Should your Corporation be holding Owners’ meetings during the Novel Corona Virus Pandemic?
Many of our clients have booked or are thinking about booking AGMs or other kinds of owner’s meetings over the next two to four weeks. With the recent developments in Ottawa (our first case of COVID-19 being reported to the public on March 11, 2020), many are wondering what they should be doing.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) notes, “decisions regarding mass gatherings can be considered on a continuum from no changes needed, to enhanced communication to attendees, to risk mitigation strategies being employed without cancelling the event, through to postponement or cancellation of the event”.
As part of our ongoing efforts to keep our clients informed and provide guidance, here are our thoughts on the options available to you at this time. These are general guidelines only and we recommend that your specific situation merits discussion amongst the Board and management and a custom solution be developed.
AGMs or Special Owners Meeting Requiring Voting
Option #1 - Continue with the Meeting
1. Inform Owners that if they are sick or worried about contracting something, they should stay home. Any people who have travelled to infected areas should not attend the meeting and be encouraged to follow the province’s health protocols. They should contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or their local public health unit if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
2. Proceed as above but include the utilization of a service such as GetQuorum (https://www.getquorum.com/). This is a full-service electronic proxy, voting, and notice distribution service. The cost of such a service is between $450 and $800 (based on the number of units in your Corporation) but it will ensure that a greater number of Owners provide their proxy and assure a quorum for the meeting. A number of our clients have used their services and have had great success.
3. Whether using electronic proxies or not, all non-attendees should complete their proxy forms and provide them to a Board member or the PM. This may reduce the number of attendees but still allow the Corporation to meet its legal obligations to hold an AGM if enough proxies are collected and quorum requirements are met.
4. Consider using telephone, video or web conferencing to allow interested participants to participate as observers. We do not recommend allowing them to participate in the discussion as this can get complicated and disruptive. Unless the PM or another party is conversant in the use of these technologies, we recommend that they only are used to allow people to listen or view the meeting.
5. Ensure that the meeting venue is large enough to provide sufficient space between attendees to prevent crowding
6. Ask attendees to bring their own packages and pens/pencils. Discourage the sharing of these items to prevent transmission of any infection.
7. Stagger registration or add extra registration space to minimize line-ups
8. Provide access to handwashing stations
Option #2 - Cancel the Meeting
Communicate the rationale for the cancellation to all Owners and provide a possible timeframe for rescheduling. At this time, it may not be possible to provide a firm date. Ensure that all Owners understand that while the Corporation has an obligation to hold it’s AGM within a certain time frame, due to the current situation the Board feels that it is not prudent to do so.
2. Allow any interested parties to review the meeting materials and submit any questions via email and ensure a timely response. Also, consider posting questions and answers periodically.
3. Responsiveness and timely, open and honest communication are the keys to the success of this option.
Owner’s Meeting not Requiring Voting
These meetings are usually for conveying information or holding a discussion on a specific topic for consultation purposes. As these are not mandated by the Act, we would recommend that they be canceled and information passed on to the Owners through other means.
Notices - Simple notices may be developed and posted wherever possible in the building or the property.
Newsletters - The Board can write up a newsletter and distribute it to all Owners door to door or electronically or both.
Videos - With the ease with which videos can be recorded today, this might be another option to convey more complex information.
Presentation Slides - Slides outlining the issue can be developed and shared.
Surveys - An electronic or paper survey can be created and distributed. This allows a limited amount of feedback to occur until the meeting can be rescheduled. Most survey development tools allow both closed and open-ended questions. The most popular tools are Google Surveys and Survey Monkey.
These are just a few ideas. There are are many options for communicating with residents on important issues.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Province of Ontario https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus#section-0
Ottawa Public Health
Davidson Houle Allen LLP
Lash Condo Law
1600 Laperriere Ave. Suite 205, Ottawa, Ontario K1Z-1B7