Difference between revisions of "Co-operative Housing: Members' Rights and Duties"

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{{REVIEWEDPLS | reviewer = [https://citadellawyers.ca/silvano-s-todesco/ Silvano Todesco], Citadel Law Corporation|date= February 2018}} {{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = home}}
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A housing co-operative provides housing to its members. As a member of a co-op, you have a say in decisions affecting your housing, and rights and duties under the law.
  
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==What you should know==
==What is a housing co-operative?==
 
A housing co-operative, or a “co-op” for short, is an incorporated, non-profit association that owns housing for its members. The members are people who want to live in a mixed-income community where they have a voice and a vote in decisions affecting their housing. Co-op housing is not considered an investment, existing purely for housing purposes.
 
  
==What law applies to housing co-ops?==
+
===A housing co-op provides housing to its members===
The rules of the association or by-laws are intended to regulate the affairs the co-operative corporation and to establish, in some cases, procedural rights for the membership. The rules will usually include provisions with respect to the qualifications of members, the rights of joint members, membership obligations to use co-operative services and to pay fees, the transferability of an interest, matters related to board of directors, financial matters (such as distribution of surplus earnings), conditions and procedures for withdrawing membership or terminating membership. In other cases, the rules are to be established by the board of directors and approved by the membership at a meeting called for that purpose.  
+
A housing co-operative, or '''co-op''', is an organization incorporated [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/sbc-1999-c-28/latest/sbc-1999-c-28.html under the ''Cooperative Association Act''] that provides housing to its '''members'''. Members purchase a share to join and elect directors to govern the co-op.
  
A co-op’s “Occupancy Agreement” is similar to a lease, setting out members’ rights and responsibilities as residents. The “Rules of the Association” set out the membership conditions. Both the agreement and the rules must be consistent with the BC Cooperative Association Act (referred to as the Act in this script) and Cooperative Association Regulation (the Regulation).
+
Most housing co-ops in BC are non-profit co-ops with a '''rental''' (not equity) model of housing. The members are typically people who want to live in a mixed-income community where they have a voice and a vote in decisions affecting their housing.
  
==Who are members?==
+
===The laws and rules that apply to co-ops===
The people who own and live in a housing co-op are called “members”. Normally, a member must be at least 19 years old (although a co-op may allow members as young as 16). A member must also own at least one common share in the association and live in one of the co-op housing units. Members are not tenants, meaning that the BC ''Residential Tenancy Act'' does not apply to them. Further, their payments are not considered “rent”. Instead, they pay a monthly housing charge for the mortgage, taxes, and operating expenses of the co-op. Some members pay a housing charge based on their income – usually, about 30% of their gross household income—while others pay a housing charge close to market rates. Together, the members own their housing jointly and control the governance and management of the housing co-op.
+
[https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/sbc-1999-c-28/latest/sbc-1999-c-28.html Under the ''Cooperative Association Act''], a housing co-op must be organized and operated on a cooperative basis. The Act and [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/regu/bc-reg-391-2000/latest/bc-reg-391-2000.html the regulation under it] set out the framework for things like how co-ops are managed, general meetings, voting, and ending membership.
  
However, where the person paying rent is not a member of the cooperative, and the cooperative or a cooperative member is the landlord, those rental units may be subject to the BC ''Residential Tenancy Act''.
+
The '''rules''' adopted by the co-op provide more detail on things like:
  
You should get legal advice from a lawyer if it’s not clear whether BC ''Residential Tenancy Act'' applies.
+
* the qualifications of members
 +
* the rights of joint members
 +
* membership obligations to use co-operative services and to pay fees
 +
* the transferability of members’ interest in the co-op
 +
* board of director matters
 +
* financial matters (such as distributing surplus earnings)
 +
* conditions and procedures for withdrawing or ending membership
 +
 
 +
The board of directors can set other rules that are approved by the members at a meeting called to do that.
 +
 
 +
A co-op’s '''occupancy agreement''' is like a lease. It sets out members’ rights and responsibilities as residents.
 +
 
