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How can you ensure everyone gets fair use of a co-owned vacation house?

by | Nov 28, 2021

A concern many people have when it comes to co-owning a vacation house is how much time each owner will have at the property and whether they will get enough time to make it worthwhile.  The best way to alleviate this problem is by establishing a system before buying the house and incorporating it into an ownership agreement.

A formal policy can take many forms, but it should address several important topics to ensure that it is comprehensive enough to prevent disagreements later on.  The system should be transparent, so that all the owners are aware of when the house is in use and how many stays each owner has enjoyed during a specific time frame.  The length of stays should be agreed upon: months, weeks, weekends, or days.  Use during high seasons and holidays should be allocated fairly, and time for maintenance and upkeep should be scheduled regularly.

Some successful ownership groups divide regular costs such as utilities, based on the number of days each owner spends at the vacation home. Others “charge” a per night fee to cover regular expenses.  These systems allow an owner who is less able to use the house to reduce their monthly charge.

There are several methods ownership groups can use to schedule time at a vacation house.


ROTATION: One common way is to number the weeks from 1 to 52, and each owner a letter from say A to C. Each week is assigned to an owner (week 1 to A, week 2 to B, week 3 to C, week 4 to A, etc.) until each week is allocated. Then in the second year, week 1 goes to B, week 2 to C, etc. This system ensures that each owner gets a fair number of days per year with an equal spread throughout the year. This system works best if there is an easy way for owners to trade weeks, so that special occasions can be reserved fairly.

DRAFT: Another method is to hold a yearly draft, where each owner gets to select a week at a time. Numbers are pulled from a hat, determining the order of the draft. Owner A picks a week, Owner B picks a week, Owner C picks a week, then Owner A picks a second week, etc., until all the weeks are allocated. This ensures that each owner has equal access to the house. For efficiency, some groups just draft the high season and holiday weeks because it’s faster, and allow the remaining weeks to be booked first-come, first-served.

FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED: A more casual approach is to allow each owner to reserve the house for 2 weeks of the next 12 months on an ongoing basis. You would start with a draft to assign 2 weeks to each owner, and then after you use 1 week, you get to select another week, within the next 12 months. The unreserved weeks would enter a second pool where they could be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis, with each owner limited to 1 first- served reservation at a time. This combines the security of a known week or two, with the ability to be more spontaneous when the house is available.

No matter what system the ownership group chooses, it is critical that all of the owners agree to the system before its implementation. Changes can be made but they should be by unanimous consent. This ensures that everyone is treated fairly and the house is shared equitably.

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