We wrote about condo meetings and election pitfalls in the past (see HERE and HERE) but those articles focused on “what happens at the meeting/election”. A recent Superior Court decision highlights the dangers of poor meeting notices – these meetings were essentially dead before they hit the ground.
We saw “condo meeting” cases before the court in 2021, seeking procedural directions or injunctions to stop them.
For each case that made it to a judge, more cases were negotiated between condo lawyers and owner lawyers, at a cost to both parties. The negotiations often aimed for meeting transparency from notice through vote tabulation.
The Condo Act is silent on many issues management, boards and owners face in navigating meeting minefields. We turn to rules of order, past practice and common sense. Here are some of the common questions and issues we have recently encountered.
A Toronto condominium corporation finds itself in the news lately (link to article here) over a hotly-contested election.
Two unsuccessful candidates brought a legal proceeding claiming election interference after they won on an initial count by a slim margin of two votes but lost on a recount. The candidates claim their proxies were disqualified without reason and votes were illegitimately added the ballot box. In the wake of a close election we often see accusations of conspiracy, corruption and impropriety thrown around. In this condo’s case, this has resulted in a nasty legal battle: both sides reportedly incurred at least $200,000 in legal fees so far.
While the truth remains to be seen, the financial and time cost devoted to determining who’s right seems extreme; the issue is clearly important to those involved and it is up to the parties whether to continue the battle. Whatever the case may be, Tony’s Takeaway is that these problems are avoidable.
Whether meetings are held electronically or in-person, here are a few best practices we suggest to ward off accusations of “stolen elections” or demands to “stop the count”:
Most condos now conduct business through electronic meetings, which can be recorded by the host. Meeting recordings are not a novel concept but our recent dependence on electronic meetings has given them new life. Minute takers have historically recorded in-person meetings to aid in accurate minutes and to best recall the details of important discussions. Similarly, an electronic meeting recording can serve the same purpose – ensuring accuracy and transparency in meetings where there is a broad interest to owners but owners can’t attend in the traditional sense. We are never against something that promotes but also clearly memorializes (hopefully) fair process.
The electronic condo meeting and recording should be for the benefit of the condo and its owners. To ensure that, we’ve developed best practices for electronic meeting recordings, which can translate to in-person meetings too.…
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.…