It’s important to have clear written agreements you can refer to. Agreements should be written by lawyers. Remember you’ll share the expense, so it wont cost you too much.
There are two main parts to the agreements:
Land ownership structure: This determines who owns the property, and everyone’s legal entitlements to it. This must be handled by a lawyer. There are many different types of legal structures (see details).
General agreements: These agreements that specify what you can or can’t do. Although it’s mostly “common sense” stuff, you should still hire a lawyer to draft and witness this agreement.
Keeping It Simple
With the right land, you might not even see your neighbors for months. You might never even see their “Private Land”. You mind your business, and they mind theirs. But you’re still friendly to each other. In this sense, it’s like suburban life.
On one hand, life shouldn’t be about legalities and paperwork. On the other hand, you realistically should have the names of all Participants on the land title, or at least have some government-recognized legal entitlement to the land – especially if you’ve made any financial investment.
If that’s done properly, and some basic boundaries are defined, then everyone can start immediately using the land. You can even reside on it IF your structures are only temporary. This is because temporary structures usually don’t need permits. However, you may need a permit to “live” there. That’s another matter.
But what if things go wrong? What if there’s a legal dispute? What if they need money urgently, and want to sell the property regardless of what you want?
A proper legal agreement can prevent this, or protect you from financial loss or inconvenience. The burden should be theirs – not yours. This is something a lawyer will help you with.
So the simplest way to get started is:
- Find others willing to purchase land with you. Use the map on the home page. Get to know them well enough to understand their motives, and the type of people they are.
- Hire a lawyer together to draft agreements. Remember you’ll share the legal expense, so it wont be too expensive. See the typical terms below for you and your lawyers to consider.
- Use proper sanitation and services like running water and a septic tank. This might cost around $10,000, but it makes life much cleaner and safer for everyone. There are much cheaper options though, like “long drop toilets”. But make sure your solution is safe and clean. Otherwise you might contaminate a clean water stream even miles away.
You can use our suggestions below, and construct whatever agreements you want.
Any agreements should be “on paper”, and be very specific so everyone understands their rights and obligations. Living in harmony with others should not be complicated, if everyone follows these simple rules.
a. Participants (including “You”) are individuals who wish to enter into this agreement, for the purposes of sharing land.
b. The Property is lot, which is registered by the Land Titles Office, and subject of this agreement.
c. Private Land are areas of the Property, which individual Participants have exclusive access to.
d. Shared Land are areas of the Property, which all Participants have equal access to.
1. BOUNDARY DEFINITIONS FOR SHARED AND PRIVATE LAND.
All land must be clearly marked prior to this agreement. These markers must remain in place for the duration of this agreement.
Shared Land includes:
i. Any areas which must be accessible for an individual to access their Private Land.
ii. Any other areas specified in this agreements
Private Land includes:
i. Any area that a Participant has exclusive access to.
The included map marks the Shared and Private areas.
NOTE: Include a map of all markers, boundaries, and measurements to indicate shared and private areas. Shared areas includes driveways, or similar communal areas. It may sound good in theory to have communal buildings, but this makes things more complicated. Because then you might argue about things like who should maintain it. So keep things separate where possible. That way there should be no mistake about who’s responsible for what area.
2. RESPECT FOR PRIVACY.
Participants agree not to enter another Participant’s private space without invitation.
NOTE: You don’t go snooping into other people’s backyards in the suburbs. So respect other people’s privacy, even on land you own (either in part of full). Give people the same level of privacy you expect anywhere else. You can expect the same in return. Respect that a person may regularly invite you to their residence. But still don’t turn up unannounced. You might be comfortable with it, but the other person might be too polite to ask you to respect their privacy.
3. SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.
In Shared areas, Participants agree to behave in ways that most people would generally consider socially acceptable.
What Participants do in Private areas is their own business, provided it does not breech other parts of this agreement.
NOTE: If you want to walk around naked, or do something that others may find offensive, do it out of sight. Even if it’s on your own land, respect that others might not want to see it (or hear it). This includes any annoying sounds, bad odors, or anything that most people would consider unreasonable. You are free to do whatever you want on your land, provided it’s out of sight and mind for others.
4. EXCESSIVE NOISE.
Participants agree to maintain tolerable levels of noise they are in any way responsive for, appropriate to the time of day or night. If there is any disagreement on the level of noise, the guidelines from local government will apply.
NOTE: For most people, the point of living surrounded by nature is to enjoy the peace. Don’t ruin it with excessive blaring music, or loud power tools. Your neighbors might just not want to hear it. Once in a while probably wont be a problem. Just check with them first.
5. USE OF CHEMICALS.
The use of any chemicals, which is likely to enter any part of the Property’s soil, air or vegetation, must be approved by all Participants.
The permitted chemicals include:
- Weedkiller: once per month.
- Petrol: for vehicles and lawn mowers, whenever required/
Any chemicals must also comply with local government regulations.
