This whole thing started for us because Adam found the house on Domain, linked to it as a wistful pipe dream here - http://ahdoom.livejournal.com/100510.html. Since then a few of is have been discussing the idea at length and in pretty extensive detail. There are about six definately in for the project, and we have about ten other people circling it with varying degrees of certainty and commitment. We have started http://community.livejournal.com/megadooomhouse/ to hold discussions of ideas, suggestions, etc.
In terms of how to set it up to our best advantage legally, I personally don't have a great deal of specific knowledge.
However, my friend Patrick (lawtric on LJ) is a practicing lawyer who specialises in contract law, and is willing to offer us free or alcohol-bought legal advice.
From what I have already found out there are some advantages to setting it up as an incorporated business, however issues of insurance and accountability are worrying me. There are a lot of advantages we could glean from simply setting the whole thing up as a private contract and using tenant's ABNs for things like Campbell's Cash'n'Carry, wholesale rates, etc. We are also planning on consulting some of the organisers of STUCCO and further investigating the details and practicalities of running it as a co-operative.
How it would actually function as an entity once we have all the paperwork out of the way is something I think will generate a LOT of debate (hell, it already has between Keiran and I alone), but we have some reasonably structured ideas.
Assuming we have 15 people in the house, it would be reasonable to assume that we hold entire house meetings for decisions which effect the whole house, and take a democratic vote.
However, a more efficient way of getting action moving would be to bring an idea up at a meeting, elect a committee to track down details, do the research and present maybe two or three viable options to the group for a vote.
This would however have to be done in a very timely fashion, and the committee would have to be ready to action the decision as soon as it is made to prevent things taking forever.
While we could form project based committee's for things like getting the net set up, etc, we should also have standing committees to take responsibility for long term projects like food shopping, taking care of a vegie garden, social events, and finance.
The finance committee in particular could consist of someone in charge of food money, someone in charge of bill money, and someone in charge of rent money.
I personally think the finance committee should have their own office set aside for account keeping and filing (of which there will be a LOT), with only those people having keys to limit accountability.
The rent person is going to need a large calendar to keep track of rent, since I can guarantee people will be paying all over the place, and the bills and food person will probably also need a bit of space to set out plans, budgets, etc.
The food money person would have to liase closely with the Food Gatherers, and keep a check on their spending.
If we could get a house improvement fund happening, you would also need someone to take care of the accounting on that.
If possible, it would be awesome to have seperate bank accounts for all these categories. While it might sound complex, it also means that each person can only access the portion of money they are responsible for should anyone wish to defraud us.
You could also set up a locked box outside the office for the categories of moneys, so people can drop them in if they need to on their way past, with each "minister" having the key for their own box, and ONLY that person having the key for it.This way if money goes missing, we won't have very far too look, and the people in charge of it will probably take a great deal of care to make sure no one can take money because they will get the blame.
All money recieved should be reciepted, and reciepts delivered to tenant mailboxes if possible.
If we could set up tenant mailboxes, things like regular mail and house notices could also be distributed efficiently.
We have also taken into consideration that there may be people joining the project who have money, but very little time to contribute. If you are unable to take on a task to help the household running, I think you should have to contribute to the household improvement fund on a weekly basis instead. Not a lot, but every little bit will add up.
A cleaner would pretty much be a neccessity to my mind. Even if it was just vaccuming and the bathrooms, I think the money would be well worth it to maintain some standard of cleanliness regardless of the laziness/lack of time of housemates.
House meetings need to be very structured, and probably weekly at first until the system is running smoothly. I think they should be chaired by someone who does not get a vote on the issue they are chairing to prevent bias. New housemates should get a trial period of approximately a month before they are given a vote to ensure they have the long term interests of the project in mind.
I've seen some comments around from people about whether they will "get along" with other prospective tenants, and I think a point that needs to be made is that this wouldn't be like a regular share house, so people can't think of it like that.
In fact, would work better if we were not all best friends because then tensions would probably not run so high, and emotions would not be as likely to get in the way of decision making. I'm thinking of potential housemates more in terms of, "Could I work in the same building as them? Would I mind having lunch with them occassionally?"
For this to work people will have to be able to be professional and business-like in house discussions, and keep personal likes or dislikes out of it. Whether you and X particuarly get along as people should never come into house decisions (unless it's coming down to whether you and X should stay). If you don't like them, it's not gonna be hard to avoid hanging out with them. This will be, essentially, a business arrangement, and I think unless people go in with a professional attitude we are going to run into an awful lot of problems.
Due to the amount of people that are likely to be going in and out, locks on all bedrooms or private studies will most likely have to be installed. They might already be there, something we shall have to check out. But for security, I think it really will be nessesary. Also that way if people have things they really don't want other people touching or using, they can keep them in their rooms and know that no one else can get to them.
On a more fun note, possible uses for spare rooms have been flowing like...well, something that flows a lot.
Some people want a dedicated debate room, where we can send people having heated discussions. It would obviously have to have a computer so we could access Google, otherwise discussions would never get solved. :)
We have equipment to set up a darkroom that is being donated, and a couple of photographers in our camp.
We have also have a couple of painters, and would need space for them either as a large shared room or as smaller personal studios.
There is likely to be a MOUNTAIN of computer equipment, and so a gaming room is very very likely. We are also talking about setting up three net connections - one for gaming (because online gamers get WAY hardcore about their lag), one for downloading, and one for general browsing.
We have been thinking that we don't want numbers too large to start with, probably fifteen at most. We think it's best to start with a manageable number and then we can build up from there if need be, rather than packing the place to the roof and it all getting too much and collapsing. If we build slowly from a solid base, it's much more likely to last even though it will cost us more to start with.
Speaking of costs, it also occurred to us that there is a myriad array of ways we could raise money for general house purposes, or for tenants to run their own small businesses from the premises. We could hold club nights and charge a small entry fee, we could hire out the chapel to the Camarilla etc, we could rent Alison a small second room to use as a massage clinic. Hell, once we got established we could get visiting authors and artists in for seminars, again charging a small fee. All these things could not only help us afford the rent, but make sure we have a little to fall back on should we lose people unexpectedly.
Speaking for Keiran and myself, we need a new place end of July/start of August, and all our other tenants are looking at the same sort of timeframe. What about on your end?
Anyway, that's the basic outline so far. Let us know what you think, and if the Sutekher's are willing to come to the party.
I'm not sure if a joint effort would work out - there might be too much distrust on both sides to create a workable group. However, it would be a great way to make up the numbers, and having more than one social group could actually make the house a little more stable because even if one social group goes boom, it's only half the house instead of the whole thing.
Anyway, am tired now. Someone else think!