Special General Meetings Called By Owners
Every so often, individual owners inquire with our office as to how they can arrange to place a resolution or other matter before their fellow owners for consideration. More often than not, this request is for a ¾ vote resolution and it usually proposes controversial Bylaw changes which they’ve asked the strata council to consider, but which the council has declined. Typical examples include changes to rental quotas, allowing pets or barbecues, and other such items.
The Strata Property Act (SPA) lays out a process by which an owner (or more accurately, a group of owners) can force or ‘demand’ a strata corporation to consider such a resolution. The relevant section of the Act (43) states:
Special general meeting called by voters
43 (1) Persons holding at least 20% of the strata corporation’s votes may, by written demand, require that the strata corporation hold a special general meeting to consider a resolution or other matter specified in the demand.
(2) The demand must be signed by each of the persons making it.
(3) Subject to section 44, the strata corporation must hold the special general meeting within 4 weeks after the demand is given to the strata corporation.
(4) The president of the council may call the special general meeting without holding a council meeting.
(5) At the special general meeting, the resolution or any other matter specified in the demand is the first item on the agenda and must be dealt with before consideration of any other matter about which notice has been given.
(6) If a special general meeting is not held within the time period set out in subsection (3), the persons making the demand may themselves hold a special general meeting by complying with the provisions of this Act, the regulations and the bylaws respecting the calling and holding of special general meetings.
So, any group of owners can call a Special General Meeting (SGM) provided they produce a signed petition, signed by 20% of the owners (or more) and they lay out the specific wording in their demand of the resolution they’d like voted upon. There is no allowance within the Act to defer this SGM, and it must be held within 28 days of the demand “being given” to the Strata Corporation. The minimum notice period to owners is 21 days (when you include mailing dates) so that is a pretty tight window to turn around and hold a SGM, but there is no alternative.
Sometimes Strata Council members and other owners take umbrage with this provision in the Act; however, we’d like to note that the government is seeking to decrease barriers to this type of democracy in strata corporations, not increase them. Indeed, the prior version of SPA had a higher threshold for the petition (25%) so the trend is towards more direct democracy of this type.
Absent from the legislation is any commentary on whether or not the Strata Council can include materials with the SGM notice which would clarify an unclear resolution, or what to do if the resolution itself is untenable (i.e. poorly worded/confusing/impossible to enact, etc.). Theoretically a group of owners could petition the Strata Corporation to enact a Bylaw requiring all other owners to buy their lunches every day for a week (or any number of absurd scenarios). For those cases, it’s worth noting that the threshold to force the calling of a SGM is relatively low (20%) compared to the threshold to pass the ¾ vote resolution (75%) to, for example, approve an amendment to the bylaws as suggested above – 20% to 75% is a big hill to climb.