NOTE: Weedkiller most certainly does cause cancer. But for now it’s only considered “probably carcinogenic”. So you should come to an agreement on what chemicals can be used, and how frequently. Besides, there are much better options than potentially harmful chemicals.
6. OFFENSIVE ODORS
You agree to eliminate any offensive odors that have offended, or may offend, other Participants, while they are on their Private Land, or Shared Land – if:
a. The odor originates from anything on your Private Land, or
b. You are solely or primarily responsible for the odor.
If the odor’s cause is shared, each Participant agrees to be responsible for their share of the resources required to rectify the problem.
NOTE: Nobody wants a bad odor drifting through the woods.
7. WASTE DISPOSAL AND MESS
You agree to:
i. Not to leave any significant mess anywhere on the Property, where it is likely to be seen by any other Participant, for more than 7 days.
ii. Dispose of any waste, in a manner compliant with local laws.
You agree to be responsible for safe treatment of sewerage, which is connected to your Private Land. The exception is if the facilities to treat sewerage are shared, in which case all expenses must be divided equally between each Individual Person on each area of Private Land.
NOTE: If sewerage isn’t treated properly, it will make a terrible stinky mess. Don’t just dig a deep ditch. You don’t know where it will run underground. It might even run somewhere into an otherwise clean river. Also if you share something like a septic tank, if your family has more butts, you should pay more to maintain the septic tank.
9. GUESTS, MINORS, ANIMALS AND INSECTS
You agree to be solely responsible for the result of any activity of:
a. Yourself, your guests, and/or other individuals (such as children or minors), and
b. Any animals, insects (except “bees” described in clause 10), or other life-forms,
That you have given permission to attend the Property.
You agree to not have more than 10 guests at any time, without first notifying other Participants.
NOTE: Other Participants don’t want a noisy party every weekend. They don’t want strangers running around everywhere, looking into their backyard. They value their privacy. You can have frequent guests, but be respectful and let others know about any larger social gatherings.
10. DOGS AND OTHER ANIMALS
You must not keep any potentially dangerous animal on the Property at any time.
Dogs are permitted, although they must be kept in a fenced area, on your own Private Land, at all times. The exception is if it is temporarily on Shared Land and with your supervision, in which case they must be kept on a leash.
You agree to clean up any mess your dog makes on Shared Land, or on another Participant’s Private Land.
You will take all reasonable steps to ensure any animals in your care
NOTE: Dogs are usually friendly and loving animals. But respect that not everyone likes them, or the mess they leave behind.
You are permitted to maintain bee hives, provided that all Participants, at all times, agree on:
a. The amount of bee-hives to be kept, and
b. The location of the bee-hives on the Property.
You agree that if any other Participant requests you to re-locate or remove the bee hives, you must do so within 4 weeks.
12. REMOVAL OF TREES
You agree not to remove any trees, unless they prevent a safety hazard to you or animals in your care.
For every tree you remove, you agree to plant two to replace it.
NOTE: Trees close to any structures can be dangerous. They could fall, or be a fire hazard. But clearing vast areas of vegetation is not the answer. We should be planting more trees – not cutting them down.
13. BUILDING AND STRUCTURE LEGAL COMPLIANCE
You are responsible for the legal compliance of any structure on your Private Land.
Even if you suspect other Participants are not complying with laws, you agree not to report them.
Where possible, you agree to construct only non-permanent structures, which can be removed within a few days if needed.
NOTE: We all want to do things legally. But let’s face it. The bureaucracy and red tape is overboard. The planet is suffering, the cost of living is unsustainable, we may be on the brink of a global warming catastrophe. And still local councils and governments prevent developments that are far better for the environment, and dramatically improve the standards of living – all in the name of “regulations”. We want to comply with laws, but not if the planet will be destroyed by the time local councils wake up.
You may conduct any landscaping work provided that:
i. You have had your proposed work independently assessed, to ensure it does not unduly negatively impact the environment, the Property, or the Private Land of other Participants,
ii. You provide the report of the independent assessment to other Participants,
iii. It is safe and legal to do so.
NOTE: In most cases, landscaping will only be minor, to enhance the privacy of Private Land. It may even be used to help construct barriers or wind-breaks for your structures. Provided you aren’t causing problems like erosion, or blocking views, and you re-vegetate areas, there shouldn’t be any problem.
15. LEGAL ENTITLEMENT
Regardless of what entity owns the Property, or the legal structure governing the ownership of the Property, the ownership of the property shall be:
i. Divided in proportion to the purchase price of the Properties (including all tax and legal fees), if all Participants purchase the Property simultaneously, or
ii. Divided in proportion to the value contributed at the time of this agreement (including all tax and legal fees), if Participants purchase shares of the Property at a time after the original purchase.
NOTE: Basically if a Property is purchased together, each Participant pays their share. If someone purchases a share later, they will pay their share based on the current valuation of the Property.
16. FINANCIAL LOSS LIABILITY
If for any reason, besides the exception in section 17, you must withdraw from this arrangement to share land, you must bare the financial loss.