 +
===A co-op is governed by its members===
 +
Members of co-ops work together to govern and manage the co-op through an elected board of directors and various committees. The members themselves, as well as the committees and the board of directors, all hold meetings to deal with things like admitting new members, finance, policy-making, and major decisions for members. Co-ops also hire professional management providers and contract for other services like bookkeeping and maintenance.
 +
 
 +
===Rights of co-op members===
 +
Together, co-op members own their housing jointly and control the co-op’s governance and management.
 +
 
 +
A co-op member must own at least one common share in the association and live in one of the co-op housing units. Normally, a member must be at least 19 years old (although a co-op may allow members as young as 16).
  
==What rights do members have?==
 
 
Members can:
 
Members can:
#attend, speak, and vote at general meetings where major decisions are made, such as changing policies and rules, setting housing charges, and electing directors.
 
#elect the members of the board of directors, or run for election as one of the directors if they want to help govern the co-op.
 
#live permanently in their unit as long as they need the housing the co-op provides and accept membership responsibilities.  (be mindful that where the co-op ends a person’s membership, the person must leave the co-op upon termination. If they fail to do so, the co-op can apply to the BC Supreme Court for possession of the person’s unit)
 
#use services provided by the co-op, at as close as possible to the actual cost.
 
#withdraw from the co-op or transfer their share in it to another person with the consent of the co-op’s directors.
 
  
==What if members have a dispute?==
+
* attend, speak, and vote at general meetings where major decisions are made, such as changing policies and rules, setting housing charges, and electing directors
Co-ops govern themselves. The rules and policies of most co-ops have procedures to solve disputes between individual members and between the association and individual members. Members should follow those procedures to solve disputes. If that doesn’t work, members can seek help through arbitration or the court system. A person with a dispute who is no longer a member has 6 months after leaving the co-op to seek arbitration or go to court. Arbitration is similar to, but less formal than court. Arbitration decisions are final unless the co-op’s rules allow the decision to be appealed in court. If a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person cannot use arbitration to appeal that action – they have to go to court, as explained below.
+
* elect the directors, or run for election as one of the directors if they want to help govern the co-op
 +
* live permanently in their unit as long as they need the housing the co-op provides and accept membership responsibilities (if a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person must leave the co-op — if they don’t, the co-op can apply to court for possession of the person’s unit)
 +
* use services provided by the co-op, at as close as possible to the actual cost
 +
* withdraw from the co-op or transfer their share in it to another person with the consent of the co-op’s directors
 +
 
 +
====Joint members====
 +
If two or more people are joint members of a co-op, only one of the joint members can be a director at one time, and only the person whose name appears first on the share certificate can vote — unless the co-op’s rules say otherwise. All joint members must pay any assessments, levies, dues, fees, payments, and other charges relating to membership. The co-op can collect that money from any joint member.
  
==What happens at co-op meetings?==
+
{| class="wikitable"
Members of co-ops work together to govern and manage the co-op through an elected board of directors and various committees. The members themselves, as well as the committees and the board of directors, all hold meetings to deal with things like admitting new members, finance, policy-making, and major decisions for members. Co-ops also hire professional management services and contract for other services like bookkeeping and maintenance.
+
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 +
Co-op members are not tenants, so the BC ''Residential Tenancy Act'' does not apply to them. If a person paying rent is not a member of the co-op, and the co-op or one of its members is the landlord, the ''Residential Tenancy Act'' may apply to those rental units. You should get legal advice if it’s not clear whether residential tenancy laws apply.
 +
|}
 +
 +
===Duties of co-op members===
 +
Members must follow the co-op rules, which are made by members. They must:
  
==What do members have to do?==
+
* follow the rules on parking, maintenance of the housing, and participation in the co-op
Members have to follow the co-op rules, which are made by members. That means members have to:
+
* attend general meetings and meetings of any committee they belong to
#follow the rules on parking, maintenance of the housing, and participation in the co-op.
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* make their payments to the co-op, in full and on time
#attend general meetings and meetings of any committee they belong to.
 
