COVID-19 and Manitoba housing co-ops
Published March 27, 2020
Updated May 27, 2020
Below is some province-specific information for Manitoba. CHF Canada co-op staff are here to help you with your questions about co-op operations that are impacted by COVID-19. Please call (204) 947-5411 or 1-888-591.3301 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need help sorting through an issue.
State of Emergency
Manitoba declared a State of Emergency on March 20th. Manitoba has announced that violators of social distancing requirements are liable for jail sentences of up to six months and/or fines (up to $1,000 for individuals, $2,547 for businesses).
Manitoba has announced that public gatherings of 25 people are allowed indoors and 50 people outdoors, where members of the public are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from others, except for brief exchanges. This change applies to social gatherings, worship, weddings and funerals. Please note that this does NOT appear to apply to business meetings for cooperatives.
Manitoba announced on March 30th that all non-essential businesses be closed until May 20th or until further notice. Property management functions related to maintenance, construction and custodial work are exempt. Co-op front offices should be closed to the public, and any services offered by telephone or email by staff working from home.
Manitoba has announced the Restoring Safe Services Plan, which outlines the phases to restore services and re-open the economy. Phase 1 is scheduled to start May 4th, and guidelines are available here. Housing co-op offices may wish to consider re-opening to the public, using the guidelines outlined for retail businesses regarding social distancing and disinfecting procedures. Co-ops may also elect to defer opening their office until a later phase.”
Freeze on Rent Increases and Evictions
On March 24th, Manitoba announced that rent increases scheduled for April 1st or later are currently frozen until further notice. Although co-operatives are not mentioned specifically, it should be assumed that housing charge increases should also be frozen.
Manitoba also announced that the Residential Tenancies Branch will halt any hearings on non-urgent evictions until the end of May. Evictions related to matters of health & safety, or illegal conduct can still proceed. Again, although housing co-operatives are not specifically mentioned, CHF Canada recommends that housing co-ops comply with the spirit of this directive and delay any member terminations/evictions unless they are for reasons of health & safety or illegal conduct. Tenants and co-op members are still liable for rent/housing charges.
For Manitoba co-ops, our advice is that you should not have member meetings at this time. Manitoba’s declaration of a state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people. Even if your meeting will be less than 50 people, it will be difficult to maintain the proper social distancing between people.
The Co-operatives Act requires the co-op to have an Annual General Meeting (AGM) within 15 months after the date of the last AGM (see Co-op Act S.24(a) ). The Registrar has provided detail on electronic member meetings in a new regulation. Please note that co-ops which would normally have their Annual General Meeting between March 31st and September 1st should plan to have their AGM before September 30th.
Call CHF Canada staff if you have questions.
The members can receive the audited financial statements and appoint the auditor at a later date when you are able to hold your AGM safely. If you generally elect you directors at your AGM, your current board will remain in office until their successors are elected at the AGM when you are able to hold it.
Section 222(7) of the Co-operatives Act, and Regulation 11.3 allow for a co-op to hold an AGM electronically, if the co-ops by-laws allow it, and the structure of the meeting meets the requirement set out in the regulation. This provision is aimed more at 2 or 3 sites linked by Skype rather than a meeting with dozens of members all in different locations. So our recommendation is not to utilize this section at this time. Should the State of Emergency be extended for a long period, we will look at designing a meeting format that meets the regulations.
Budget meetings with the members are not required under the Co-operatives Act of Manitoba. Any budget meeting should be deferred until after the State of Emergency is lifted.
Even though board meetings will be smaller than members meetings, during the pandemic you should consider not holding in-person board meetings. For Manitoba housing co-ops, directors can hold electronic board meetings through such means as telephone conferencing or computer video chat. This is the preferred way to conduct necessary board business during this time. (section 201(1) of the Act)
In scheduling an electronic meeting, CHF Canada recommends dealing with high priority agenda items and limiting meetings to no more than one hour in length. (Zoom videoconferencing platform is free for meetings of 40 minutes or less). During the pandemic, it would be a good idea for the board to schedule short weekly or bi-weekly electronic meetings to discuss urgent issues.
If your co-op has members that are socially isolated and need some assistance, Manitoba has announced a website that matches volunteers with people needing help.
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