We all thought Covid-19 and Zoom meetings were behind us until Omicron emerged to scare the bejayzus out of us all over again.
And with the prospect that we may be heading back towards some kind of social isolation … if only self-imposed … we should still address one of the lingering questions from the Delta period when all meetings had to be held remotely.
We know strata law in most states allows us to vote electronically, but in NSW at least it’s also very specific on how we must conduct strata committee elections.
In short, NSW law says you must hand out a blank piece of paper – not pre-printed lists of candidates – and owners have to write in the names of the people they want to vote for.
Obviously that can’t be done in a remote, online AGM. So, can you even have elections via Zoom? We asked the Department of Better Regulation (RIP) and this is what they said.
Meetings and voting via Zoom is valid
Zoom can be used by owners corporations to conduct meetings and as a means of voting at meetings of the owners corporation. Elections for the committee can also be conducted by electronic means, including by Zoom. The outcome of resolutions approved at those meetings and of elections conducted via Zoom and otherwise notified and held in accordance with the law would be valid.
The use of Zoom can be enabled through a resolution under clause 14(1)(a) of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016. However, use of Zoom can now also occur without a resolution due to the COVID-19 provisions under clause 70.
Pre-meeting electronic voting cannot be used for elections
Clause 10 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 (the Regulation) provides that ballot papers for strata committees must be used to collect certain information to ensure a valid vote is cast. The Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and the Regulation allow for electronic voting to be used on any matter to be voted on at a meeting of the owners corporation and this includes the election of committees, so the ‘ballot paper’ referred to in the law could take an electronic form.
It will be valid so long as the owners corporation collects the information required by clause 10(3) of the Regulation for the contents of ballot papers, which includes:
• the name of the candidates being voted for,
• the capacity in which the voter is exercising their right to vote (lot owner, by proxy etc), and
• if the vote is cast by proxy – the name and capacity of the person who gave the proxy.
However, the Regulation does not allow pre-meeting electronic voting to be used for the purposes of electing a committee.
Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure lot owners can participate in and vote at electronic meetings
The COVID-19 temporary measures contained in clause 70 of the Regulation allow owners corporations to use electronic voting even if a resolution authorising its use has not been passed. In using this power the secretary of the owners corporation, or the managing agent, must take reasonable steps necessary to ensure that each lot owner can participate in and vote at the meeting.
Statutory review recommends permanent adoption of electronic voting
A report on the statutory review of the strata laws was tabled in Parliament on 29 November 2021. The review recommends the use of electronic voting become generally available without a prior resolution of the owners corporation being required, but that pre-meeting electronic voting would still require a resolution of the owners corporation before being used. The review also recommends that meeting procedures set out in the strata laws be revised to ensure they are clear, including on the use of electronic means of meeting and voting.