Coming Soon? Virtual Meetings for Condominiums

March 18, 2021

Coming Soon? Virtual Meetings for Condominiums

I was recently pleased to learn about the tabling of Bill 53 – Service Alberta Statutes (Virtual Meeting) Amendment Act. The Bill is scheduled for a continuation of Second Reading and debate during today’s legislative session. If passed, the Condominium Property Act, RSA 2000 c C-22 (the “Act”) would be amended so as to expressly permit condominiums to convene general meetings by electronic means. You can read the text of the Bill here: Bill 53 – Service Alberta Statutes (Virtual Meeting) Amendment Act, 2021.

It is the view of many condominium lawyers in Alberta (including myself) that the Act and Regulations do not currently permit condominiums to hold general meetings of the owners electronically. After Ministerial Order No. SA: 009/2020 expired on August 14, 2020, section 30(2) of the Act was once again in effect requiring condominiums to convene their Annual General Meetings no later than fifteen (15) months after the most recent such meeting. Unfortunately, this was made impossible in many cases due to the continuation of public health prohibitions on gatherings.

Currently worded, section 31 of the Act does not permit a condominium to change the location of its general meeting without an ordinary resolution of the owners being passed at a general meeting. Theoretically, this section may have been used by condominiums to vote on convening a future general meeting by electronic means. But to enable a change of location, such a vote of the owners was required to occur at a prior general meeting, which was of course not feasible.

Unfortunately, I am concerned that the draft wording in the Bill may unintentionally pose additional challenges for condominium corporations in convening their general meetings. First, the problematic phrase “at a general meeting” has not been removed from the new subsection 31(2). Simple removal of this phrase would have enabled condominiums to pass an ordinary resolution in writing, rather than at a physical meeting, in order to change the location for a future meeting. Perhaps this will come out in changes to the Regulations, but there are also no processes in this Bill that would assist condominiums with verifying the identity of attendees at virtual meetings.

More concerning, however, is that subsections 31(1)(a) and (c) imply that persons entitled to attend a general meeting have an automatic right to attend and vote by electronic means, regardless of how the corporation chooses to convene the meeting. If that is the case, this will place an inordinate and costly administrative burden on condominiums going forward.

All general meetings that are not entirely electronic would likely have to be hybridized, as corporations may have to plan for and set up processes for virtual attendance and voting even though a meeting is intended to be convened at a physical location. Conversely, accommodations will have to be made to allow in-person attendance by individuals who lack the capability (i.e. access to and ability to use technology) to attend a virtual meeting.

This will almost certainly add to the time and cost of convening general meetings, and increase the complexity of establishing quorum, certifying proxies, and tabulating the results of votes conducted during the meeting. The corporation could be required to pay for the additional services necessary to provide electronic attendance and voting options, even if no person ultimately elects to make use of it. Alternatively, the corporation might have to conduct advance meeting polls or send out RSVPs to establish the number of attendees who plan to attend and vote electronically, whether in person or by proxy.

In my view, the ability of a person to attend or vote at a general meeting of the corporation by electronic means must be made conditional upon the corporation convening a general meeting virtually as opposed to in person. Condominiums should not be required to do both at the same time, but should be given the choice of one or the other. That being said, all persons with a right to attend a meeting must be given a reasonable and realistic opportunity to do so.

Further, simply removing the phrase “at a general meeting of the corporation” from subsection 31(2) would, I believe, sufficiently enable condominium corporations to convene a general meeting by electronic means, without the need for subsection 31(1) in its entirety. In any event, that phrase ought still to be removed from the Act, if only to cut the red tape that has made it impossible (in the midst of ongoing public gathering restrictions) for condominium corporations to change the location for their meetings from a physical location to a virtual space.

Finally, it should be noted that only those condominiums with bylaws that are not in “express conflict” with this provision will be able to make use of virtual meetings. But what is an “express conflict”? Is this any different than a regular conflict, already referred to in section 34.1 of the Condominium Property Act? In my view, a conflict is a conflict is a conflict, whether express or implied, and where the Act states that a condominium corporation can do something, bylaws that expressly or impliedly provide otherwise should be of no force or effect.

Stay tuned, and we’ll provide updates if and when Bill 53 is passed and if so, whether it meets the pressing need of condominium corporations to have virtual meeting options without unintentionally burdening them with added administrative costs and complexities.

If you have any questions about this Bill or other condominium-related issues, please comment below or contact one of the members of the Field Law Condominium Group.

