The Dark Side of Virtual AGMs

August 2021

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) has always been a challenge for communities.  Meetings, poorly planned, are so boring and repetitious that many owners choose not to attend.  Boards which struggle with getting enough owners to attend a physical meeting find virtual meetings more problematic.

There are those who felt that virtual AGMs would offer a practical solution.  After living with virtual AGMs for more than a year, results are not encouraging.

After living with virtual AGMs for more than a year, results are not encouraging.

Virtual meetings were implemented because of COVID restrictions that prohibit large gatherings to protect public health.  In practice, they served to limit owner participation and to shield condominium boards from owner scrutiny.

Virtual AGMs have not improved or even maintained the same level of interaction with owners.  Few boards made efforts to facilitate owner-board interactions.  Some did not allow owner questions despite dissention about COVID restrictions and escalating costs.  Some only allowed what can be described as “softball queries” from select owners and employed tactics to silence outspoken owners.  Meetings where questions were only accepted in writing should serve as a warning to owners of pending trouble.  The virtual format for meetings allows boards to limit owner participation by selectively answering questions of their choosing.  Attending a virtual AGM has become more boring and less informative than one that is not virtual.

Owners should be asking hard questions about board decisions during COVID, its impact on budgets, escalating and new costs, and how condo fees are likely to be impacted.

Condominium boards may be tempted to continue with virtual AGMs once society reopens.  Virtual meetings make it easier to silence owners.  Rather than improving transparency, virtual AGMs as they have recently been conducted do the opposite.

The Annual General Meeting is one of the ways condominium corporations are held accountable for their actions.  Given the way virtual AGMs are being conducted, accountability is lessened.  More condominium corporations are likely to struggle with poorer attendance and an inability to obtain quorum next year because of their failure to hold effective virtual AGMs.