#pay their housing charges and shares in full and on time. All money payable is a debt to the co-op. If a member does not pay, the co-op can put a lien (a charge) on their shares. The co-op can also end a person’s membership for failure to pay.
 
  
==What if two or more people are joint members of a co-op?==
+
The monthly payments co-op members make towards the mortgage, taxes, and operating expenses of the co-op are called '''housing charges''', not rent. Some members pay a housing charge based on their income — usually, about 30% of their gross household income. Others pay a housing charge close to market rates.
Only one of the joint members can be a director at one time and only the person whose name appears first on the share certificate can vote – unless the co-op’s rules say otherwise. All joint members are responsible for paying any assessments, levies, dues, fees, payments and other charges relating to membership and the co-op can collect that money from any joint member.
 
  
==When can a co-op end a person’s membership?==
+
All money payable is a debt to the co-op. If a member does not pay, the co-op can put a '''lien''' (a charge) on the member’s shares. The co-op can also end a person’s membership for failure to pay.
Any housing co-op evictions occur pursuant to procedures in the ''Cooperative Association Act'' and ''Cooperative Association Regulation''.
 
  
A co-op can end a person’s membership in any of the following cases:
+
===If members have a dispute===
*if the person does not pay rent, occupancy charges, or other money they owe for the use of the premises.
+
Co-ops govern themselves. The '''rules''' and '''policies''' of most co-ops have procedures to solve disputes between members and between the association and members. Members should follow those procedures to solve disputes.
*if the directors believe that the person violated a “material condition” in the occupancy agreement, meaning something important and fundamental to the agreement.
 
*for conduct detrimental to the co-op, meaning seriously harmful behaviour.
 
  
You should look at the specific co-op’s by-laws and/or occupancy agreement to see if they set out what behavior will be detrimental to co-op and may lead to end of membership.  
+
If that doesn’t work, members can seek help through arbitration or the court system. '''Arbitration''' is like court, but less formal. Arbitration decisions are final unless the co-op’s rules allow the decision to be appealed in court.
  
The co-op must first give notice of the problem to the person and give them a chance to correct it. A motion to end a person’s membership for one of these reasons needs approval by 75% of all directors in a meeting called for this purpose. The co-op has to give the person notice of the directors’ meeting, and let them appear and speak at the meeting. A person whose membership is ended is entitled to a refund of what they paid for their shares, minus any money they owe to the co-op. When a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person’s occupancy agreement also ends, so they can no longer live in the co-op.
+
If a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person cannot use arbitration to appeal that action — they must go to court, as explained shortly.
  
==What if a person disagrees with the directors’ decision to end their membership?==
+
A person with a dispute who is no longer a member has six months after leaving the co-op to seek arbitration or go to court.
The person can appeal to the members at the next membership meeting and continue as a member until the appeal is heard. But first, they have to notify the directors that they plan to appeal. And they have to do this within 7 days of when they are notified of the directors’ decision to end their membership.
+
 +
===Ending a person’s membership===
 +
Housing co-op evictions must follow [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/sbc-1999-c-28/latest/sbc-1999-c-28.html the ''Cooperative Association Act''] and [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/regu/bc-reg-391-2000/latest/bc-reg-391-2000.html the regulation under it]. A co-op can end a person’s membership in any of the following cases:
  
If the members confirm the directors’ decision, the person can apply to the BC Supreme Court to rule that the termination of their membership wasn’t justified – because the co-op violated principles of natural justice or its decision was not reasonably supported by the facts or authorized under the Act.
+
* if a person '''does not pay rent''', occupancy charges, or other money they owe for using the premises
 +
* if the directors believe a person '''violated a material condition''' in the occupancy agreement, meaning something fundamental to the agreement
 +
* for '''conduct detrimental''' to the co-op, meaning seriously harmful behaviour
  
There is a 30-day limit to apply to the Supreme Court. People need help from a lawyer before doing this.
+
You should look at a co-op’s rules and occupancy agreement to see if they say what behavior will harm the co-op and cause it to end a membership.
  
