This year has been a year full of challenges for board members, managers and professionals dealing with servicing and guiding condominium corporations through the pandemic.
One of the fundamental changes that occurred in 2020 was the move from in-person owners meetings to on-line virtual meetings.
What are the positive changes?
Although there has been a steep learning curve as boards, managers and owners familiarized themselves with a new way of conducting meetings, most have been pleasantly surprised by how easy and efficient the meeting process has become and plan to continue with virtual meetings once the pandemic is over. Among the benefits:
- no more last minute scramble to get proxies for quorum
- gone are the long registration line-ups and owners frustration with the wait times to get into meetings
- proxy disputes are gone for those meetings using electronic voting
- no more manual counting of proxies and paper ballots
- visual presentations of agendas and financial statements and other information for owners displayed on screen
- increased attendance and accessibility for owners who do not reside in the condominium
- shorter and more efficient meetings
- a secure voting process handled by a third party when electronic voting is used
Lessons learned – virtual meetings and electronic voting
The Condominium Act (the “Act”) doesn’t provide a comprehensive framework for electronic voting and online-virtual meetings, leaving it open for condos to design a process in their by-laws that serves them best, provided they meet the basic requirements set out in the Act. Here are a few things we have learned about the process so far:
- Advance voting is permissible and recommended. Why? Since advance votes can be changed at any time, even at the meeting, and still count towards quorum, there is no need to gather proxies. Quorum can be achieved ahead of the meeting by advance voting; CAO published this useful guide on virtual meetings that provides some general guidance on the virtual meetings and electronic voting.
- Proxies no longer need to be used for meetings. If an owner cannot access the internet or does not have an email address, the owner can provide management with another owner’s email and that person can vote electronically or attend the meeting on their behalf without the need for a proxy.
- The use of proxies for virtual meetings is not something that was contemplated in the legislation, leaving condominium corporations to develop their own rules about whether they should be used and if so, how. In many jurisdictions in the U.S. proxies are not permitted where electronic voting is used. Remember that proxies were developed prior to the age of the internet. Now with the ability for owners to cast their vote directly without the need to appoint someone to do so on their behalf, proxies serve no purpose. The use of proxies with electronic voting, may result in double counting and inaccurate voting results if not handled correctly. In addition, managers are given the responsibility of collecting and assessing paper proxies ahead of the meeting so that the manager can determine what information to give to the electronic voting providers- something that CMRAO did not intend for managers and would discourage given a managers role as a “neutral administrator”.
- Quorum is not just determined by those that attend/logon to the virtual meeting or provide proxies. Advance voting also counts towards quorum, even if the owner does not attend the meeting.
- Advance voting and real time voting are not the same. Advance voting is when voting is open ahead of the meeting- real time voting occurs during the meeting.
- There are differences in the voting processes offered by service providers. Electronic voting providers, like CondoVoter , keep their advance voting open right through the meeting so voting is open to all owners and not just those that log into the virtual meeting. Other service providers offer electronic voting to only those owners that are in attendance at the virtual meeting.
- Nominations from the floor. With advance and real time voting, nominations can still be done from the virtual floor and the electronic ballot is modified in real time. Any owners voting in advance, can change their vote right up to the close of vote. Depending on which service provider you use, all unit owners, whether they are in attendance or not, have the opportunity to vote for a candidate nominated from the floor.
- Electronic voting does not require owner consent. If an owner has an email address, they will receive an electronic ballot. This is not to be confused with the owner consent/agreement required to receive electronic notices.
What’s in store for 2021?
- The abolishment of proxy use. Of course this will be up to each condo corporation, but as of January 1, 2021, CondoVoter is offering telephone voting for those owners without emails or those that prefer to vote by phone. Since all owners will be able to vote directly and either attend a meeting by phone or computer, proxies will serve no purpose. If an owner wants a relative or friend to attend on their behalf, all they need to do is provide the login info or phone number to that person. Proxies no longer make sense for virtual meetings and when electronic/telephone voting is used.
- Hybrid meetings. There is no clear description as to what exactly is a hybrid meeting. Presumably it is a combination of an in-person and virtual meeting where both electronic and in-person paper ballot voting is permitted. Combining these two forms of meeting will require a well organized process ahead of the meeting and may be quite costly. My previous blog post outlines the challenges that condo corporations will face by trying to do both a virtual meeting and in-person meeting.
- In-Person Meetings with Electronic Voting. This is not a new process and was one that many of our clients were doing prior to the pandemic where an electronic voting by-law was passed. This is an in-person meeting where all voting is done electronically in advance.
- May 2021: unless this date is extended, condominium corporations will need to have an electronic voting and virtual meeting by-law in order to do virtual meetings and to use electronic voting.
There is no doubt that condominium corporations will continue to hold their meetings virtually and/or use electronic voting and the new telephone voting process in 2021. For those condominium corporations that have not had a virtual meeting or used electronic voting, be sure educate yourself on the process and do the initial preparation by training the chair of the meeting. Click here to get some tips one what your chair should prepare for ahead of the meeting.
Lots of exciting new changes coming in 2021 to assist condominium corporations with conducting meetings.