Erin Berney

Erin Berney

Erin Berney possesses extensive experience in all manner of residential and commercial condominiums, from traditional, bare land and phased-style development, to “barely blended”, duplex, mixed use, and rural developments. She has been a condo owner in downtown Edmonton since 2005, and has served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer, Secretary and Chair of the Bylaw Review Committee. This gives her unique insight and invaluable knowledge and experience that she brings to her clients.

9 thoughts to “Coming Soon? Virtual Meetings for Condominiums”

  1. Hi Erin, on a somewhat related note, I’m wondering what condo corps can do to efficiently address the delay in AGM’s due to COVID. If a Board ended up serving almost two years instead of the usual one year due to government COVID restrictions regarding in-person meetings, can a “catch-up” AGM be held in which two years of financials are reviewed and approved but only one year of elections are completed…or would, for example, the F2021 Board need to be elected and then a few minutes later resign and the F2022 Board be elected? I’m thinking and hoping this wouldn’t be necessary but not sure of the legal implications of it.

    Thanks for your expertise.

    1. Much of this depends on your corporation’s bylaw provisions regarding Board member elections and terms of service, and procedures for AGMs. Your bylaws would need to be reviewed, and I encourage you to obtain legal advice in this regard. There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent a corporation from approving two years of financial documents in one meeting, however.

  2. Hi Erin, I just watched your presentation from GetQuorum on youtube. As I educate myself about virtual meetings and voting I discovered a technical language thing I that I can’t resolve. My bylaws claim votes are by show of hands unless a poll is demanded. It then states polls are calculated by unit factor. Here is my question, if the feature in Zoom is called “polling” does that mean all votes could be considered polling and therefore all votes must be calculated using unit factor? I know this is a far-out question but I am curious. Do you have any thoughts?

    1. The term “poll” used in zoom and other online meeting platforms does not mean the same thing as the term found in most corporation’s bylaws. A poll conducted via zoom would be roughly equivalent to a show of hands vote at an in-person meeting, unless the unit factors for each respondent to the poll are also recorded and counted in the poll.

  3. Hi Erin, can a Condo Corporation refuse to conduct an in-person/hybrid AGM to accommodate those owners who request an in-person/hybrid AGM and do not want to attend an online meeting. Their reasons are that they either don’t have a computer, aren’t computer or technology literate or aren’t comfortable attending by telephone (i.e. hard of hearing). The only option the condo board has offered is paper option and this option does not permit the owners to participate in the AGM. and they can only vote by proxy.

    1. This depends on what the corporation’s bylaws state with regard to convening general meetings, for example, if there are any requirements for location or restrictions on electronic meetings. The bylaws would likely need to be reviewed and interpreted first to provide an opinion on the corporation’s options and owners’ rights in this regard. Because of recent legislative changes, condo corporations are now empowered to convene general meetings by electronic means, and persons entitled to attend the meeting may have a right to insist that an electronic option for attendance and voting be made available. There is unfortunately no reciprocal provision entitling those persons to insist upon an in-person meeting. Similarly, a condo corporation may have the right to hold the meeting entirely by electronic means. From the Condominium Property Act, “electronic means”, in respect of attending or holding a meeting, is defined as “a method of electronic or telephonic communication that enables all persons attending the meeting to hear and communicate with each other instantaneously, including, without limitation, teleconferencing and computer network-based or internet-based communication platforms.” The definition does not incorporate specific requirements for voting, and the corporation can determine how any electronic voting is to be conducted.

  4. Hi Erin,

    Regarding the definition of electronic meetings, can you please elaborate on what is meant by “…that enables all persons attending the meeting to hear and communicate with each other instantaneously…”.

    Does this mean owners must be able to access the chat features of the Zoom platform during the meeting to message other attendees privately or to submit messages to the assembly as a whole?

    1. This is taken from the legislation, which refers to teleconferencing and computer network-based or internet-based communication platforms. It does not necessarily require attendees to have the ability to privately chat with one another, no, but it does imply that the attendees are able to hear and communicate with the assembly as a whole.

      1. Thanks, Erin.

        To clarify further, if the requirement is that attendees are able to communicate “instantaneously” with the assembly as a whole – which makes sense considering the Robert’s Rules that require interruption to address important points before the meeting can proceed – does this mean there can be no default setting that mutes all attendees?

        Virtual meetings are creating some challenges when it comes to parliamentary rules of procedure. If attendees are muted and can’t interrupt to raise a point of order/point of information in a timely fashion, all business conducted can later be challenged (ie. motions that proceed to vote without discussion).

        As much as electronic meetings can be a positive thing, I fear that if they are used exclusively and restrictively, it will interfere with the rights of owners and the purpose of an AGM.

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