==When can a co-op end a person’s occupancy agreement?==
+
A co-op must first give notice of the problem to the person and give them a chance to correct it. A motion to end a person’s membership for one of these reasons needs approval by 75% of all directors in a meeting called for this purpose. The co-op must give the person notice of the directors’ meeting, and let them appear and speak at the meeting.
A co-op can end a person’s occupancy agreement for any breach of the occupancy agreement. The most common reason is non-payment of housing charges. The board must first demand in writing that the person correct the problem. If the person doesn’t correct it, the board can pass a resolution by a simple majority (meaning more than 50%) to end the occupancy agreement.  
 
  
When the occupancy agreement ends, the person’s membership also ends and they must then leave the co-op. However, they have the right to appeal, as was described earlier in this script.  
+
A person whose membership is ended has the right to a refund of what they paid for their shares, minus any money they owe to the co-op. When a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person’s occupancy agreement also ends, so they can no longer live in the co-op.
  
If an evicted member does not voluntarily pay any arrears owed to the co-op, the co-op may go to the courts to sue the member for the amount still owing. Small Claims Court offers the co-op a simple and inexpensive method to collect money.
+
{| class="wikitable"
 +
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 +
If you are a member of a housing co-op and you have received a letter saying your membership has been terminated, [https://clasbc.net/ the Community Legal Assistance Society may be able to help].
 +
|}
 +
 +
===If a person disagrees with a decision to end their membership===
 +
The person can appeal to the members at the next membership meeting and continue as a member until the appeal is heard. But first, they must notify the directors they plan to appeal. And they must do this within '''seven days''' of when they are notified of the directors’ decision to end their membership.
  
==More information==
+
If the members confirm the directors’ decision, the person can apply to the BC Supreme Court to rule that the termination of their membership wasn’t justified — because the co-op violated principles of natural justice or its decision was not reasonably supported by the facts or authorized [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/sbc-1999-c-28/latest/sbc-1999-c-28.html under the ''Cooperative Association Act''].
Check the website of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC at [http://www.chf.bc.ca www.chf.bc.ca], or call them at 604.879.5111 in Vancouver and 1.866.879.5111, toll-free, elsewhere in BC. The Federation website has model rules and occupancy agreement, a guide to the model rules, and a guide to the Act. They are under the “Members Resources” link, which is under the “Education” link on the main page. This website also has a link to the Act.
 
  
As well, both the ''Cooperative Association Act'' and ''Cooperative Association Regulation'' are available at [http://www.bclaws.ca www.bclaws.ca] – click on “Statutes and Regulations” and then on “C” in the alphabetical list. Scroll down and click on the name of the Act and Regulation to view them. Some public libraries also have copies of BC laws and regulations.
+
{| class="wikitable"
 +
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 +
There is a 30-day limit to appeal a housing co-op eviction to the Supreme Court. It is advisable to seek a lawyer’s help to do this, as the documents and process are complex.
 +
|}
 +
 +
===Ending a person’s occupancy agreement===
 +
A co-op can end a person’s occupancy agreement for any breach of the occupancy agreement. The most common reason is non-payment of housing charges. The co-op’s board of directors must first demand in writing that the person correct the problem. If the person doesn’t correct it, the board can pass a resolution by a simple majority (more than 50%) to end the occupancy agreement.
  
Finally, check the website of the Community Legal Assistance Society at [http://www.clasbc.net www.clasbc.net].
+
When the occupancy agreement ends, the person’s membership also ends. They must then leave the co-op. But they can appeal, as described earlier.
  
 +
If an evicted member does not pay what they owe to the co-op, the co-op can sue them. Claims for $5,000 or less [https://civilresolutionbc.ca/ go to the Civil Resolution Tribunal]. Claims above $5,000 and up to $35,000 [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/ go to Small Claims Court]. Claims above $35,000 [https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/ go to BC Supreme Court].
  
