reserve the guest
rooms. We codified a few of those rules as part of the condo docs.  These
are the rules that we can *legally enforce*. Here in MA you absolutely
*cannot* legally enforce rules that discriminate on the basis of the
state's protected classes, which include race, gender, sexuality, religion,
handicap, etc.  To be safe, nothing can even be interpreted as
discriminatory, even if you didn't intend it that way. Your lawyer needs to
carefully review the language in your condo docs to make sure it's legal.

Mosaic Commons also has a large set of rule, guidelines, and best practices
that are not codified in our condo docs, and thus not legally enforceable.
These include things like participation in work weekends, reservations of
guest rooms, etc.  Basically, the stuff that distinguishes cohousing from a
regular condo association.

We certainly try hard to make sure that new buyers see our cohousing
documents in addition to the official condo docs, but there's no
requirement that the association have contact with the buyer before
purchase, so that doesn't necessarily happen.  (One of our "cohousing"
rules is that when a home is resold, the seller provide this info to the
buyer...but that too is a cohousing rule and is therefore not legally

Here are the legal condo docs for our community: (They are in two parts because we have
a "super-association" with two sub-associations because reasons.)  What you
want to look at is the Mosaic Commons Declaration of Trust and the Master

Mosaic Commons, Berlin, MA

On Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 7:00 AM Alicia Nowicki <alicianowicki [at]>

> I totally understand what the realtor is saying and yet I think it is
> important for someone who is moving into your community to understand what
> is expected of them.  I understand we have no legal right to exclude
> someone but I do believe we have a right to be sure they are informed
> before they move in.  Perhaps that viewpoint can be shared with the realtor.
> Alicia
> Sent from my iPhone
> > On Mar 12, 2018, at 1:51 PM, Barbara Opyt <barbopyt [at]> 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?
> > Thanks in advance,
> > -Barb Opyt
> > _________________________________________________________________
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> >
> >
> >
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