You agree not to:
i. Take any action, or make any requests, or
ii. Put undue pressure on other Participants to take action,
That causes other Participants to vacate the Property, or cause other Participants financial loss.
This agreement supersedes the matter of what entity is the registered proprietor of the Property. Even if a court of law recognizes the specified proprietor as the sole owner of the Property, you agree to owe other Participants financial compensation if you breach this agreement.
The financial compensation includes but is not limited to their expenses for:
i. Legal representation,
ii. Additional living expenses, from needing to re-locate,
iii. Anything else ultimately directly caused by your breach of these terms.
NOTE: If only one person legally owned a Property (on the Land Titles Register), the courts may only recognize them as the legal owner. So initially, the person on the land title holds all the cards. But there are additional agreements that protect the person who wasn’t specified on the land title. It might be an annoying and tedious legal process, but if due process is followed, justice will be done. So think twice before you sell a property from under other people, and kick them off land in your name. It puts you in a very compromising position.
17. EXCEPTION TO SECTION 16.
If a Participant must withdraw from this arrangement to share land due to legal action by a government authority pertaining to unlawful use of the land, on other another Participant’s Private Land, then the withdrawing Participant will not be liable for any losses stipulated in section 16.
However, besides any legal costs, or the costs of any litigation against the withdrawing Participant relating to activity on Private Land of other Participants, the withdrawing Participant shall reimburse other affected Participants their share of the remaining value.
NOTE: If you do something on your own Private Land, but someone else’s name is on the title, they may be legally liable instead of you. So if they are sued, they might lose a lot of money. It’s not fair for you to ask them to bare all the costs. You agree that you’re in
18. LIABILITY TO COMPLY WITH COUNCIL REGULATIONS
Participants are liable for anything they construct on their Private Land. If government authorities demand the removal of any structure, or any development on your Private Land, you agree to comply entirely at your expense.
You also agree to be liable for any expenses or fault, resulting of any activity, constructions or developments on your Private Land – or any Shared Land (in equal proportion to any Participants who funded or undertook any developments).
NOTE: If you did something wrong on land that has someone else’s name on the title, you might be tempted to blame them let them be fully liable.
19. RIGHTS OF TITLE-HOLDER
Whoever is the registered proprietor of the Property shall have the final say over what activity is permitted on their property.
NOTE: This is a tricky situation because some courts will hold only land-owners liable. Whereas some courts may consider occupants to be “campers”, who are responsible for their own actions.
20. CHANGE OF PARTICIPANTS
A Participant may sell their share of the Property (the “Private Land”) to any other entity, only on the condition that either:
i. The new Participant signs and agrees to the original terms, or
ii. New and mutually acceptable terms are agreed to, by all Participants of the Property.
21. GUNS AND WEAPONS
Guns are permitted to be held on your Private Land, provided they are:
ii. Stored securely, and as per legal requirements,
iii. Never used on the property, except for the purposes of self-defense, or if all Participants are provided with ample notice (and they have approved).
NOTE: It might be hard to relax if you never know when you’ll hear a gunshot. Each Participant can decide if they want to permit guns or weapons of any kind.
Fires are permitted only on your Private Land, provided you comply with local laws are regulations.
23. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
What you do on your own Private Land is your own business, providing you do no harm to others.
24. COUNCIL RATES AND LAND TAX
Any council rates or land tax payments must be split evenly between all Participants, unless otherwise agreed upon by the local council and Participants.
What if a “difficult person” disrupts the community and refuses to leave?
Firstly, people who willingly make your life hell are very rare. This “possibility” should not stop you from proceeding. Life is full of risks. Besides, consider the low risks vs potential rewards (freedom).
Most people have good intentions, and will take reasonable steps to avoid stepping on your toes. But let’s say your neighbor refuses to change or leave. Then what?
In this case, you’re in for trouble regardless of the legal structure of the property ownership, or any legally binding agreements you have.
In fact the only real difference between sharing land, and living in typical suburbs, is you can’t just get police to remove the person for you – because it’s their property too. Although in extreme circumstances, you could still obtain a restraining order, which prevents them coming near you (even on the same property).
So what should you do? It depends on the property’s legal structure. But in most cases, your two best options are:
- You leave. There must be clear agreements in place that specify what happens if you decide to leave. If the “difficult person” doesn’t comply, then you might then need to litigate to recover your investment. If your agreements are clear, then your legal fees would be recovered from the share of the “difficult person”. This might leave them with nothing. So they’d need to be a fool to force you to sue them. You wont have lost anything except time.
- Just avoid the person: Just like you would with a neighbor in the suburbs.
How Legal Ownership of the Land Is Shared
There are a variety of legal structures to protect everyone’s investment. After all, everyone is different. So not everyone will agree on everything. You should never rely on trust alone. Also the legal structure depends on the jurisdiction.
A lot of detail is provided at https://communityenterpriselaw.org/housing-legal-structure/
If it is liable for your land, either sub-division or strata title may be your best options. This is because the government recognizes your independent rights.