By Joseph Salmon - www.lashcondolaw.com
Amongst the common issues and themes raised at annual general meetings are (1) owners feeling they are not sufficiently engaged and informed about various issues in the building and (2) owners getting frustrated with the lack of progress on issues raised at prior meetings. Board members and management have been finding that with all the changes that were put into place in November 2017 with amendments to the legislation, that condominium governance is becoming more time consuming, technical and onerous, resulting in less time spent on owner communication.
Many buildings have had success striking committees to increase owner engagement, combat owner frustration, and assist the overworked Board members and managers tackle certain tasks. Unless specified in a corporation’s by-laws, there is no limit on the amount or type of committees. Common committees, which would all serve at the pleasure and direction of the board, include: social, welcome (to welcome new owners to the community), green (investigate and recommend various steps to be taken to improve the building’s collective environmental footprint), security, financial, and communication committees.
As with anything dealing with condo governance, it is important that the committees operate in a manner consistent with the corporation’s governing documents. For example, committee members are not directors or officers of the corporation. They would most likely not be covered by the condominium corporation’s director and officer liability insurance policy. Committee members do not have the ability or authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation nor can they bind the corporation. While some committees may have modest budgets (ex. an event organized by the social committee), the Board must be informed and sign off on all costs.
The primary function of many committees is to investigate various issues and gather relevant information and provide it to the Board so that it can deliberate and make a decision. Ideally, at least one member of the Board would sit on the committee. In many situations, it would be appropriate for the committee to provide a recommendation to the Board which should be factored into the decision making progress. For example, the green committee may be tasked with investigating the cleaning products used in the building, determining if there are other environmentally friendlier products available, and whether there is a price and performance difference. The committee would compile the information, make a recommendation and report to the board, who would then make a decision. The security committee may be tasked to investigate current security protocol for specific situations, coverage in place and level of service and make a recommendation to the Board. The Board would make a decision as to whether additional or less coverage is warranted, which protocols should change and contractual decisions regarding service providers.
It is important that the Board, committee members, and unit owners understand the role of various committees, the protocol established and the governance model. The protocol, tasks and roles of the various committees should be established, in writing, prior to the committees being struck. Committees only provide value and meaningful change if their work is taken seriously and used as a resource.
In most circumstances, the use of committees in an organized, transparent and respectful fashion will help engage more residents and owners, expedite the decision making process for the Board, create a greater sense of community within the building, and assist management and the Board with their mandate to manage and oversee the building.