Renting Your Common Areas Turning Unused Space Into Revenue

Attractive communal gathering spaces are one of the many perks often found in co-op and condo living – both in the city and in more suburban communities. Rooftop patios, resident libraries, screening rooms, clubhouses – these amenities are often major selling points in unit ownership and treasured resident use spaces. 

They may also hold the potential for extra income for the community. The practice of renting out communal spaces for private use, both to residents and non-residents, can seem like a logical and lucrative way of making use of a building’s resources, but doing so successfully comes with some significant considerations and obstacles for boards and building managers. Industry professionals have a wide range of point of view on whether the potential gains outweigh the risks a board will take on in monetizing their spaces and amenities. Such risks include not only legal, liability and security considerations, but disruptions to day-to-day life in the building or association. 

Communal Space and Private Use

Whether or not these common spaces should be used for private events is a matter of some debate. Some say that the use of common space for private events is one of the things that makes communal living work, while the obvious nature of a private event means that for the time, the majority of the residents would not have access to amenities or spaces that they’re entitled to by dint of owning units in the building or development. Some feel rentals go against the interests of the majority and create more problems than the potential income is worth. 

“I’m a big proponent of community living for a wide range of reasons, both ethical and economical,” says Nicholas P. Bartzen, an attorney with Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, which has offices in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois. “The use of the amenity spaces are a nice feature – almost a necessity – because people often sacrifice the kind of space that having a stand-alone residence affords when living in a co-op or condo. Communal spaces can and should be used by residents when needed to host larger groups than their individual units can accommodate.” 

Residents using communal spaces for personal private events is not necessarily the same thing as using these events as a way to generate income. “My personal view is that co-ops were designed to be residential communities and have facilities that serve that end,” says David Brauner, counsel to the law firm Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP, which has locations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “It is very seductive to start trying to monetize areas of the building, but most conventional co-op buildings weren’t designed to generate income, and in many cases doing so would compromise the residential character of the building itself.”

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