COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Update #12
Dear Strata Councils,
With Phase II coming into effect over the past several weeks, we have seen the easing of many restrictions around the Lower Mainland and within our portfolio of properties. Of course, even with restrictions being lifted new challenges are being presented and with that in mind we offer several updates on important matters affecting Strata Corporations:
- General Meetings – The Province recently announced an extension to the State of Emergency within British Columbia. The current state will end on June 9th, unless it is further extended. The emergency order which allows Strata Corporations to hold general meetings electronically will expire when the State of Emergency is lifted (unless other legislative changes are introduced in the meantime, such as the recent Order in Council which makes permanent the ability to hold General Meetings by electronic means during a Provincial State of Emergency). Once the State of Emergency is lifted, only Strata Corporations with bylaws permitting them to hold general meetings electronically will be able to do so- a return to the previous condition. Most Strata Corporations do not have such a bylaw, and Strata Council should seek legal advice if the order is lifted and if you continue to plan to hold your meeting electronically. As we have written previously, such meetings are fraught with challenges- best highlighted in a series of articles produced by the Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA). You can find them here and here. As we have indicated in our previous articles, due to the continued need for social distancing our strong endorsement remains for meetings to be held in the traditional manner described by CHOA with the Strata Council convening the General Meeting and allow voting by restricted proxy for the convenience of Owners, allowing them to appoint individuals to attend and vote on their behalf. The challenges of electronic meetings (some of which will become moot if the order is indeed lifted) are not yet surmountable with the availability of existing technology and training for Strata Councils and Property Managers. Should you choose to hold your meetings electronically, we will do our best to assist;
- Elections – Early on in the COVID-19 crisis, some Strata Corporations were considering whether or not it would be possible to hold an election for Strata Council at their AGMs largely being conducted by restricted proxy (i.e. without many Owners attending). Best practices are being developed in this regard and the early challenges with respect to how to call for nominations and allow for a democratic election have largely been overcome. Many Strata Corporations have conducted elections already, and we encourage you not to postpone this important agenda item if you are calling an Annual General Meeting. Nominations can be solicited in advance with names/biographies being distributed to Owners for consideration when appointing their proxy to vote on their behalf. Owners can be reminded of the important roles and responsibilities of Council members when nominations are being sought.
- Insurance Premiums – By way of the same Order in Council noted above, the Province has enacted changes to the Strata Property Act Regulations which will provide peace of mind to Strata Councils considering paying for increased insurance premiums from the Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF). Though many had authorized this expense, it was not perfectly clear whether or not an Owner challenge of such a decision would be successful- the Province has (wisely, in our view) eliminated any ambiguity about this by explicitly permitting insurance premiums to be paid from the CRF;
- Amenity Spaces – In an article entitled “Strata Corporations urged to be cautious in facilities reopening”, Business In Vancouver highlights some of the challenges Strata Corporations face in reopening amenities. Some guidance is offered by both CHOA and Clark Wilson LLP, and we encourage you to read this article as you deliberate how best to reopen (if at all) your amenity spaces.
Thank you as always for your kind consideration of the above.