Housing co-ops in Canada are run differently than private rental housing. With private rentals, tenancy legislation places very strict requirements on landlords and tenants for things like allowable deposits. Housing co-ops, on the other hand, have more flexibility to determine the rights and responsibilities of their members.
That said, there are certain legal requirements to consider when establishing your co-op’s rules or bylaws. Specifically, housing co-ops are governed by 3 pieces of legislation:
- the co-op act for your province or territory
- the human rights laws for your province or territory
- the principles of natural justice
In addition, most housing co-ops in Canada are registered provincially as not-for-profit corporations. This means members are not entitled to distribute dividends or share in the profits of the co-op.
Each province and territory has its own co-op act that sets out how co-ops should be formed and run. While the exact requirements vary from province to province and from territory to territory, there are many similarities.
For example, all co-ops across Canada have members and elect a board of directors. They must create and maintain their own bylaws or rules. And they also have to file annual returns to the government and hold annual general meetings.
Most co-op acts provide details on:
- admitting new members
- the obligations of the co-op to its members
- the obligations of members to the co-op
- evicting members
- collecting money owed by members
For more information on the legal requirements that apply to your housing co-op, see our provincial and territorial fact sheets.
Human rights laws
Every province and territory has its own human rights laws to prevent discrimination. These laws make it illegal to deny a person housing based on their:
- ethnic or national origin
- family or marital status
- political beliefs
- sex, gender or sexual orientation
- physical or mental disabilities
- source of income
Certain age-related restrictions are allowed, however. For example, housing co-ops can set a minimum age for membership. In most co-ops, children under 16 are allowed to live in the co-op but are not actually considered members. They can apply for membership once they reach the minimum age described in the co-op’s rules or bylaws.
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against by a co-op, consult your provincial or territorial human rights commission.
Principles of natural justice
All people have the right to be heard and the right to an impartial hearing. These rights are known as the principles of natural justice.
For housing co-ops, this means members must be given adequate notice about a proposed action that will affect them. Members must also have the opportunity to present their thoughts and concerns about the proposed action to a decision maker.
Finally, proper legal procedures must be followed, and there must be valid grounds for the proposed action. For example, membership in the co-op can be ended only for legitimate reasons, such as non-payment of housing charges.
In some situations, housing co-ops may be affected by landlord and tenant legislation and procedures:
- In Nova Scotia, both the co-op act and tenancy legislation apply to co-ops at all times.
- In Quebec, the tenancy authority may get involved when either the co-op or a member fails to meet their obligations. For example, it will help the co-op collect money owed by a member.
- In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the tenancy authority may get involved when an expelled co-op member refuses to leave their unit.