Guides and Resources

Coworking agreements: service or lease?

Jul 04, 2012

When planning to open a coworking space, there is no way to avoid red tape and paperwork. Finding a space, choosing and buying furniture, designing your website or planning your marketing strategy, all pretty fun so far. But a coworking space is a business, and running a business means dealing with bureaucracy.

The paperwork required by the state and the tax authorities is standard, and there are many resources in the web. But coworking is a young movement, and the relationship with the customer is not completely clear yet. Is coworking a sublease? Is coworking a service? What kind of agreement should be used? How to best avoid complications with liability and insurance?

If you decide to use a sublease agreement, you must know that you’re not supposed to charge more for the space than you are paying your landlord. Tenants don’t receive any additional value from you, and have specific rights, obligations, and real property interests. This means that you would not be able to terminate an agreement with a coworker if you’d need to, and that you would not be able to make any decisions without your coworker’s agreement. This sort of legal agreement would be more suitable for shared offices in which freelancers or companies decide to rent an office space together.

Coworking spaces, however, offer something more than just space. You provide a space, true, but you also offer your coworkers an Internet connection, kitchen areas, access to a network of professionals, workshops, conferences, discounted rates for suppliers, etc. Coworking is clearly a service, and this is why you can get rid of a lot of complications by legally defining your relationship with your coworkers as that of a host/member.

The best approach is to sign a service agreement or a license agreement.

A coworking service agreement is the commercial equivalent of an agreement for accommodation in a hotel. It’s also similar to the membership agreements that are signed in gyms. By selling memberships, you entitle your coworkers to use the space and the resources therein, but the space is not leased at any time and remains solely yours.

We have put together a coworking service agreement you can look at as a guideline. To personalize the terms and conditions with your space’s information, open the document with a text editor and change any necessary points. You can use the find and replace function to remove the sample data and enter your information: for example, find [Coworking Space] and replace all the entries with your space’s name. Consult with a lawyer to make sure the terms and conditions important to you are reflected in the service agreement as required by law in your country or region.

Each coworking space is unique, so we tried to keep these terms as general as possible. You may want to include additional articles about your plans, the reasonable use of the services you offer for free, pets or bikes, guests, check in procedures, keys, and out of office hours, etc. If you do, you’re welcome to share them with us and the rest of the community. Leave us a comment or email us and we’ll make them available for other spaces.

Happy coworking!


See Coworking Service Agreement


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