NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT PRESENTATION
EVICTION LAW REFORM – STAFF PERSPECTIVE
FRIDAY, JULY 17TH
STANLEY KNOWLES HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE
For those who don?t know me, I am the co-ordinator of 43rd Housing Co-op and have been for 17 years. Celia Chandler will be doing the bulk of the presentation, helping us to learn more about the practicalities of eviction under the new system. I’ll be talking briefly about what is has been like from a staff perspective to deal with the transition.
I’ve been working in the sector for almost 20 years, having worked at three co-ops over the years. I did not get involved to take away housing from people, but to help develop and provide long term affordable housing. Taking away housing, which is what we do when we evict someone, is hard to do and something I find emotionally draining.
43rd Co-op is an acquisition rehab co-op. There are still a few tenant households, people that were given the choice of co-op membership or remaining tenants when the co-op was formed 20 years ago. Effectively we have been using the new eviction model the entire time as the tenant eviction process is the model for the the new process. Historically the tenant process involved three steps—an initial notice, filing a 2nd notice with the tribunal, and going to the tribunal—the later including strongly encouraged on site mediation to reach a settlement prior to a hearing. The co-op process involved three or more steps—the initial notice to appear, the board meeting, serving a notice of the board decision, a possible member appeal, filing for a court hearing and a court hearing. In either case, if the judgement went in favour of the co-op, the sherriff’s office would be scheduled for a formal eviction. The tenant process took approximately 2 months; the co-op options 4 to six months. For arrears matters involving tenants I was able to do all the work. For tenant behavioural evictions and all co-op matters co-op lawyers would do the bulk of the work. With tenant evictions I was the focus of any frustration or anger from the tenant; with co-op member evictions the board was the focus of much of the dissatisfaction but I was still the audience for it. Members realise that different boards have different priorities, seen in offers to settle or the offering of reasonable repayments when the board was seen as more hard line. Getting memorandums of settlement approved by some boards was also problematic.
After co-op eviction law reform the process for co-op eviction has come close to matching the tenant process—-a notice to appear, a decision by the board, a possible member appeal, filing of notice with the tribunal, with a two part tribunal hearing process. The time period seems to be two to three months. The legal costs are lower than going to court. It feels that boards are now more likely to want to proceed to eviction than in the past—perhaps due to lower costs and a clearer process or perhaps hard times are leading to higher arrears and causing more stress in households which leads to more behavioural concerns. Our by-laws haven?t all been brought up to date, which can be problematic if members expect a particular process or to forms to be a certain way based on their familiarity with the old model by-law. It does seem that boards are accepting mediation around arrears more readily with the tribunal system, which is a real plus.
In regards to dealing with member arrears, I have found the new process easier to understand and use, thanks primarily to good sector lawyers who have provided clear guidelines. The process is straight forward and getting to enforceable agreements is quicker, helping to both address arrears and to help avoid evictions. I am still unclear about behavioural evictions—there are different forms and options for non-arrears evictions and there are still some matters that need to be dealt with through the court process. It would be good if the behavioural by-laws contained little more than ?Do not offend others. Do not be easily offended.? 43rd has started the behavioural eviction process but not gone to the tribunal or to court as other resolutions were implemented. Having a new process for eviction may be giving co-ops motivation to reconsider many by-laws addressing behaviour that have been passed but never court tested. Tribunal decisions could help guide such discussions.