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A look at discrimination and cooperative housing law

A housing cooperative (co-op) is a residency owned and operated by its members, many of whom are residents. Members get a certificate that verifies membership in the Michigan co-op. Cooperative housing laws prevent these corporations from engaging in discriminatory actions.

Protected classes

There are federal guidelines that prohibit discrimination in any type of housing, including cooperatives. A variety of states have laws that cover the same matters but may have additional categories.

Here are the most common categories:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status
  • Marital status

Michigan cooperative housing law is governed by the Michigan General Corporation Statute and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority Act.

Cooperative housing law recognizes two concepts of discrimination:


Discrimination is any action that limits an individual or class the benefits or access to fair housing for reasons of their color or religion.

Inadvertent discrimination

Inadvertent discrimination entails refusing to do for one individual what you’d knowingly do for someone else. This includes refusing to rent, setting different privileges, terms or conditions for a dwelling, falsely denying a space is ready and more.

Are there “special rights” for protected classes?

No. All cooperative housing laws ensure is everyone receives the same treatment.

Cooperative housing law does not necessarily or immediately protect special classes. Each individual must determine if a dwelling is reasonably suitable for them with or without modification.

In other words, the co-op apartment doesn’t have to be closer to the elevator because you have bad knees. Management is not required to put in raised toilet seats, grab bars, hearing impaired equipment, etc.

Exceptions to the rule would be a sightless person wanting pet exemption for their guide dog or an amputee requesting special features that accommodate their impairment.

The main advantage of a co-op is they are more affordable than purchasing a condo. But one needs to be aware of cooperative housing law to protect their rights.