[updated April 2015]
+
==Who can help==
  
{{REVIEWED | reviewer = Daniel Sorensen, Jack Montpellier and Anna Kurt}}
+
===With more information===
----
+
The '''Co-operative Housing Federation of BC''' website features [https://www.chf.bc.ca/resources/model-rules-2/ model rules] and information for those living in a housing co-op.
  
 +
* Call 604-879-5111 (Vancouver) or 1-866-879-5111 (toll-free)
 +
* [https://www.chf.bc.ca/ Visit website]
 +
 +
If you are a member of a housing co-op and you have received a letter saying your membership has been terminated, the '''Community Legal Assistance Society''' may be able to help.
 +
 +
* Call 604-685-3425 (Vancouver) or 1-888-685-6222 (toll-free)
 +
* [https://clasbc.net/ Visit website]
 +
 +
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Latest revision as of 20:01, 15 October 2020

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Silvano Todesco, Citadel Law Corporation in February 2018.

A housing co-operative provides housing to its members. As a member of a co-op, you have a say in decisions affecting your housing, and rights and duties under the law.

What you should know

A housing co-op provides housing to its members

A housing co-operative, or co-op, is an organization incorporated under the Cooperative Association Act that provides housing to its members. Members purchase a share to join and elect directors to govern the co-op.

Most housing co-ops in BC are non-profit co-ops with a rental (not equity) model of housing. The members are typically people who want to live in a mixed-income community where they have a voice and a vote in decisions affecting their housing.

The laws and rules that apply to co-ops

Under the Cooperative Association Act, a housing co-op must be organized and operated on a cooperative basis. The Act and the regulation under it set out the framework for things like how co-ops are managed, general meetings, voting, and ending membership.

The rules adopted by the co-op provide more detail on things like:

  • the qualifications of members
  • the rights of joint members
  • membership obligations to use co-operative services and to pay fees
  • the transferability of members’ interest in the co-op
  • board of director matters
  • financial matters (such as distributing surplus earnings)
  • conditions and procedures for withdrawing or ending membership

The board of directors can set other rules that are approved by the members at a meeting called to do that.

A co-op’s occupancy agreement is like a lease. It sets out members’ rights and responsibilities as residents.

A co-op is governed by its members

Members of co-ops work together to govern and manage the co-op through an elected board of directors and various committees. The members themselves, as well as the committees and the board of directors, all hold meetings to deal with things like admitting new members, finance, policy-making, and major decisions for members. Co-ops also hire professional management providers and contract for other services like bookkeeping and maintenance.

Rights of co-op members

Together, co-op members own their housing jointly and control the co-op’s governance and management.

A co-op member must own at least one common share in the association and live in one of the co-op housing units. Normally, a member must be at least 19 years old (although a co-op may allow members as young as 16).

Members can:

  • attend, speak, and vote at general meetings where major decisions are made, such as changing policies and rules, setting housing charges, and electing directors
  • elect the directors, or run for election as one of the directors if they want to help govern the co-op
  • live permanently in their unit as long as they need the housing the co-op provides and accept membership responsibilities (if a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person must leave the co-op — if they don’t, the co-op can apply to court for possession of the person’s unit)
  • use services provided by the co-op, at as close as possible to the actual cost
  • withdraw from the co-op or transfer their share in it to another person with the consent of the co-op’s directors

Joint members

If two or more people are joint members of a co-op, only one of the joint members can be a director at one time, and only the person whose name appears first on the share certificate can vote — unless the co-op’s rules say otherwise. All joint members must pay any assessments, levies, dues, fees, payments, and other charges relating to membership. The co-op can collect that money from any joint member.

Tip

Co-op members are not tenants, so the BC Residential Tenancy Act does not apply to them. If a person paying rent is not a member of the co-op, and the co-op or one of its members is the landlord, the Residential Tenancy Act may apply to those rental units. You should get legal advice if it’s not clear whether residential tenancy laws apply.

