House Mates: A Guide to Cooperative Shared Housing

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Lai, cofounder of an online legal-referral startup called LawGives. Lai works in the basement at a desk overlooking a full-length bowling alley and lives upstairs in a large, light-filled bedroom with his girlfriend. The house is decorated with Persian carpets, antiques, and tasteful secondhand furniture, mostly acquired from Craigslist. Though shared houses like the Embassy can be pricey, they're very affordable for the Bay Area market and have varied rents for those who share common interests.

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After he met and liked a few of the house's young residents in science and engineering jobs, he went for it. Then he found out about the interview: "They called me in and asked me a few questions, like, 'What are you passionate about? What do you want to do with your life? And if you could get only one book out of the library, what would that book be? Waiting outside while housemates discussed whether he was Rainbow material, he began thinking about how isolated he'd felt living alone in a succession of jobs around the country.

Suddenly, the idea of plugging in to a group of people with shared interests in innovation, science, and space, spitballing research strategies over dinner, while splitting rent, utilities, and food bills, seemed to make sense. Four years later, Grace remains at Rainbow and now occupies a large master suite with a fireplace and private bath. He's engaged, too, to a young mechanical engineer, another Rainbow resident. Grace says the advantages of living in a home where residents are selected based on shared interests, along with a willingness to contribute to the household by doing the dishes, cooking, or ordering toilet paper on Amazon 24 rolls per month for the house's five bathrooms, far outweigh the drawbacks; for one, there are fewer overall chores because those tasks are shared.

Grace's chores around the house include paying the electric bill and taking out the trash. Buying supplies in bulk, sharing food and cooking duties, and divvying up the other requisite tasks of maintaining a home keep costs down and allow the residents more time to do fun things, he says. Rainbow residents regularly arrange "salons" with guest speakers; they also hike together at a nearby wildlife preserve. Upcoming events at the house include a presentation by a Kickstarter-funded Japanese group adapting ink-jet printer technology to produce electronic circuits. Housemates throw an annual "Yuri Gagarin Party" in honor of the Russian cosmonaut, the first human to journey into outer space.

Despite the stellar benefits, co-living has a few downsides, Grace and others say. Living inside the physical manifestation of a social network is a bit different from scrolling through one online, where obnoxious content can be managed with the delete button.

At Rainbow, group decisions have resulted in ejecting residents for drinking problems, abusive arguments between couples, and failure to pay rent. Some have left on their own for everything from discovering they didn't like sharing a refrigerator with six other people to mistakenly thinking they could acquire venture capital from housemates for their startups.

But it was the noise that got to Grace in the beginning: "I had to get earplugs to sleep. When that didn't work, I wrapped a T-shirt around my head. In other parts of the country, adults who still view the old-fashioned mortgage as a good way to save, build credit, and invest have taken co-living a step further.

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Instead of renting in a collaborative house full of people coming and going, they ask, for folks serious about building connections and community, why not put down some roots and purchase a home together? Craig "Oz" Ragland was upstairs in his office at the Craftsman-style home he and his wife own with four other families in Bothell, Wash.

Bolting down the steps, Mr. Ragland found Ms. Hanna-Myrick's husband, Chuck, a retired engineer, clutching at his throat. Ragland quickly realized his housemate was choking and performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging an apple chunk from his throat with a few firm thrusts to his abdomen. The Hanna-Myricks bought a share of the 4,square-foot home in the Songaia cohousing development with the Raglands and three other families in after selling their own house in the same community.

The house is occupied by two of the investor families and a renter; the three remaining mortgage holders live in other houses in the development. The year-old multigenerational development includes 13 single-family homes, and residents share child care, cars, and 11 acres of land. Ragland, a retired Microsoft executive, founded The Cohouseholding Project, a research and advocacy organization that helps educate and connect adults interested in learning more about shared mortgages, promoting collaborative living among a slightly more mature age group who lean more toward the stability and security of homeownership than the more nomadic, rent-oriented Millennials.

Other occupants have their own bedrooms and bathrooms, while extra spaces in the house — the kitchen, living and dining areas, and yards — are maintained by all residents. The US Census Bureau doesn't have a survey question, yet, that asks homeowners whether they share mortgages, so the number doing so nationwide is unknown, and Ragland has just started trying to track that information.

Nevertheless, more examples of shared ownership houses for adults are beginning to crop up around the country. One trio of retired couples in Maine hired architect Richard Renner to design an unusual home for them on the edge of a salt marsh just outside Portland, with the goal of enabling the couples to co-own and live together while maintaining plenty of privacy. The complex of three interconnected spaces was completed and occupied in Though one of the residents has since died unexpectedly, the others remain together.

The couples had vacationed together annually in a shared beach house, and their desire to live together "grew out of their strong emotional bond," Mr. Renner explains. Renner's architectural task was to create as many opportunities for chance encounters as possible while reducing the carbon footprint; the residents had a goal of zero net energy consumption creating as much energy as used. They share an entrance, parking, and a single wood-pellet boiler for all the units, and solar panels for electricity.

There is a common exercise area, movie-watching space, and gathering room, and an extra, unoccupied unit in case anyone requires on-site assistance or medical care. The Maine project shows that even deep-pocketed, design-conscious people in the US are becoming interested in the notion of sharing living space with unrelated adults at home. Renner says: "There's a different model [emerging].

