Co-ops are run by members, for members. Each member has a responsibility to ensure the co-op runs in accordance with its own rules and the Co-operatives National Law Application Act.
All co-op members should be prepared to take responsibility as a Co-op Director at some stage during their membership and each co-op needs to develop plans to ensure workloads are allocated and skills shared so that the co-op will be well managed in the future.
Directors of the co-op have responsibility for:
- consulting with co-op members to make decisions in the best interest of the whole co-op
- managing the finances of the co-op and ensuring it remains viable
- ensuring the co-op meets its responsibilities as a landlord (if operating as a CERC).
Some co-ops may choose to contract out functions such as bookkeeping to reduce workloads or ensure appropriate expertise. Directors remain responsible to ensure this work remains up-to-date and make decisions based on the information provided.
Together directors and general members must make decisions that reflect the spirit of the International Co-operative Principles and the Policies and Principles of the CEHL Program, and are in the best interests of all members.
CEHL staff develop a range of resources and training opportunities and can provide professional advice where needed to assist Co-op Directors in their governance responsibilities.
Co-op Directors must ensure that:
- all the day-to-day tasks required to meet the co-op’s responsibilities are well managed
- all relevant records are kept up-to-date
- all Directors support member to develop the skills and knowledge needed to manage the tasks of the co-op
- they develop and implement a succession plan to ensure the co-op will be well managed in the future
- a regular schedule of meetings to make decisions and plan for future needs, with clear agreements about:
- how important decisions are made
- who has authority to act on behalf of the co-op
- how members will be consulted and kept informed of co-op business
Co-op Financial Management
Each co-op is financially independent and responsible for its own financial management. CEHL provides resources, training and advice to assist co-op’s to monitor their finances.
As landlords Common Equity Rental Co-operatives CERCs receive rental income directly from their tenant/members. Rental income funds are used to:
- Pay property rent to CEHL
- to meet program expenses
- fund structural maintenance
- for property upgrades and
- growth across the program
- used by co-ops to meet their own administration costs and property expenses including:
- water and council rates
- owner’s corporation fees
- responsive and cyclical property maintenance
- community building activities
CERCs need to save reserve funds for future maintenance costs.
Community Managed Co-operatives CMCsdo not carry landlord responsibilities. All rents are paid by tenant members directly to CEHL to meet costs for:
- property maintenance
- tenancy management
- program costs
CEHL forwards a small monthly payment to the CMC so the co-op can meet expenses including:
- administrative costs
- community building activities
CMC may also build reserve funds for future co-op projects.
Director Roles, Resources
Directors need to work together in the management of the co-op.
Each co-op elects a group of directors (usually 5-7 members) to manage the day-to-day operations of their co-op.
Directors are usually elected for two-year terms (depending on your co-op's rules) with half of the directors standing down each year.
In most co-ops, directors also hold office-bearing roles, taking responsibility for coordinating a particular area of the co-op's business. These roles may include:
- Rent Officer
- Maintenance Officer
- Policy Coordinator
- Tenant Selection
In large Common Equity Rental Housing Co-operatives CERCs, other members may be appointed as assistants to these roles, or a sub-committee may be set up to spread out the workload of the particular tasks involved.
Smaller CERCs may also combine these roles, for example, the Treasurer may also be the Rents Officer (however, a clear separation of duties and roles is preferable).
Community Managed Co-operatives CMCs may only need to appoint a Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.
Co-op members work together
Directors need to work closely together to make sure that sound decisions are made.
Wherever possible other interested members should also be encouraged to learn the directors’ roles so that new people are ready to step up when a current director retires.
Remember to complete the Director Change of Details Form whenever you have a change of directors in your co-op.
Useful documents for Directors
Active membership is a key component of any co-op, it is the responsibility of all members to participate in the running of the co-op, most often by attending meetings.
Each household has one membership, held singly or jointly (depending on the co-op's rules). Joint memberships may be offered to two adults in a married or defacto relationship. Each member has one vote at meetings.
Every Common Equity Rental Housing Co-operative CERC member needs to be prepared to become a Director at some point in their membership. Some small CERCs may choose to make every member a Director.
Due to their higher workload, CERCs usually hold meetings more frequently than Community Managed Co-operatives CMCs.
Depending on each co-ops rules, CERCs will hold the following meetings each year
|Type of Meeting||How many per year||Who attends|
3 or more
10 or more
Relevant sub-committee members
Most CERC members will join at least one sub-committee each year (although some sub-committees such as Member Selection need only meet when a vacancy arises).
A typical Community Managed Co-operative CMC meeting schedule for a year will include:
|Type of Meeting||How many per year||Who attends|
4 or less
10 or less
Reports are issued by CEHLemployees to advise CMCs about tenancy and property issues relevant to their co-op.
CMCs are less likely to operate sub-committees but may choose to do so for special projects.
Meetings form a vital role in the running of the co-op and minutes must be kept and distributed to all members. Decisions made at co-op meetings need to consider the interests of the co-op as a whole.
How co-op meetings are held will depend very much on the personality of each individual co-op. Some are very formal with motions through the Chair, others more informal with frequent brainstorming workshops to generate ideas.
The timing and location of meetings can also be adjusted to suit the needs of the members attending.
Compliance & Reporting
Co-operatives in CEHL’s Housing Program operate as separate legal entities and must comply with all laws and regulations relevant to co-operatives, tenancy management and social housing provision.
|Laws relating to housing co-ops||Links|
Co-ops must also abide by laws that govern all community organisations and businesses in Victoria
|Regulations relating to housing co-ops||Links|
The properties in the CEHL Housing Program (owned by CEHL and leased to co-ops) must meet the standards of a Registered Housing Association. Co-ops are accountable to provide reports s to the government, via CEHL, and meet the Performance Standards.
|Program Principles and Policies housing co-ops in the CEHL Housing Program must comply with||Links|
The Principles and Policies are designed to assist co-ops to ensure they comply with all relevant laws and regulations, in accord with the spirit of the Program and the International Co-operative Principles.
Housing co-ops must comply with the Program Principles and Policies in order to remain a member of the CEHL Housing Program.
|Agreement / Contract CEHL Housing Co-ops must comply with||Links|
Each Co-op that joins the Program signs an agreement/contract with CEHL that describes the responsibilities of each party and determines how disputes can be resolved.
The agreement/contract also lists a range of reports that must be submitted by co-ops and CEHL on a regular basis.
|Rules Housing Co-ops must observe||Links|
These rules are developed by each housing co-operative (based on a model template) to describe how they will operate and what is required of members.
Consumer Affairs Victoria (the regulatory body for co-operatives) must approve and register the Rules and any changes made for each co-operative.
Help with Compliance
CEHL assists co-ops to meet these requirements by providing advice, training and resources.
CEHL also develops Program Policies that incorporate these legal and contractual requirements, and reflect the values of our Program Principles in consultation with co-ops.
Consumer Affairs Victoria can also assist with matters relating to the Co-operatives National Law and Residential Tenancies Act.
The Role and function of the Housing Registrar
The Victorian Housing Registrar is the government body responsible for regulating non-government housing agencies.
Registered housing agencies that are not-for-profit organisations, provide affordable rental housing for low-income households are registered under the Housing Act 1983 (The Act) as either Housing Associations or Housing Providers.
CEHL Housing Program fulfils the Victorian Housing Registrar's Performance Standards for Registered Housing Associations and legislative requirements set out in the HOUSING ACT 1983 (the Act).
Click here to be directed to the Housing Registrar website.