Prior to COVID-19, condos could have electronic meetings and electronic voting only if they had a by-law authorizing it.
During COVID-19 the Condo Act is amended to temporarily permit condos to conduct business virtually during a “temporary suspension period” (i.e., between March 17, 2020 and a date at least 120 days from the termination of the emergency period). Right now, condos can call and hold electronic meetings and owners can vote electronically without a by-law.
Anecdotally, we have chaired and participated in several owners’ meetings during the pandemic. Our lawyers have taken additional, high level electronic platform training. We have participated in meetings run by third party service providers and have run and moderated our own owners’ meetings from our own platform.
Our key takeaway? The chair is vital to keeping an electronic owners’ meeting on track.
The chair of an electronic owners’ meeting ensures that those who should be seen and heard are seen and heard. There is nothing in the Condo Act that prescribes who a chair must be. This is usually set out in a condo’s by-laws as the president or the president’s appointee (with or without the meeting’s consent) as chair of a meeting.
Lawyers are often appointed chair to moderate participation. As chair of the meeting, lawyers provide the structure and support necessary to keep the meeting running smoothly, like answering owners’ questions on the spot and dealing with unexpected legal issues that often arise at these meetings.
The appointment of chair is typically uncontentious, except when it isn’t. The problem with challenging the appointment of chair during the temporary suspension period AND during an electronic meeting is that logistics are already more complicated. Democracy rules, of course, so any challenge to the chair which is unsupported by the majority of quorum will not pass. The focus should be on the meeting being orderly and legal.
The temporary amendments to the Condo Act provide a good framework on the logistics of a democratic, electronic owners’ meeting. Condo boards should seriously consider passing an electronic communication by-law allowing for e-meetings and e-voting now, given the relaxed meeting notice and voting requirements under the declared emergency. Looking to the future, an electronic communication by-law provides corporations, their boards and owners the flexibility to conduct business as we adjust to the new normal.
GMA is ready to host and chair condo virtual, hybrid or traditional AGM and other owners’ meetings. We provide live moderation and administration throughout the virtual meeting to ensure owner participation, transparency, and compliance with the Condo Act. Ask us about hosting and chairing your next meeting if you are interested!