Pandemic Planning: Managing Condos in the COVID-19 Situation
By David van Leenen, Sharek & Co.
We provide some guidance and proactive measures you may wish to follow as you prepare and protect your condominiums during this public health event. Please note that this is not legal advice, and all situations should be thoroughly reviewed with counsel before measures are adopted..
AGMs via Video Conference
Unfortunately, there are more gaps than guidance in the legislation. In respect of “virtual meetings”, the Act does specifically contemplate same, but only for board meetings. No such provision is made for owner meetings, whether special or general. Because there is a specific permission of electronic participation at the board level, and none at the owner level, the rules of interpretation could support an inference that it is not permitted at the owner level.
A further issue would be in respect of voting – how is that to be done? The fact that electronic voting was specifically not included in the latest amendments, from an interpretive viewpoint, would support the argument that it is not permitted. Of course, the proposed electronic voting which was not approved is not the same as voting at a virtual meeting, so one could argue that if the virtual meeting was valid, then provided voting occurred more or less in ordinary fashion, it too should be valid.
It is worth noting that the biggest competing obligation is the specific statutory requirement to hold an AGM within a set period of time. This is in contrast to the meeting requirements which do not actually prohibit virtual meetings of owners; the Act just doesn’t speak to it all.
Based on the current unprecedented situation, boards may be faced with deciding whether to proceed with an AGM virtually, which is not specifically authorized, or not holding an AGM within the set period of time. We would suggest that boards seriously consider the virtual meeting, but prior to so doing, policies and procedures should be considered and some guidelines put in place.
Board Meetings via Telephone or Video Conference
Beginning immediately, all board meetings should be held via telephone / video-conference, or postponed, if reasonable. Section 31(3) of the Act deems all board members participating by electronic means, or like facilities, to be present at the meeting, so meeting in such a manner certainly is permissible.
Condo Fees – Relief Measures
Unlike financial institutions which are enabled to offer mortgage payment deferrals to their customers, condo corporations often operate on minimal margins to maintain the daily operations. March condo fees should already be collected and allocated to fixed costs, and should not be subject to any deferrals. Encourage owners who may be facing unexpected financial challenges that affect their ability to pay their monthly condo fees to reach out to you. To assist those owners, the board could resolve to waive any late interest, and the manager could waive any admin fees. As well, the board could consider implementing a payment plan policy, to enable periodic deposits throughout the month of April, and into the foreseeable future. We can assist the board with drafting such policy.
In the event a board was expecting to soon increase the condo fees, or has recently done so, perhaps obtaining a second review of the operating account and reserve fund should be done to assess whether any increase could be delayed for the foreseeable future.
Arguably, the board could resolve to not collect any fees, for a period of time, but this should be carefully reviewed because the board also has an obligation to establish and maintain reserve and operating accounts.
Call or email us to discuss this further.
It is a good idea to evaluate the measures taken by corporations to protect the health of condo owners and unit occupants. This includes following prevention recommendations from World Health Organization and the Government of Canada, and Alberta Health Services FAQ.
Some additional precautionary measures include:
- Ensuring building hygiene by increasing the frequency of sanitization processes on all door handles, elevator buttons, railings, and all other touchpoints in the Common Property;
- Providing the use of touch-free, approved hand sanitizers near the exits/entrances to the building(s);
- Suspending any bottle recycling services; and
- Removing reading materials and other shareable items from Common Property.
Elevator & Stairs Etiquette
Encourage all owners and unit occupants to practice social distancing by minimizing contact with others in
the building(s). You may wish to post a bulletin to owners and unit occupants with these simple tips:
- Take the stairs, and avoid touching any railings, as long as it is safe to do so;
- Limit the number in the elevator to 2-3 people;
- Avoid touching your face after opening doors or pressing the button;
- Cover your cough; and
- Wash with soap or sanitize your hands after leaving the elevator or stairs
Gym & Social Room
Prohibit the use of any of the building(s) amenities, including any gyms and social rooms, until further
notice. Access to these facilities should be restricted, and cleaning and maintenance of same enhanced.
Please send us an email if you would like to discuss this further.
David van Leenen, Managing Partner
Barrister & Solicitor
Direct: 780 917 6933
Kendall C. Cairns, Associate
Barrister & Solicitor
Direct: 780 413 3360