The Purpose of Housing Co-op Code of Conduct

Oftentimes a housing co-op has created a code of conduct in which rules and prohibitions concerning the members are laid out. The code of conduct is usually drafted at the general meeting. At their best the rules feel sensible and can even promote good relations between neighbors.

However, such rules might cause disputes between co-op members. Too detailed and draconian rules benefit no one.  Occasionally the members of the co-op should revise the code of conduct as decades old rules probably are in the need of modernization.

Recurrent Breaches of the Code – What Measures Can Be Taken?

Taking the possession of a dwelling unit from its owner to the management committee is a means to intervene in a case a member continuously breaches the code. However, taking such a step is not usually easy. Especially problematic can be cases when the code of conduct overreaches to matters of regular living and such. The co-op cannot subject its members to arbitrary control. These kinds of rules cannot be used as a justification to take the possession of a dwelling unit.

A dwelling unit’s possession can also be taken away from its owner if the member or person living in the unit leads a harmful way of life or if they breach the rules concerning peace and order in the public spaces of the co-op. A minor breach, however, does not justify removing a unit’s possession from its owner. The member and possible tenant living in a unit must be given a warning before making a decision on taking the possession.

It is possible that the code of conduct includes rules reach actions which can be regarded being normal living and use of a dwelling unit. It should be assumed that if the resident does not cause danger, disturbance or harm to either the property or another resident such action is allowed. However, the term disturbance is wide in scope and different people might have different definitions for it; some might be disturbed of their neighbor showering or flushing a toilet during nighttime. These actions cannot be considered being a disturbance.

Typical disturbance and harmful way of life includes overconsumption of alcohol and noise at nighttime. Disturbance must be continuous or recurrent. Occasional festivities and parties are not considered a disturbance, even if they might make someone disturbed.

Even children’s play might cause disputes within a co-op. Nevertheless, even noisy play in the yard is a part of normal life and must be tolerated, for rarely does it continue deep into the night.

Smoking is a recurrent cause of disputes. The co-op may prohibit smoking near playgrounds if it wills. Balconies and yards in the possession of the members, however, cannot be included in such a prohibition because of the members’ right of possession. Thus, smoking must generally be allowed in balconies and yards.

Nevertheless, since January 2017 co-ops have been able to apply for a smoking ban at the municipal office, if the smoke drifts to other balconies and causes inconvenience. If the ban is issued by the municipality and someone violates it, it might even justify taking away the possession of the dwelling unit. Smoking bans have been issued and applied for in quite low numbers compared to the number of housing co-ops in the country. It appears that co-ops are waiting to see how the banning processes advance in practice and how costly they are.

English translation by Lasse Jelekäinen

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