We're finding other clients are thinking about it, and at some point, I'll think about it — about not wanting to grow old in isolation or in an institutional setting. How do you age gracefully in place?

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Just ask Louise Machinist, one of three Pennsylvania women to whom Ragland often directs inquiries about how to set up a shared mortgage household. Machinist bought a four-story brick Colonial in Pittsburgh back in with Karen Bush and Jean McQuillin, each of whom once owned their own homes and were approaching retirement age.

When the three divorced, partially retired women decided to join forces, sell their homes, and buy one together for reasons of companionship, support, and affordability, one of their first difficult tasks was how to merge three separate households. Some things just had to go, like the extra jars of paprika. But the women reached an agreement that no one would offload anyone else's stuff without permission.

The system seemed to be working well until Machinist was lighting candles at a service at her Unitarian Church and noticed an unusual Batman matchbook autographed by the actor Adam West — just like the one in the collection of matchbooks she and her ex-husband had.

In fact, she realized, it was hers.

Tenants’ rights and obligations

I've nailed them! They had been in a crumpled paper bag and someone must have said, 'Who needs a hundred old matchbooks? It's just an example of the kind of mishaps that can happen. The housemates long ago laughed off the matchbook episode, though they cite it as an example of how important it is not to sweat the small stuff when sharing a home.

Besides, they have bigger fish to fry; Machinist, Ms. Bush, and Ms. McQuillin have found themselves riding what Bush described as a rising "wave" of interest in shared housing for active adults. Since June of last year, their book has sold 1, copies; they have about daily visitors to their website, myhouseourhouse.

The women's project was featured on NBC's "Today" show, in November, where they discussed the practical, legal, and financial aspects of splitting ownership of a mortgage and sharing a home. Just as the Millennials are doing, baby boomers are beginning to build infrastructure online to help those interested in shared housing connect. The three Pittsburgh women are part of a budding, nationwide nonprofit network of organizations and experts on collaborative housing in states including Minnesota, California, and Connecticut.

The goal is to promote awareness and expand options for multigenerational shared housing. Called Golden Girls Homes, the start-up is holding weekly conference calls and plans to launch its first online newsletter in May and establish regional offices across the US within three years. Despite the name, which is likely to change, men's involvement is welcome and anticipated, says Bonnie Moore, of Bowie, Md. Moore, an attorney and management consultant, launched a shared home with three other active adult women in her large, Levitt-style home in suburban Maryland a few years ago, and runs her own independent matching services for adults interested in co-living, which will be merged into the nationwide network.

Speaking from Sarasota, Fla. What are we waiting for? With numbers like that, the women are happy to take turns using the washer and dryer. The economic and resource reduction advantages of collaborative living are a big draw. But they alone don't account for the choices of people like Jedediah Berry, a successful mid-career professional with a regular paycheck.

Berry could well afford a place of his own, yet he prefers to live in what he describes as an informally "curated" shared home with other adults in Amherst, Mass. He was on the verge last year of purchasing a single-family home in Greenfield, Mass. But he changed his mind when the opportunity arose to rent a small suite including bath and office in a six-bedroom Victorian house known as a locus for educators, artists, musicians, and others working in local farming ventures. Houk into the house shared by six other young adults.

So we're able to live affordably and in such a way that our energies are focused on our connections to this area, and the people, and also to our own creative work. Neal Gorenflo, a former stock market analyst who cofounded Shareable. The bigger picture is we're moving from a top-down, factory-model society to a networked, peer-to-peer model.

If you are a sub-tenant or lodger and you want to move out while your housemates get a new person in, it is more straightforward for you to terminate your sub-tenancy or lodgement than for you to transfer it. Leave it to your house-mates to do a new transfer, sublet or lodgement with the new person.

Your options and obligations in relation to termination depend on the nature of the legal relations in your household. You can terminate your tenancy rights and obligations under a periodic agreement by giving a day termination notice to your fellow co-tenants and to your landlord and moving out section Note that if you do not move out after giving a section termination notice, your co-tenants can apply to the Tribunal to terminate your co-tenancy on the basis of your notice section 4.

A section notice cannot be given during the fixed term of a tenancy.

Rights as a private tenant

Instead, you can apply to the Tribunal for an order terminating your share of the tenancy or, alternatively, the whole of the tenancy section The Tribunal will also notify your landlord of the proceedings and allow them to have their say section 6. If the Tribunal terminates the tenancy during the fixed term, it can also order you or another co-tenant to compensate the landlord up to the amount of the applicable break fee section 5. Alternatively, if you want to remain in the premises and make a co-tenant move out instead, you can apply to the Tribunal for an order terminating their tenancy section Xandra and Yousef are co-tenants, but their relationship has broken down and Xandra wants Yousef to leave.

On hearing the evidence of both co-tenants, the Tribunal decides there are no special circumstances: this is an ordinary relationship breakdown and Xandra has no greater claim than Yousef to being the one to remain at the premises. The Tribunal offers, if both co-tenants agree, to terminate the whole of the tenancy and order payment of a break fee to the landlord.

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You can terminate your agreement with the landlord by using any of the methods available to tenants see Ending a tenancy. You can terminate your agreement with the head-tenant by using any of the methods available to tenants see Ending a tenancy. In most cases, this means giving the head-tenant a day termination notice and moving out.