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How to Dole Out Amenities Equitably

The Challenge

This is a story of a 66-unit cooperative. A decade ago, the co-op installed 66 storage units in two basement rooms. These were assigned to each of the shareholders and given to them free of charge. A year later, an additional 21 units were installed in a third basement room. These storage units were offered to only select people before any were made available to the entire building. The 21 were eventually sold to a number of shareholders for a flat fee of $500 a piece. In the nine years since then, some of the shareholders have even sold their storage bins to their neighbors, with one person owning a total of four storage units. There was no rental fee for those last 21 rooms, so the 66 shareholders are collectively paying for these additional 21 units when they pay for lighting, cleaning, and pest control (extermination) for those spaces. Some of the building residents felt that the 21 buyers had gotten a free ride.

The Solution

With many in the building complaining that the arrangement was unfair, we recently created license agreements for those additional lockers, and we started charging for them. As of April 1, the license fees are $75 a month, which comes to $1,575 a month for all 21. What the board decided to do after it started charging was to reimburse those original 21 shareholders, if they’re still there, the $500 that they had spent nine years ago.

The Lesson

Don’t give away an amenity. And if you do, treat everyone equally. n

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