All Alberta municipalities and school boards will be having elections on October 18, 2021.
While it’s great to have the chance to exercise our democratic rights, municipal and school board elections have some implications for condominium complexes. Condominium corporations have a balance to strike between protecting the common property and maintaining building security and respecting the democractic process, including owners’ rights to democratic participation.
New this year, the campaign period started on January 1, 2021. This means that once candidates have had their nomination filed and accepted by their local returning officer, the campaign can begin. As a result, you may already be seeing election signs. Municipalities set the rules for when campaign signs must be taken down before the campaigns will face fines and sanctions.
Election day is still a few months away and a lot could change with COVID-19 restrictions between then and now. Campaigns are subject to public health restrictions. The best place to find up to date information on COVID-19 public health restrictions is the Government of Alberta website at www.alberta.ca/covid.
Whether you think they’re a welcome decoration or a bit of an eyesore, election signs are a fact of campaigning. Without proper planning they can cause a lot of conflict in condominiums.
During municipal elections, election signs can be placed on private property with the permission of the owner. In condominiums this seemingly simple rule can create a lot of confusion, as how it works in practice depends on the style of condominium, the condo plan, and the condominium bylaws. Owners may assume that they can display election signs on their own private property, but it is very important to consult the condominium bylaws, as it is possible that display of election signs is restricted. On any common property including exclusive use common property such as balconies or fences, the condominium bylaws and rules should be consulted to see if signs can be displayed or if there are particular permissions or restrictions to keep in mind. For example, some condominiums have rules around what materials can be used to secure items to balcony railings.
Things to do to prepare for election signs:
- Check your municipality’s election information and sign bylaw to see what the rules are in your area.
- Check your condominium bylaws and rules to see what they say about election signs. It is important to note that condominium bylaws cannot contradict or overrule municipal bylaws.
- Communicate clearly with owners about the rules. In many municipalities there are no specific rules about how far in advance of the election signs can be displayed on private property, so you may already be seeing signs pop up.
- Some property management companies place signs on properties that they manage. In condominiums, Unit Owners own their Unit and the Board manages the common property. What is displayed on the Unit and the common property may potentially be subject to your bylaws, Rules and any agreement in place with your property manager. The Board should proactively communicate the requirements for signage to make sure the Board, property manager, and Unit Owners, are on the same page.
- Whatever the rules are for your condominium, it is very important to be impartial and non-partisan when it comes to enforcement. The owners and tenants in your building must respect the rules, but they are entitled to be treated equally when it comes to participating in the democratic process.
Candidates and campaigns accessing property for campaign purposes
In a typical election, candidates and their volunteers often go door to door to deliver campaign literature and speak with voters. Access and security in multi-unit residential buildings including apartment-style condominiums is always a tricky issue.
Under the Local Authorities Elections Act candidates and campaign workers are granted the right of free access to residential units including those in multi-unit residential buildings for the purpose of campaigning. This means that condominium managers and condominium corporations are required to permit a candidate or campaign worker access to buildings provided they have the appropriate identification with them. It is a violation of the Act for any person to obstruct or interfere with the free access of the candidate or campaign worker once inside the multiple dwelling site.
This year, this issue is even more complex than usual, as campaigns are required to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.
Things to do to prepare for campaigning:
- Check www.alberta.ca/COVID regularly to keep up-to-date on public health restrictions in your region.
- Check municipal bylaws and resources on COVID-19 and the election process.
- Clearly post signage about what precautions visitors to your building are expected to take to respect residents and stay safe including information about whether masks are encouraged in common property. At the time of writing, some municipalities require masks in common property in condominium complexes, so the Board should check what the rules are in your area.
- Boards may want to work with your property manager to develop standard information that will be provided to campaigns requesting access to your building to save time on responding to these requests.
- Over the summer and in early September, Boards may want to share some reminders with residents about what the rules are for admitting visitors into the building and share any information you have about the rules to be followed by campaigns accessing your building.
Municipal and school board elections can be a stressful exercise for condominium corporations and managers, but with a little bit of planning, hopefully the 2021 elections are headache-free. And don’t forget to vote on October 18!