Left to right: Angel-Marie Reiner; Darryl Fulton; Catharine R. Beatty; and Shawn Pulver.
It’s mid-summer hot in Ontario. After months and months of stops and starts, you can begin to feel a difference in people’s outlook and demeanours. Most Ontarians have received at least one vaccination and many have now double dosed. Businesses are slowly reopening following the Government of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen. There has been a collective sigh of relief that perhaps the worst is now behind us.
So, what does this mean for the condominium industry? Will condo corporations return to the status quo pre-pandemic and hold in-person AGMs and owners’ meetings? Will each corporation choose its own path forward? We reached out to several condominium industry leaders to gather their thoughts. We hope you enjoy their observations.
In my opinion, as we slowly experience the easing of restrictions, invariably meetings will shift back to in person. Already many meetings are being held outside to meet with contractors and for exterior inspections to name a couple. Many board members naturally prefer in person and the same with property managers. The effectiveness of meeting in person versus virtually will have an organic effect on this change in the industry. For owners’ meetings, most feedback seems to be a vocal anticipation of being able to meet again and make those connections many of us in the industry are missing. Owners’ meetings are often as much about business as they are about the social and community aspect of the corporation. Residents with language, technological or other hindrances may have been adversely affected throughout the past two annual general meetings. I do expect that people want to go back to in-person meetings to have that personal touch and interaction. Not to be forgotten, virtual meetings are quick to set up, easy to hold, allow for good communication and eliminate attendance challenges. Many corporations likely experienced a nice feeling of knowing that their quorum numbers were met well ahead of the meeting. I feel that some buildings/boards will want to have a hybridized meeting of some sort to assist better to achieve quorum. I foresee larger buildings being able to support the hybrid meeting platform with the extra costs that would be associated. Small corporations will likely fall back to meeting in person for cost reasons mainly. Some may opt for virtual just to ensure quorum. For board meetings, I anticipate the virtual meeting will become another tool in the tool box to be able to have quick meetings set up or even become an alternating meeting style. It has been a difficult road but, amongst other efficiencies that have been ferreted out in this pandemic, the virtual meeting is here to stay … but in a more useful, helpful way rather than the now vanishing forced obligation it has been.
Regional Condominium Manager
Goldview Property Management
I opened our Condominium Management Division in 2019; I was surprised at how dated technology was, how heavily “papered” the industry was/is. I heard from my peers in the industry who seemed to fear change, saying, ‘we have just always done it that way.’
Can you imagine if we lived in a society where the above statement was acceptable and we didn’t grow professionally and, for that matter, personally?
I knew there had to be better ways. Before COVID-19, I could not understand why board meetings were being held in person, particularly those after hours. The mere suggestion of holding a meeting virtually was not well received.
Board members are volunteers; many of the members work during the day, why after a full day of work, would they want to drive to our office or another location, take the meeting, and then drive home? Would it not be nicer to be home when the meeting is done, save the drive time? Plus, it would be a better solution for our property managers to save drive time and promote balance.
We tried in 2019 to introduce virtual meetings with little success. Then the pandemic changed our lives. Virtual meetings became the norm and not the exception to the rule.
It took time to get used to these meetings, to get a rhythm going, there were many “Bob, we can’t see you”, “Susan, you are on mute”, “Everyone, please mute as the background notice is distracting.”
After an adoption period, our boards now prefer the virtual experience from virtual meetings, e-voting and automated payment processing. Further the response from virtual AGMs was overwhelmingly positive. Even with the thoughts that we may be able to have AGMs in person, in the future, we have booked most of our corporations for virtual AGMs because they are more efficient and who doesn’t love efficiency!
Onyx Condo Management
There is no doubt that the ability to hold virtual meetings has been a saviour for the condominium industry throughout the pandemic. It has allowed unit owners to continue to stay informed about key operational and financial aspects of their corporation. As the restrictions are lifted, boards of directors will need to make decisions on whether to continue with these virtual meetings.
One of the major positive aspects of virtual meetings is their inclusiveness. As the auditor, we attend the annual general meetings for our condominium corporation clients to present the financial statements. Prior to the pandemic, some in-person meetings for buildings with over 400 units would only have 10 people in attendance. Now, when held as a virtual meeting, that same building may have over 100 people in attendance. Virtual meetings allow many people to participate who would otherwise be unable to attend. For example, parents with young children, individuals with disabilities when a meeting is offsite and owners that do not live in their units. This increased attendance has tremendous value to a board, as it allows them the opportunity to communicate directly with more unit owners, address their concerns and share ideas to improve the management of the corporation.
From our perspective, we believe that our presentation of the audited financial statements has been greatly improved through virtual meetings. At in-person meetings, we have found that few unit owners have the financial statements with them; however, at virtual meetings, the financial statements are displayed on screen, so unit owners can follow along as we review them. This has allowed us to more effectively educate and inform the unit owners, and we have received positive feedback on the experience over the past year.
These are just two of the positive aspects of virtual meetings, but there are many more. For this reason, we believe that virtual meetings will continue for many corporations, in particular, the larger buildings or those that need to hold meetings offsite. The benefits of holding virtual meetings will be hard for many of the boards to ignore post-pandemic.
Catharine R. Beatty, CPA, CA
Client Service Manager
Rapkin Wein LLP
It is clear that virtual condo meetings are here to stay for the long term. The pandemic has forced service providers in many industries (including legal) to look at other ways to provide strong services, by relying more on technology and innovation. The days of paper proxies and paper ballots are clearly numbered. As someone who has litigated election-related disputes, I can see first-hand the benefits of having electronic votes that avoid the possibility of human error, and provide owners with the opportunity to change their vote at any time. I have seen far too many situations where owners attend a meeting where the outcome of an election has already been predetermined before any candidate has even spoken. Owners may have wanted to change their vote after hearing from certain candidates, but it was too late. I am thrilled when I see condo voting and condo elections back in line with the current technological environment.
Founder and principal
Pulver on Condos