Many professionals, including strata managers, are still working from home due to the COVID-19’s restrictions. But how does this affect the management of the strata schemes and the holding of general meetings in particular?
Strata lot owners may be concerned that due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the Owners Corporations may not be able to hold their annual general meetings, with potentially serious implications including the owners not being able to set budgets, raise contributions, approve quotes for essential maintenance works, or pass special by-laws to approve lot renovations within the strata scheme.
However, regulation 14 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 already provides for alternative means of voting. It states:
“14. Other means of voting—owners corporation and strata committee
(1) An owners corporation or strata committee may, by resolution, adopt any of the following means of voting on a matter to be determined by the corporation or committee—
(a) voting by means of teleconference, video-conferencing, email or other electronic means while participating in a meeting from a remote location,
(b) voting by means of email or other electronic means before the meeting at which the matter (not being an election) is to be determined by the corporation or committee (pre-meeting electronic voting).”
Essentially, the owners corporation may elect to hold a general meeting or a strata committee meeting electronically, provided that the owners corporation or strata committee have previously agreed by resolution to adopt electronic communication methods (for a strata committee, this can be done at a paper meeting), as set out in clause 10, Schedule 2 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. For an owners corporation we recommend that an extraordinary general meeting be called that has a motion to accept the previous meeting’s minutes and a motion to authorise electronic voting. Your strata manager, if they are given a proxy for the meeting, can then wait 30 minutes after the scheduled meeting time when quorum requirements are relaxed and then, use the proxy to vote in favour of electronic meetings.
While some strata schemes may not be prepared to make a full transition from meetings in person to electronic meetings, the current climate offers the perfect occasion to consider introducing alternative ways of holding the general meetings in extraordinary situations such as a pandemic or to simply allow owners living overseas or otherwise incapable of attending the meetings in person, to participate without the use of proxies.
If your strata scheme’s general meeting is due soon and you are concerned it may not be held in person due to the current restrictions, we suggest that you get in contact with your strata manger to discuss alternative options to hold the meeting in compliance with the act. Platforms that may assist you in holding a video conference meeting include Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.
We have participated in video conferences with up to 50 lot owners at recent general meetings and have found that a mixture of video and phone conferencing using the one software provider has been very effective.
Article authors: MA and AB.