If you’re a member of a housing co-op, you have many obligations to that co-op. These obligations will vary between different housing co-ops, though many are the same. If you fail to meet your obligations as a member, you could be evicted and have your co-op membership terminated.
Most co-ops ask new members to sign an occupancy agreement. This is the legal contract that describes your rights and obligations as a co-op member. This is different than private rental housing, where members sign leases for the units being rented. However, in Quebec, co-op members will sign both a rental lease and a member agreement.
If your unit is subsidized, you may have to sign an additional form that sets out extra responsibilities. For example, you will need to provide proof of income because your housing charge is based on your income.
In general, the occupancy agreement will describe the following:
- What you agree to do for the right to live in your unit. Mainly, you need to agree to pay your housing charge on time and follow the housing co-op’s bylaws or rules.
- What the co-op agrees to do for you as a resident. This includes building maintenance, co-op management, and maintaining a reserve fund for repairs and other projects.
- How much notice you’ll need to give if you decide to leave the co-op.
Beyond those obligations, most co-op legislation doesn’t provide much guidance on what should be included in an occupancy agreement. That means it’s up to each housing co-op to establish its own member obligations.
These obligations must be reasonable and consistent with the provincial and territorial co-op act. It must also be in line with human rights law and principles of natural justice. For example, a co-op might have a rule saying members can be evicted based on the colour of their front door. However, this rule would likely be found unreasonable if challenged in court.
Co-op housing charges
All co-op members are expected to pay their monthly housing charge in full and on time.
New members often need to pay housing charges for the first and last months, a membership fee and a deposit. These payments are normally due when the member moves in.
The housing co-op keeps your deposit in case it needs to pay for repairs or cleaning after you move out. The balance is refunded to you after you have moved out and the unit is inspected. Co-ops are allowed to set the deposit amount, except in Nova Scotia, where tenancy legislation applies. (See Your Guide to Renting a Home for more information.)
Attendance at co-op meetings
Co-op members are expected to participate in the running of the co-op by attending meetings. This includes the annual general meeting, where you and other members will elect the co-op’s board of directors. Meetings are also held to discuss finances, approve the budget, and amend the co-op bylaws or rules. A special meeting can also be called to resolve a dispute or disagreement between a member and the board.