Is Everyone in Co-operative Housing Really Co-operative?

Housing co-operatives, whether non-profit or ownership models, do require some degree of deliberate co-operation. Naturally, there will be conflicts of all kinds:  many types of activities and behaviours, even if no criminal law or City by-law is broken, may breach a co-op’s rules,  and annoy neighbour or possibly both. When the rent, known as occupancy charges,  gets behind, the concept of “co-operation” gets stretched to the breaking point. Membership meetings are held, and the landlord who can evict you is — surprise! — your neighbours! This is much more personal than in a condominium, where a bank may repossess your unit if your mortgage falls behind, or the condo unit owner can lock you out if you are renting the unit, or a corporation places a lien on your unit if the monthly condo fees are not paid.

The most striking difference between co-op housing and all other forms of tenancy,  besides the charming aspect that residents are called  “members”, is that until this year, financial problems and evictions ended up in a different and much more expensive court process than all other evictions. At our legal clinic we are  eagerly anticipating changes that will simplify (we hope) the problem-solving for co-op members. On June 1, 2014, the Landlord and Tenant Board will become the arbiter of co-op disputes.

What is so monumental about this change, and who is going to notice?  We think that all agency and settlement workers might want to be aware of this, in case their clients live in co-ops. Also, social assistance office employees should be pleased: resolutions should be faster, easier and less expensive for all. We hope. For more information, the Co-op Housing Federation has put it all in one place, in their newsletter at  http://www.chfcanada.coop/eng/pdf/ONB/ONB2014-04.pdf

If you are a co-op member, you have probably received quite a bit of explanation about the changes, but if not, you should inform yourself. Decisions will still need to be approved by the members. You might find that you are the subject of the new process, or the decision-maker.