Duties of co-op members

Members must follow the co-op rules, which are made by members. They must:

  • follow the rules on parking, maintenance of the housing, and participation in the co-op
  • attend general meetings and meetings of any committee they belong to
  • make their payments to the co-op, in full and on time

The monthly payments co-op members make towards the mortgage, taxes, and operating expenses of the co-op are called housing charges, not rent. Some members pay a housing charge based on their income — usually, about 30% of their gross household income. Others pay a housing charge close to market rates.

All money payable is a debt to the co-op. If a member does not pay, the co-op can put a lien (a charge) on the member’s shares. The co-op can also end a person’s membership for failure to pay.

If members have a dispute

Co-ops govern themselves. The rules and policies of most co-ops have procedures to solve disputes between members and between the association and members. Members should follow those procedures to solve disputes.

If that doesn’t work, members can seek help through arbitration or the court system. Arbitration is like court, but less formal. Arbitration decisions are final unless the co-op’s rules allow the decision to be appealed in court.

If a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person cannot use arbitration to appeal that action — they must go to court, as explained shortly.

A person with a dispute who is no longer a member has six months after leaving the co-op to seek arbitration or go to court.

Ending a person’s membership

Housing co-op evictions must follow the Cooperative Association Act and the regulation under it. A co-op can end a person’s membership in any of the following cases:

  • if a person does not pay rent, occupancy charges, or other money they owe for using the premises
  • if the directors believe a person violated a material condition in the occupancy agreement, meaning something fundamental to the agreement
  • for conduct detrimental to the co-op, meaning seriously harmful behaviour

You should look at a co-op’s rules and occupancy agreement to see if they say what behavior will harm the co-op and cause it to end a membership.

A co-op must first give notice of the problem to the person and give them a chance to correct it. A motion to end a person’s membership for one of these reasons needs approval by 75% of all directors in a meeting called for this purpose. The co-op must give the person notice of the directors’ meeting, and let them appear and speak at the meeting.

A person whose membership is ended has the right to a refund of what they paid for their shares, minus any money they owe to the co-op. When a co-op ends a person’s membership, the person’s occupancy agreement also ends, so they can no longer live in the co-op.

Tip

If you are a member of a housing co-op and you have received a letter saying your membership has been terminated, the Community Legal Assistance Society may be able to help.

If a person disagrees with a decision to end their membership

The person can appeal to the members at the next membership meeting and continue as a member until the appeal is heard. But first, they must notify the directors they plan to appeal. And they must do this within seven days of when they are notified of the directors’ decision to end their membership.

If the members confirm the directors’ decision, the person can apply to the BC Supreme Court to rule that the termination of their membership wasn’t justified — because the co-op violated principles of natural justice or its decision was not reasonably supported by the facts or authorized under the Cooperative Association Act.

Tip

There is a 30-day limit to appeal a housing co-op eviction to the Supreme Court. It is advisable to seek a lawyer’s help to do this, as the documents and process are complex.

Ending a person’s occupancy agreement

A co-op can end a person’s occupancy agreement for any breach of the occupancy agreement. The most common reason is non-payment of housing charges. The co-op’s board of directors must first demand in writing that the person correct the problem. If the person doesn’t correct it, the board can pass a resolution by a simple majority (more than 50%) to end the occupancy agreement.

When the occupancy agreement ends, the person’s membership also ends. They must then leave the co-op. But they can appeal, as described earlier.

If an evicted member does not pay what they owe to the co-op, the co-op can sue them. Claims for $5,000 or less go to the Civil Resolution Tribunal. Claims above $5,000 and up to $35,000 go to Small Claims Court. Claims above $35,000 go to BC Supreme Court.

Who can help

With more information

The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC website features model rules and information for those living in a housing co-op.

  • Call 604-879-5111 (Vancouver) or 1-866-879-5111 (toll-free)
  • Visit website

If you are a member of a housing co-op and you have received a letter saying your membership has been terminated, the Community Legal Assistance Society may be able to help.

  • Call 604-685-3425 (Vancouver) or 1-888-685-6222 (toll-free)
  • Visit website
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