Category

Condo Law

The Post-Pandemic Road: Leaders Share their Perspectives

CondoVoter - Team - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting

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.

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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.


Darryl Fulton
Regional Condominium Manager

Goldview Property Management

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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!

 
Angel-Marie Reiner
President 

Onyx Condo Management

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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

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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. 

Shawn Pulver
Founder and principal

Pulver on Condos

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Are Hybrids the Future?

team - CondoVoter - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

As more and more people are fully vaccinated and businesses begin to reopen, there has been lots of discussion among board members and condo managers about “hybrid” meetings and what this entails. So, what exactly is a hybrid meeting? The simple answer is “a virtual meeting and an in-person meeting.”

First of all, let’s be practical here. Although smaller gatherings will be permitted, will condominium corporations want to get into expensive meetings and complicated procedures. Combining two types of meetings is not an easy task and the question should be asked – what do you want to achieve?

Objectives
1. You want to achieve quorum
2. You want to get the greatest participation from your owners
3. You want your owners to vote
4. You want to give the greatest accessibility to your owners
5. You want to run an efficient and cost-effective meeting
6. You don’t want to solicit proxies if you don’t have to
7. You don’t want that rush at the registration desk
8. You don’t want complicated and lengthy voting tabulation

Once you determine what your objectives are, ask yourself the following questions:

Audio Visual requirements
• Will the chair, auditor and any presenters be virtual or physically at the meeting?
• If they are not in person, will there be a screen and sound system for in-person attendees to see and hear the presenters?
• How will virtual attendees see in person participation? Is a laptop computer with a camera sufficient for individuals to use if they are participating in person? What about physical distancing?

Registration
• How will registration be handled? Online just for virtual attendance and in person as a separate registration list? If there are separate lists who will report on quorum and how?
• Will in person registration be online so there is one registration system?

Voting
• Which Voting Method:
1. Electronic voting only
2. Electronic voting and paper ballots
3. Electronic voting and proxies
4. Electronic voting, proxies and paper ballots

• How will you know to give out a paper ballot at the meeting if you are doing electronic voting where owners may already have voted electronically? Remember advance electronic voting will get you your quorum without the need for proxies.

• How will you know to accept a paper proxy at registration if you have electronic voting?

• How will you confirm if a proxy giver already voted in advance or if the proxy giver decides to vote in real time electronically during the meeting?

• Should you only allow electronic voting so there is only one voting system?

• Should you have in person real time voting from smart phones and have a laptop or iPad available – such as a polling station?

• Scrutineers – how will reporting on the vote be determined if you allow paper ballots, proxies and electronic voting?

I am sure that once you answer the above questions you will see that a “hybrid” meeting is a complex undertaking. It may be that condominium corporations just stick to virtual meetings for awhile and use electronic voting but put a visual screen and speakers in the party room for owners to come down and watch. Those owners can register for the virtual meeting online even if they attend in person and vote from their smartphone or computer prior to and at the meeting.
For the many condominium corporations that used electronic voting prior to the pandemic, having the in-person meeting and using electronic voting made the whole meeting process a lot easier than the past practices of proxies and paper ballots. Now having condominium corporations continue with virtual meetings and setting up a screen for those that want to view the meeting and may not have a computer, may be the most cost effective and less complicated way to go for now.
CondoVoter is developing online information sessions to outline the benefits of hybrid meetings and to answer questions just like these. Watch our social media and your email for upcoming dates.

After the Pandemic: How Will You Meet?

CondoVoter - Electronic Condo Corporation Voting - Toronto

With more and more people getting fully vaccinated and the economy slowly reopening, it’s time to think about how each of us will react to our post-pandemic lifestyles and work arrangements.

Will people take it slow and remain cautious? Or will they be eager to jump back to life as it was? From a condominium community perspective, will masking still be required on common elements? How will AGMs and owners’ meetings be conducted?

Recently, Denise Lash of Lash Condo Law, posted a poll on LinkedIn to ask how virtual meetings should be conducted as we inch ahead. She asked the question: “Going forward, which option do you prefer for your condo owner meetings?”

The poll garnered an excellent response with 3,500+ views, 78 votes and 15 comments. The results were: 78% prefer virtual meetings with e-voting; 15% prefer a hybrid meeting; 5% prefer in-person with e-voting; and 1% prefer in-person with paper ballots.

Thanks to all who took the time to vote and comment. Below are some of the LinkedIn responses she received.

From an auditor’s point of view it is quite simple, my preference is virtual meetings going forward. The meeting is safer from an owners’ health point of view, more efficient and allows us to present the audit in a more informative method by using the screen. The feedback over the last year has been very positive. Hybrid meetings would also be reasonable assuming the professionals could attend virtually. This will save professional fees for travel and time as well as the added benefit of less driving which of course is great for the environment.

Stephen Chesney, FCPA, FCA, Partner, Yale PGC LLP

I agree with Stephen.

We did a poll of owners after our last virtual AGM in February. Roughly 55% of owners preferred a virtual format. Some owners with small children told us that this was the first AGM they could attend and liked the idea of participating from home.
I’m not so sure of the feasibility of the hybrid model. May not be cost effective.

Joseph D., Senior Risk/Finance Leader

While virtual meetings are convenient, and being able to refer to documents on the screen is really helpful, I miss the feedback from the audience. In person, I have a sense if they are with me or confused. When I stare into the computer, I have no idea if anyone is understanding me. If the purpose of the meeting is to help people understand, then I suspect in-person will always be superior.

Sally Thompson, Managing Partner, Synergy Partners

The vast majority of the corporations we have, will have a hybrid meeting, however, all AGMs have been confirmed to be virtual.

