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Your essential guide to housing cooperative general meetings in Norway

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Your essential guide to housing cooperative general meetings in Norway
If you're a co-owner in a housing cooperative in Norway, it's important to be aware of the cooperative's annual general meeting. Photo by Tom Vanhoof on Unsplash

In Norway, purchasing a home in a housing cooperative (borettslag) is quite common. If you're a co-owner in a borettslag, there are some things you should know before the cooperative's annual meeting.

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Generally speaking, there are two types of home ownership in Norway – self-owned homes and co-owner homes.

Self-owned homes involve private ownership of the apartment or house. In contrast, co-owned homes are owned by a housing cooperative, with several co-owners or unit holders owning the property together. Despite this shared ownership, each co-owner has exclusive rights to use their individual home.

While the self-owned model is quite standard in Europe, some people might be less familiar with the housing cooperative one, called borettslag in Norwegian.

Fret not – this is a very common and widespread way of buying property in Norway, and buyers often don't discriminate between these two types of ownership.

You can learn more about Norwegian housing associations in The Local's detailed explainer on housing associations with a cooperative ownership structure.

In this article, however, we will focus on a particular aspect of living in a borettslag - the annual general meeting (årsmøtet in Norwegian).

The basics of the housing cooperative's general meeting

From a legal standpoint, the general meeting is the highest governing body of the housing cooperative.

As a unit holder in the borettslag, you have the right to appear at the meeting and voice any concerns or comments you might have.

Housing cooperatives in Norway have to keep an ordinary general meeting by the end of June each year, and you'll generally be notified via email or another digital platform a week or two in advance.

During this general meeting, co-owners usually go through the accounts and financials of the housing cooperative in the previous year (meaning that a meeting in 2023 would involve discussions on 2022 financial results and reports), as well as any open topics that need to be discussed.

You can also expect a representative from OBOS - Norway's largest property developer - to be present at the meeting. Many cooperatives are affiliated with OBOS, which provides business management, bookkeeping and other services for cooperatives.

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How to prepare for the meeting

You will usually receive the materials that will be discussed at the general meeting in advance. These days, cooperatives often communicate via digital platforms such as Vibbo, which makes it easy for boards and residents to communicate with each other in housing associations.

Once you get the materials, it's important to do your due diligence and prepare. Go through the key financials of the housing cooperative so that you can raise questions if you need anything clarified during the actual meeting.

READ MORE: How to analyse a Norwegian housing association's finances before you buy an apartment

It's also a good idea to go through all the proposals and items that other co-owners have sent to the borettslag's board – each of these proposals will be voted on after the general meeting ends (if your cooperative uses Vibbo, you and other co-owners will be able to vote on each proposal separately via the online platform's voting system).

This is also a good opportunity to send any proposals you might have to the cooperative (fixing the fence around your building or getting flowers for the shared areas are examples of items that often make their way onto a proposal list) so that they can be voted on at a later time.

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The meeting agenda

While general meetings by different housing cooperatives can be different in some aspects, you can usually expect the meeting agenda to look like this:

1. Selection and voting on a meeting leader/head, who is tasked with ensuring that the meeting is conducted in accordance with Norwegian law and that meeting minutes are prepared.

2. Selection and voting on witnesses who will sign the meeting proceedings once these are finalised.

3. Voting on the manner in which the annual meeting has been convened (mostly a formality).

4. Swiftly going through the key figures related to the borettslag's annual report and accounts. The general meeting will not go into detailed explanations – you are expected to familiarise yourself with the materials in advance.

5. Discussing borettslag board (styre) members and their compensation.

6. Discussing any open items that have been submitted to the general meeting for discussion by co-owners.

Expect the meeting to last anywhere from one to two hours for smaller cooperatives. Larger ones might need more time.

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What to do once it's over

Once all items have been discussed and the attendees have gone through the meeting agenda, the meeting head will declare the general meeting completed.

After that, all that will be left to do is to vote on each of the items that have been sent in by the co-owners.

In recent years, it has become quite popular to carry out such votes digitally after the general meetings are carried out, as is the case with borettslags that use Vibbo.

You won't have to vote right away; most cooperatives will set a deadline a couple of days after the ordinary general meeting so that people have some more time to think about how they will vote.

Just be aware that accepted proposals - especially those with high price tags, such as major renovation and infrastructure projects - could directly affect your monthly payments and shared debt (felleskostnader). 

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