Co-op disputes and evictions

What are my rights?

The best part about living in a co-op is that your membership never expires — it's almost impossible to get evicted.
  • Yes
  • No

What you should know 

Disputes between co-op members can be resolved informally

Some conflict is inevitable when you live in a community. Co-ops tend to have their own internal procedures for solving disputes. (That includes disputes between members and disputes between a member and the co-op board.) The goal isn’t rough justice; it’s peaceful resolution through respectful discussion.

Mediation or arbitration offer other informal options

If members can’t resolve an issue on their own,  the co-op rules might spell out the next step. It could be mediation or arbitration.

Mediation involves trying to reach a compromise. This is done with the help of a neutral, third partyCheck out our page on mediation for more information.

Arbitration is a bit more formal (although still less formal than court). Here a third party is appointed to act as a kind of judge. They hear evidence from both sides and make a decision. That decision is typically final, with no right to appeal.

Some disputes are beyond mediation or arbitration. If a member is very behind on their monthly housing charge, for example, the board may proceed with eviction. Learn more on that process below in the “Take action” sections.

It’s fairly easy to appeal certain types of co-op board decisions

Let’s say you’re disappointed with how the board handled your disagreement with the amateur carpenter next door. You don’t agree with what the board considers a “reasonable” morning hour for him to fire up the bandsaw. You can appeal that decision to BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal. This is an online dispute-resolution forum that doesn’t require a lawyer or have many formalities. It’s far easier and likely less expensive than going to court. But it doesn’t handle all co-op disputes. You can, however, use the CRT if you have a beef about:

  • access to records

  • meetings you think were held without proper notice 

  • an association you think acted against the purpose stated in its memorandum

  • rules you think are being applied wrongly or unfairly

Take action to evict a co-op member

First off: A member can’t be evicted without due process

“I’d been on the co-op board for three years. Recently, a member just stopped paying his housing charge. We’d tried to resolve things informally — giving him extensions and deferrals. This is the process set out in our rules. But we never made any progress. We finally decided that eviction was the only option. Following the formal eviction process took quite a bit of time and effort.”  – Anthony, Nelson

The Cooperative Association Act has a baseline of rules that all co-ops must follow. These rules say both sides must be given a reasonable amount of time to review and respond to complaints.

Step 1. The board reviews the complaint(s) against a member

The co-op board discusses any complaints about a member. This happens at a meeting, typically without the member present. If the issue is very serious — like verbal or physical harassment, or repeated non-payment of housing charges — it’s considered “detrimental to the co-op.” The board can ask the member, in writing, to fix the problem or face eviction. If the issue is less serious, the board typically notifies the member, without the threat of eviction.

Step 2. The member has to be given time to fix the problem

Check the rules to see if there’s a proposed timeframe. It has to be reasonable, in the circumstances.

Step 3. The board meets to discuss termination

If the problem isn’t fixed, the board must notify the member that the board plans to meet with them to formally consider showing them the door. The board provides at least seven days notice so the member has time to respond to the allegations. It’s very important that the board fully disclose to the member the nature of the complaints. Even if it means revealing the identity of the complainants in the process. This can be tricky for the board must term protecting the privacy of the complainants with providing sufficient information.  If the situation is particularly sensitive or involves a safety concern, the board may want to seek legal guidance as to what should be revealed.  

The board, at the very least, must give the member the following information:

  • the resolution to be considered at the meeting

  • the reason for terminating the member’s membership in the co-op

  • the date, time and place of the directors' meeting

  • how the member may appeal a decision to evict them from the co-op

  • that the member can attend the board meeting alone, or with a lawyer or someone else

Step 4. The board decides whether or not to terminate the membership

Typically, at least three quarters of the directors must agree to evict the member. If they do, the member is notified in writing within seven days of that decision. They then have about a month to vacate their unit.

Step 5. The co-op can recover an evicted member’s unpaid housing charge

If an evicted member never settles up with the co-op, the co-op can sue them for what they still owe. 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.

Take action to appeal your eviction 

Step 1. Identify the grounds on which you appeal your eviction

If you’ve been evicted from your co-op for non-payment of housing charges, start at step 5. Otherwise, you can appeal your eviction before the other members at the next members’ meeting. (You can continue as a member until the appeal is heard.) There are specific grounds on which you can appeal your eviction. It might be that:

  • The principles of “natural justice” weren’t followed. For example, the board didn’t fully disclose the complaints against you.

  • The decision to evict is not based on the facts.

  • The steps for evicting a member, set out in the Cooperative Association Act, weren’t followed.

Step 2. You must notify the directors promptly

If you receive an eviction notice, you must reply to the board in writing within seven days. In the letter you tell the board that you plan to appeal.

Step 3. The board calls a meeting

Either the board will call a special meeting, or the hearing will happen at the next general meeting of the members.

Step 4. The hearing allows for both sides to be heard

At that meeting, you can bring a lawyer or another representative. Both sides will be heard — the co-op rules may have a procedure on this. Then the members will vote on whether to uphold the board’s original decision to evict, or overturn it. The threshold is typically 50%+1. But it can be higher if set out in the co-op’s rules or required under the Cooperative Association Act: For example, if the reason for the eviction is conduct detrimental to the co-operative — one of those serious issues mentioned above — the threshold is typically at least 75% of the membership vote.

Step 5. You can appeal to the BC Supreme Court

If the rest of the membership confirms the board’s decision, you have 30 days to apply to the BC Supreme Court for an appeal. Note that if you’re appealing an eviction because you didn’t pay your housing charges, your appeal starts at the BC Supreme Court. (That is, not with the membership meeting described above.) You can continue to occupy your unit until your appeal is heard.

Who can help

Helpful agencies

BC Co-op Association
Supports co-operatives, educates the community, and advances the co-op sector.
Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
Member-based organization that supports co-ops with tips and education sessions.
Lawyer Referral Service
Helps you connect with a lawyer for a free half-hour consult.

  • Reviewed in February 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Time to read: 6 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Lisa Frey, Lawson Lundell LLP

Lisa Frey

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