I believe most of our meetings will move to virtual with e-voting, at the moment I believe there is excitement about seeing each other, that will pass and efficiency will be more important. During the pandemic we updated our management agreement with a clause to add virtual meetings and e-voting, while to some degree these statements were made for pandemic preparedness for the future, the motivating factor for adding, was efficiency for our team, board members and corporations.

Angel-Marie Reiner, Owner/Founder/President to Onyx Condo Management

For owners’ meetings, people are going to want to go back to meetings in person, having that personal interaction is key. Virtual meetings really do eliminate a lot of typical challenges for owners to attend meetings. 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. Small Corporations will likely fall back to meeting in person. For Board meetings, 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.

Darryl Fulton, Regional Condominium Manager, Goldview Property Management

I would prefer to have face to face meetings as they used to be prior to COVID-19. Such meeting have more impact and the personal interaction with the unit owners, board and management makes it more practical. I have chaired the condo board for 3 years and used to have monthly or by monthly unit owners information meetings. These meetings were a challenge for the board and management but a comfort for the unit owners as they felt that they are part of all the decision-making process.

Bashir Shaikh, Mainframe Technical Specialist (DBA), Great-West Life

Online Learning Workshop

It’s Great to Chair a Virtual Meeting!
Moving Beyond the Basics – Advanced Virtual Chair Certification, Part II

Virtual meetings are here to stay. And for those property managers or condo board directors who want to sharpen their meeting chair skills further, this CAI Canada workshop is for you.

Building on the skills you learned in the recent 2-part CAI Canada Virtual Workshop, this advanced workshop is for those who participated in the first sessions and those who have experience chairing virtual meetings.

With in-person meetings currently on pause, this is your chance to increase your knowledge and gain confidence in your role as a virtual chair.

What you’ll learn: Requisition meetings • Adjourned meetings • By-law meetings • Two AGMs in One – Catch up • Information meetings and Amendment to Declaration Discussion meetings

When: Thursday, June 10, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

Cost (includes workshop, CAI Certificate of completion, sample scripts and checklists):
$25.00 CAI Canada Members (to get member pricing contact hello@caicanada.com)
Special offer: JOIN CAI CANADA today and get this WORKSHOP for FREE –https://caicanada.com/membership/
$75.00 for non-members

Your course leaders: Rod Escayola and Graeme MacPherson, Gowling WLG
Natalia Polis and Denise Lash, Lash Condo Law
Adam Arcuri, moderator, CondoVoter

Co-Sponsors: CondoVoter and CondoBusiness, REMINetwork.com
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Bonus! Learn more about Virtual Meetings.
Watch some of the discussion on the topic of virtual meetings and electronic voting from CondoAdviser’s webinar series:

Virtual AGMs & Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/HgNEG0pdVPQn 
Notices for Virtual Meetings – https://youtu.be/8vDnnagIrZY
Proxies vs. Advance Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/IbEcyl5QNdA
Registration for a Virtual Meeting & Electronic Voting – https://youtu.be/RLSpb3ufDGw
Hybrid Meetings – https://youtu.be/-qa7VSXjd4E
Controlling a Virtual Meeting – https://youtu.be/VVtOnhrPe0w
The Recording – https://youtu.be/KI6CmjW76SY

Update from CAI USA

Virtual meetings. CAI supports legislation that allows community association board meetings and annual meetings of the membership to be held virtually. These meeting rules and regulations vary from state to state and often are contingent on an association’s governing documents. Many states require associations to follow a nonprofit or business corporation act. If an association’s governing documents are silent on virtual meeting regulations, the nonprofit or business corporation act may allow an association to hold them. CAI supports an option for community associations to hold meetings virtually during and after the pandemic.

While quite a few state statutes authorize board and annual meetings to be held virtually, many states will benefit from clarification and codification for permanent authority beyond the pandemic. To date, 13 states have introduced legislation this year that allow community associations to hold virtual meetings, including Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Virginia already passed legislation this year amending the state’s Property Owners’ Association Act and Condominium Act to permanently allow, not mandate, virtual membership meetings subject to guidelines adopted by the association board of directors.

Electronic voting. CAI supports legislation that allows community associations to use electronic voting for elections. Electronic voting, if conducted properly, can increase engagement, save money, and provide a practical solution to in-person voting while keeping residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four states have introduced legislation allowing community associations to vote electronically, including Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia. The Commonwealth has already passed legislation this year amending the state’s Property Owners’ Association Act and Condominium Act to permanently allow, not mandate, electronic voting subject to guidelines adopted by the association board of directors.

Adjourned Condo Meetings – Lash Condo Law

Virtual Meeting and Electronic Voting by-laws are all the rage right now.  Most of our clients are adding this by-law to the agenda for their AGMs since getting this by-law confirmed by the owners only requires a majority vote of those in attendance (either virtually, electronically or by proxy).  Most other by-laws, such as a Standard Unit by-law or a Borrowing by-law, require a majority vote in favour of all the voting units.

Chairing a Condo Virtual Meeting – Lash Condo Law

Many condominium corporations have now had their first virtual meeting and after experiencing the process, are seeing some of the benefits of using technology for conducting owners meetings.  We expect to see the continuation of virtual meetings and electronic voting as the “preferred” way to hold owners meetings, even once the pandemic is over.

Condo Hybrid Meetings – Lash Condo Law

Over the past few weeks there has been lots of discussion among board members and condo managers about getting ready to hold “hybrid” meetings. But when you ask what exactly is a hybrid meeting, the answer usually is “a virtual meeting and an in-person meeting”.