4. How Many People Are We Sharing With?

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If you and your neighbor have decided to share a vacuum cleaner, the potential size of your sharing group is probably not a concern. But if you want to leave open the possibility that the group will grow or shrink, then group size is something you may want to discuss ahead of time.

What should the minimum or maximum group size be? It depends on what you're sharing and how often you'll need to use it, among other things. For example, if you plan to share a car with two other people, and you know that you'll need to use the car several days a week, your group probably can't grow. On the other hand, if you'll need to use the car only a few times a month to do major errands, you could share with a much larger group.

Large and small groups offer different advantages. If you aren't sure what size group will work best for you, consider whether any of these benefits are especially appealing.

Large groups:

  • spread costs among more people, which means the group can afford more expensive items, and each person has to pay less
  • spread responsibilities and save time
  • are more stable; changes to the group, like members leaving, cause less upheaval, and risk is spread among more people
  • use less energy and fewer natural resources
  • can afford more shared items, which makes it more likely that an item will be available when needed
  • allow for more diversity, helping people to feel a greater sense of belonging
  • have more power to bargain collectively and negotiate group rates, and
  • spare members meeting and administrative time, because they often delegate management to a small board or committee.

On the other hand, small groups:

  • are easier to manage and often more flexible
  • are easier to start because you don't need as many people
  • often involve fewer formalities and less paperwork, and are simpler to form and dissolve
  • are more personal
  • can tailor their activities to meet the individual needs of members, and
  • allow you to make sure all of you are truly compatible. You can really get to know your cosharers to make sure the arrangement will work, which is especially important if you will have to place tremendous trust in your sharing group (to share childcare, for example).

EXAMPLE: A small group of neighbors form a tool and toy sharing group. Together, they buy a shed to put in the backyard of one neighbor, Ubie. Each households has a key to the shed and uses it to store items they are willing to share. They decide to keep their group small, and write this in their sharing agreement:

" We agree to limit the size of our group to six households. By keeping the group small, we will be less likely to lose items and will not worry about lending our belongings to people we don't know. In addition, Ubie prefers to limit the number of people who enter his backyard."

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