Administrative law – Housing co-operatives – Governance – Membership – Termination – Judicial review – Natural justice
DaCosta v. City Edge Housing Co-operative,  B.C.J. No. 571, British Columbia Supreme Court, March 14, 2003, Baker J.
Ms. DaCosta and her children were residents of the City Edge Housing Co-operative (“the Co-op”). Ms. DaCosta was in a relationship with a man who lived in the Co-op with her but he was not a member of the co-op and was categorized as a “guest”. Ms. DaCosta’s guest was accused by Ms. DaCosta’s neighbours of harassing behaviour and uttering threats. The neighbours filed a complaint with the Co-op board of directors. The board wrote to Ms. DaCosta informing her that her guest was a security risk and had a negative impact on the quality of life in the Co-op. In response to the board’s letter, the guest threatened the neighbours. The police were called and Ms. DaCosta’s guest was arrested. Counsel for the Co-op, acting on the instructions of the board of directors, gave Ms. DaCosta notice that the board was considering the termination of her Co-op membership. Ms. DaCosta was invited to attend the board meeting to provide her side of the story. Ms. DaCosta attended at the meeting with a large group of supporters. The supporters were unruly and demanded to make submissions at the meeting. Members of the board felt threatened by the supporters and it was suggested that they remain outside while Ms. DaCosta made submissions. After considering Ms. DaCosta’s submissions, the board passed a resolution with the required majority to terminate her membership. Ms. DaCosta was informed of the decision by letter. Ms. DaCosta replied in kind, stating that she wished to appeal to the membership. On receipt of Ms. DaCosta’s request, the board sent out a notice to all members and a general meeting of the membership was held in the following month. At the meeting of the general membership, the original complainants rescinded their complaints. In spite of this, the membership saw fit to remove Ms. DaCosta.
Ms. DaCosta appealed the membership’s decision to the Supreme Court arguing that 1) the membership failed to observe the principles of natural justice by refusing to hear submissions from her supporters, and that 2) the decision of the Co-op was not reasonably supported on the facts.
The court dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the decision to terminate Ms. DaCosta’s membership was reached in accordance with the rules of natural justice. Ms. DaCosta was given notice of the case she had to meet and the material that the directors and the membership would consider. She was given an opportunity to present her side of the story. The court stated that the board was entitled to place fair and reasonable time limits on Ms. DaCosta’s submissions and that Ms. DaCosta was given a reasonable opportunity to present her case. The court further held that there was sufficient evidence to support the general membership’s decision.
As a result the court ordered Ms. DaCosta to vacate her unit and to comply with the notice given to her by the membership.
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