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Fresh Start Housing Co‑operative

Good Practices in Arrears Management

“We don’t put up with it anymore.”

Who We Are

Fresh Start is a small co‑op in Timmins, a town in a remote area of Northern Ontario. We are proud to be a mixed community.

Our Story

In 2005 we had a serious arrears problem, which got worse when two households moved out owing us more than $10,000 altogether. These arrears were putting our co‑op at risk, so the board decided things would have to change. Members needed to know that we were serious about arrears, so we tried several different approaches.

We took one household to Small Claims Court. Although we won, it was quite a while before we got any money. For the second household, we used a collection agency, which was cheaper than the court system. We also contacted the Timmins Credit Bureau about the debt. The credit bureau told us that sometimes people pay up when they are warned about how the arrears are damaging their credit rating.

We decided that the best way to avoid this problem going forward was through prompt action. If a household’s housing charges are not in the office by 9:00 am on the first business day of the month, our coordinator contacts them right away. They issue a Notice to Appear if the payment is not made within three days. Even then, the coordinator continues to press the household for payment. When the person appears before the Board, we tell them they have to pay and we start eviction proceedings.

We don’t want you to think that the co‑op is heartless. If someone has not paid because of job loss, we work with the member. If there is a short-term problem, the co‑op sets up a repayment plan. However, one-third of our units have rent supplement and we have no way of adding more. So if a household is not able to pay, they have to leave.

The last thing we do to avoid arrears is raise our housing charges every year. Members are used to this now. We avoid the “worst case” of no increase for several years and then a big increase. This is hard on members and can mean that they fall behind in their payments.

Arrears, Bad Debts (Recoveries) Year by Year

    2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Arrears   $ 3,867 $ 6,982 $1,011 $ 1,065 $1,389 $3,719 $1,982 $857
Bad Debts   $10,109 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $456 $0
(Recoveries)   $0 ($2,125) ($2,248) ($4,972) $3 $0 $0 $0
Total   $13,976 $ 4,867 ($1,237) ($3,907) $1,392 $3,719 $2,438 $857

How Could We have Done Better?

We should never have let an arrears problem develop in the first place.

What Others Can Learn from the Fresh Start Story

  • If someone moves out owing arrears, contact a collection agency and the local credit bureau.
  • Act right away in cases of arrears. Be firm, but polite.
  • Remember that if someone owes money in different places, you want them to pay the co‑op first.


Co‑op name: Fresh Start
Location: Timmins, Ontario
Program: Section 61
Number of Units: 36
Unit Type: Row Townhouses and Walk-up Apartments
Date of Occupancy: 1978
Management Model: Paid Staff (two part-time employees)