Cohousing or shared housing

In recent years, cost of living sharing has become a trend in society. A wide range of needs, services or items can be shared through various services. It is probably only a matter of time before an even more sophisticated form of ‘sharing’, cohousing or community living, comes to us in full.

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Chapters of the article

What is cohousing

What exactly is it? The principle is simple. People involved in cohousing have private homes or apartments with standard basic amenities, but they also own and share common areas together.

This could be a workshop, a common room or a large dining room. However, it also includes various tools that are not normally needed by the individual residents but are useful once in a while (a lawnmower, a projector or a sturdy barbecue). A typical cohousing project is actually a small block of single-family homes with one common larger house where there are common areas that residents share according to their needs (e.g., sitting area, game room, pool with facilities). However, it can also be a block of flats where people have their own flats but also share certain parts and facilities.

Cohousing brings with it a number of advantages but also disadvantages. On the one hand, it offers strong neighbourly relationships, mutual support and reduces feelings of loneliness by sharing common spaces and activities. It enables economic savings by sharing services and facilities, contributes to environmental sustainability and increases safety and support for families.

On the other hand, it can also mean limited privacy and lead to tensions between community members due to too close cohabitation. In addition, the organisation of communal activities and maintenance, require more time and money. Decision-making processes can also pose a problem, as consensus of all members is usually needed.

Cohousing from a legal perspective

The Czech legal code does not explicitly regulate cohousing. However, in principle, there are four basic options for the legal treatment of cohousing:

Co-ownership

Thefirst option is to hold the property, whether movable or immovable, in joint ownership. This ideally implies that the parties contractually agree on mutual rights and obligations in relation to the asset, such as the possibilities of using it or the costs of maintenance.

Tip: Do you own an item together with someone else? What does co-ownership entail, what rights and obligations do you have in this relationship, what types of co-ownership are known and how can the common property be managed? This is what we look at in our article on the advantages and disadvantages of co-ownership.

Residential cooperative

The second and considerably more complex option for the legal establishment of cohousing, which is offered only for real estate, is the establishment of a housing cooperative. In this case, although the entire project actually belongs to the cooperative and not directly to the individual members, each resident member is free to sell his or her share without the consent of the others. Co-operatives are not legally allowed to block the sale of a member’s share and bind it to any conditions. For some cohousing groups, this method may not only be inappropriate because of its complexity. In fact, an ‘uninvited guest’ may become involved at any time. In general, however, this model is often used abroad. It is easier for a co-operative to finance a development as it can obtain credit more easily than a group of individuals. It then rents out the houses or flats to its members and manages the common areas.

Are you planning to start a housing cooperative?

We will set up a turnkey housing cooperative for you. We will draw up or check the statutes of your housing cooperative (BD). We will also take care of the follow-up process in the formation of the BD.

Commercial company

The third option is to set up a commercial company, which makes the admission of the additional member conditional on a majority decision, or to set up a system of pre-emption rights in the constituent document.

Society

The fourth option is to set up a society. In this case, people who want to live in the community set up an association in which they set the basic rules of operation (such as how new members are admitted, use of the property, etc.). This structure can ensure that only approved people get into the community and helps to ensure that community principles are upheld.

Tip: Would you like to contribute to the development of your neighbourhood? Connect your neighbours and improve your neighbourhood together? Are you interested in ecology, sports activities or are you involved in education? Start an association. Its purpose can be any mutually beneficial goal, including cohousing. Find out how to set up a society.

Cohousing in the world and in our country

The oldest cohousing project is the Danish community Sættedammen, which was founded in 1972. Denmark is the cradle of cohousing and it is not surprising that the country leads in the number of cohousing communities. Over the years, however, the idea of community living has spread almost worldwide. It is a concept particularly popular in the West, in the USA, Canada and the UK. Often you will find these projects focusing on a particular common interest. Most often these interests are:

  • Sustainability and ecology: many communities are built with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. Thus, the use of renewable energy, green building materials, ecological water conservation practices, and community gardens for growing food are common in these communities.
  • Intergenerational living: Some cohousing communities are designed to be intergenerational and therefore accommodate students, young families with children, and seniors. This diversity allows for a supportive environment where members can benefit from mutual support at different life stages – from childcare to elder care. This creates a community structure that mimics that of the extended family.
  • Senior communities: Communities specifically designed for the elderly are very common. These communities offer an alternative to traditional retirement homes. Unlike these, they allow seniors to live independently while providing access to communal support. This can consist of medical care, socialization and other aspects that are important to seniors.
  • Health: Cohousing communities also tend to focus on healthy lifestyles. Therefore, they often emphasize physical well-being, mental health and a balanced lifestyle. Some communities also focus on specific dietary preferences, such as a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
  • Affordability and social justice: Some communities are established with a focus on providing affordable housing and promoting social justice.

But cohousing is not just a foreign phenomenon. In fact, it is increasingly emerging in this country as well. One noteworthy example is the Shared Houses Association, which aims to create a network of shared ownership homes. The aim is to provide people with affordable housing while enabling them to live in the community. They are currently working on renovating a house in Břevnov, where, in addition to rooms to live in, they plan to hold events for the public. However, as interesting as the idea of cohousing sounds, we cannot expect it to be massively expanded, and thus it will rather remain only an alternative to conventional housing.

Tip: In the next blog we will discuss the legal issues of accommodation brokerage, of which Airbnb is a typical example. How does Czech law look at this type of business? And what options does it give to the residents of a house who live de facto next to a hotel room? Read more in our article on Airbnb and service charges.

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Statutes for HOA or housing cooperatives

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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