Co-ops are democratic organizations where the members decide on the annual budget, rules and policies. They elect a board of directors to handle the more detailed management issues.
Housing co-op directors are elected
The co-op’s rules or bylaws establish when and how directors are elected. Co-op acts set out who can be a director and the steps for electing a board. It’s therefore important to be familiar with the requirements of the co-op act for your province or territory.
Elections for directors are usually held during the housing co-op’s annual general meeting. Directors are elected for a specific time period or "term."
Many co-ops have "staggered terms" so not all directors are up for re-election at the same time. One way to do this is by setting up a mix of 1- and 2-year terms when the first board is elected. This ensures there are always some directors who are familiar with outstanding issues and projects.
Directors are accountable to members
All directors must be familiar with and follow the co-op’s bylaws or rules. They must attend the housing co-op’s annual general meeting and provide a financial report during that meeting.
The board is responsible for dealing with member concerns, non-payment of housing charges and special projects. It oversees the annual budget and makes sure there’s a reserve fund for maintenance and repairs.
The reserve fund must be invested according to the bylaws or rules and co-op act regulations. If there’s a funding agreement with the government, money needs to be invested according to its terms as well. Members may ask for a special study to determine how much money should be set aside in the reserve.
Larger housing co-ops often hire employees to take care of day-to-day operations. These employees typically report to the board.
If the co-op’s members aren’t satisfied with the board’s performance, they can call a special meeting. During this meeting, 1 or more directors can be removed from the board.
Co-op meetings must follow specific guidelines
All housing co-ops must have an annual general meeting to discuss policy, budget and other major issues. General meetings may be held, where members discuss and decide on issues affecting the co-op. Special meetings can be called to discuss board performance or consider an appeal from someone whose membership is being terminated.
The co-op’s rules or bylaws set out how to call a meeting and how much notice is needed. Specific rules can vary according to the co-op act for each province and territory.
The bylaws or rules should establish the required quorum (the percentage) of members needed for a meeting to continue. Quorum is often 50% plus 1 member. However, it could be more for special meetings or if the rules or bylaws are being amended.
Co-ops need to keep accurate records
The importance of maintaining accurate records cannot be underestimated. Directors need to make sure accurate records of their meetings and decisions are always kept. It’s particularly important to keep a record of how bylaws or rules have changed over time. Guidelines for establishing and maintaining records should be made when the co-op is formed.
If members don’t record decisions or keep bylaws up to date, they might later disagree on what was actually decided. This could lead to serious legal difficulties if the co-op needs to enforce a bylaw or rule that is disputed.