Virtual meetings and electronic voting in condos was a topic of discussion during The Canadian Condominium Institute’s first national webinar addressing pandemic-related industry concerns from coast to coast. Lawyers, property managers, owners and service providers were among those gathered to discuss everything from landscaping to liens.
Nancy Houle, partner at Davidson Allen Houle, spoke on the topic, stating there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
“Over the next few years, I’m sure we will see a whole new variety of processes evolving,” she said. “We’ll also see virtual and electronic meetings being used more frequently, even when large gatherings become the new, new normal.”
She offered up ten practical tips to consider for virtual meetings and e-voting.
1. Make sure your condominium corporations are legally permitted to have a virtual meeting and/or conduct electronic voting. First consider if this is allowed in your jurisdiction, how and for how long. Some jurisdictions have emergency orders in place to temporarily permit electronic and virtual meetings; others don’t. Some jurisdictions allow for virtual or electronic meetings generally, without emergency orders in place, either in the legislation itself, or by allowing condo corporations to pass bylaws to permit such meeting and voting practices. Make sure you understand what is or isn’t permitted in your jurisdiction.
2. Remember that virtual meetings and electronic voting are not the same thing. Make sure you are legally permitted to do both—allowing for participation and attendance virtually, and allowing for voting electronically.
3. Should the meeting be held virtually, consider what business you absolutely need to transact at the meeting and what must be accomplished. For example, in some jurisdictions, the annual budget must be approved at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and can only be done once. Arguably this must be done and a virtual meeting is necessary. In other jurisdictions, certain meetings, such as AGMs are permitted to be both postponed. Ask what makes the most sense for your condominium community.
4. Should a meeting be postponed, subject to changes and circumstances with the pandemic until such time as a large gathering can be held. New controversial issues really can wait. Maybe it makes sense to wait for now until a fulsome discussion in person can be held.
5. Procedure is crucial. Be sure to follow all the generally mandated process to make sure your virtual meeting is validly called. Follow the requirements of your jurisdiction, for notices, pre-notices, proxies, etc.
6. Participation is necessary. Ensure alternate methods of participation for those owners who do not have access to a computer. For example, the ability to still mail in a proxy combined with attending the virtual meeting by telephone.
7. Communication is key. Make sure all notices to owners let people know exactly how they can participate in various forms
8. The validity of your meeting cannot be lost. For whatever form you choose for your virtual meeting, your goal must be to make every effort to mimic an in-person meeting. You need to be confident that you can validate your registration and attendance, validate there is no duplication of proxies or attendance, validate the voting process, allow for motions and votes from the floor, and allow for questions and answers.
9. Book everything and everyone early. If you are using a third party service provider, they are booking up fast and have a limit of how many meetings can be done in one evening. There is going to be a lot of catch-up going on so make sure you are prepared.
10. Do a dress rehearsal involving the host, board members and who else will be playing a key role in your meeting so everyone is comfortable with the technology used during the meeting. Then sit back and enjoy the meeting and continue learning about these tools at your disposal.