Just about everyone has a love/hate relationship with virtual meetings. While they’re convenient, secure, and more inclusive, it also means more screen time and less personal interaction. They’re here to stay, though, and there’s good news for virtual meetings and for New York City condo boards.
Assembly Bill A8185B, also known as the Condo Virtual Meeting Law, was signed into law by Governor Hochul over the summer. This permits all condo boards in New York to hold special meetings and annual meetings virtually.
The law’s passage follows on the heels of Senate Bill A1237, which granted co-ops and HOAs in New York State the right to hold virtual meetings. Condominiums were left out of that bill, but this latest legislation brings them into the virtual fold.
What does this mean for your condo board and the meetings you’re required to hold for your residents?
New York City Condo Boards and Virtual Meetings
As a board, you now have options when it comes to your annual meeting and your special meetings:
- You can continue to hold meetings in person.
- You can elect to hold meetings completely online.
- You can create a hybrid system where some meetings are held in person and others are held online, or wherein attendees have the option to join the meeting in person or virtually.
Nothing in the law prohibits a physical meeting. Just because you have the option to hold virtual meetings does not mean that they must be held virtually.
The specific language used in the law to describe virtual meetings is electronic communication. The law states that the board may determine whether any given meeting is held solely or partially by means of electronic communication.
Benefits of Virtual Meetings for New York Condos
This law has been generally well-received. Most condo boards and their advocates have stressed the importance of using technology to conduct meetings with their homeowners and stakeholders. Virtual meetings allow for more participation. When a resident can join from the comfort of their own home, they’re more likely to do so. This makes it easier to achieve a quorum and it keeps meetings on schedule. There are fewer distractions and disruptions.
Review Your Association Bylaws
Before you schedule your next meeting on Zoom or a similar platform, make sure you’re able to do this while remaining in compliance with your own bylaws. The State of New York may allow you to hold virtual meetings, but will your association’s governing documents allow it?
Speak with your board counsel and review your bylaws to ensure that the documents do not actually prohibit virtual meetings. If that is the case and you’d still like to move forward with virtual meetings, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to amend the bylaws that are currently in place for your community.
Providing Virtual Meeting Notice
Most condo associations also have language in the bylaws that addresses how much notice must be given to homeowners before a meeting is held. You’ll want to be sure your board can comply with those notice requirements, especially if the bylaws do not allow you to send notice of meetings electronically.
Many condo associations are operating under a set of bylaws that have not been updated or modernized in decades. As virtual meetings and electronic communication become more than norm than the exception, you’ll want all of your governing documents to reflect and permit this evolution.
How to Run an Effective Virtual Association Meeting
Now that you’ve got the green light to hold condo association meetings virtually, you’ll have to anticipate a learning curve for anyone who still struggles to follow online meeting etiquette. These are important meetings, where you’ll still need to stick to an agenda, provide information, share accurate financial reports, and answer questions from your homeowners.
What can you do to ensure your meetings are efficient and effective on a virtual platform?
- Prepare for technology issues. There will be shaky internet connections and the occasional callout of “can you hear me?” That’s okay. Ask everyone to log on a bit early so that these glitches can be taken care of before you get down to the business of the meeting.
- Decide on voting processes. Electronic votes often go differently. Proposals that you expected to pass unanimously may have a few no-votes. Easy approvals and votes might take a bit longer or require more discussion. Plan for this and keep things moving.
- Follow group dynamics and attention spans. In-person meetings allow people to build on relationships a little easier than virtual meetings. There may be a sense of disorganization or detachment when you begin holding virtual meetings. You may have people eating or doing other things while they follow the meeting.
- Explain and agree to etiquette standards. Set some guidelines and boundaries. For example, ask everyone to remain muted when they aren’t speaking. Encourage faces to be on the screen when possible rather than blank boxes. Ask everyone to arrive on time or a little early. Encourage participants to use the proper signals when they’d like to speak or ask a question.
- Utilize chat functions. In order to keep your virtual meeting organized and productive, you can encourage side conversations to take place in the chat function. Nearly all online platforms have something that allows guests to talk to the entire group or individual attendees. Assign one person to monitor the all-inclusive chat in case something comes up that needs immediate attention. Otherwise, the ongoing discussions can be kept in the chat.
We’re excited that condo association meetings in Harlem and throughout New York can be held virtually. We think this will have a positive impact on your meeting attendance and your board’s ability to get necessary work done on behalf of your community.
If you’d like some help setting up your virtual meetings, we’re here to provide all the support and resources we need. Contact us at Harlem Property Management.
Harlem Property Management is the authority on co-op and condo building management in Upper Manhattan and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York. We specialize in managing condos, co-ops, and multifamily buildings.