Consumer Information

Author: STONEWOOD
15 March 2021

ARE ONLINE MEETINGS HERE TO STAY?

Hosting a successful body corporate general meeting is always a challenge. When a sufficient number of owners do not attend the meeting, a quorum will not be met and it can result in an unnecessary waste of time for those owners who did make the effort to attend.

This means that the trustees need to postpone the meeting for a week and the process starts all over again.

The current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have exposed the old way of doing meetings in sectional title schemes as outdated, forcing the industry to embrace digital solutions.

Let’s consider some of the requirements and considerations to hosting successful online meetings in sectional title schemes.

Procedures are still required

The management of sectional title schemes is legislated by the Sectional Title Act (STA) and more prominently, the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA). Convening an online general meeting or trustee meeting must still comply with the legislative requirements of the relevant Act (STSMA).

There are a number of items that require proper documentation and record keeping for a general meeting, be it in-person or online; these are:

  • Confirming the quorum for the meeting before proceeding
  • Having a properly recorded attendance register of those attending the meeting
  • Recording the proxy nominations
  • Having records of the trustee nominations (required 48 hours before the start of the meeting)
  • Keeping track of the voting outcome for each agenda item including those holding proxies

This is very important, as decisions taken at body corporate meetings can be legally challenged by members. Having records and proof that procedures were followed will stand the scheme in good stead when being challenged.

Use online meeting software properly

Online meeting platforms are not new. Platforms such as Skype has been around for many years. Lockdown has brought other platforms, such as Zoom and MS Teams, to the fore.

Each of these platforms have functions which will assist in managing the meeting. It is important to have a good understanding of the platform, the functionality of the system and how to use the functions to assist with managing the meeting and the participants properly.

A critical part of the online meeting revolution is that the trustees, and especially the managing agents, need to ensure that they are trained and understand the online platform they will use. This will allow the meetings to run seamlessly and assist the trustees and managing agents to keep track of all the legislative requirements these meetings need to comply with.

A more inclusive medium

Conducting a body corporate meeting prior to lockdown was very much determined by finding a suitable venue and time for all participants to join the meeting. Owners are often not able to attend due to time constraints, traffic or required travelling time.

Some scheme owners live in other countries which has historically resulted in them not being able to join meetings, mostly as a result of legislation. However, 2016 brought about the necessary legislative changes, introducing the option for schemes to host meetings online. This opened up an opportunity for owners living abroad to contribute to their scheme’s general meetings.

Positive outcomes of online or virtual meetings are:

  • Meetings are more punctual; there are less delays as a result of waiting for people to arrive.
  • It is more inclusive; it allows for people to join meetings who may have had issues with travelling before.
  • It is easier to achieve the required quorum for the meeting to proceed.
  • More overseas owners can join meetings as they do not need to attend the meetings in person anymore.
  • Meetings are shorter and better controlled due to the use of online meeting platforms.
  • Fewer people ask unnecessary questions which used to prolong the meetings needlessly
  • Managing agents can attend multiple meetings in one evening

Combination meetings

Prior to lockdown, having online meetings instead of in-person meetings were options not really available to trustees and managing agents. It was always expected that meetings will be conducted in person.

With the use of online meeting platforms so successfully, one has to ask whether there is any need to ever host in-person meetings again, given the time saved and efficiencies achieved with online meetings. Alternatively, an in-person meeting can be combined with an online meeting where those who prefer to attend in person can do so and those who are unable to make it to the venue but would like to attend, can opt to attend via an online platform.

Conclusion

Sectional title meetings have certainly come a long way in the past 12 months. While some schemes may go back to in-person meetings, many schemes now prefer to have their meetings online, so it is safe to say that online meetings are here to stay.

The original article can be viewed here: