Reduced Gathering Limits – What About AGMs?
The Ontario Government announced last week its decision to downsize gathering limits for “unmonitored private social gatherings”.
These changes, initially put in place for Ottawa, Toronto and the Peel region, are now in effect province-wide for the next 28 days and reduce gathering limits to a maximum of 10 people (for indoor gatherings) and a maximum of 25 people (for outdoor gatherings). In addition, fines of $10,000 could be imposed on persons who are found organizing events that breach the above gathering limits, and fines of $750 could be imposed on persons who attend such events. These recent changes have resulted in some confusion among condominium Boards who are anticipating arranging meetings in the coming weeks and months. Although we are still waiting to fully understand the impact these changes will have, we can offer the following general observations:
- Unmonitored private social gatherings and events can be attended by up to 10 people for an indoor gathering or event and up to 25 people for an outdoor gathering or event. Indoor and outdoor gatherings cannot be merged (e.g. combined indoor-outdoor gatherings of 35 people are not permitted).
- The new gathering limits apply to “organized public events” and “social gatherings”, including gatherings that are held within a private dwelling.
- The new restrictions do not apply to events that are held in staffed businesses and facilities, including restaurants, banquet halls, convention centres, places of worship, etc. (a complete list of businesses and places that are exempt from the new gathering restrictions can be found under Schedules 1 and 2 of Regulation 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3), made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.
- All businesses and facilities where events and gatherings are permitted must ensure compliance with physical distancing guidelines and must put in place appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures.
What does this mean for condo AGMs?
As many of our readers will be aware, amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998 made in April 2020 temporarily allowed for the postponement of condo AGMs and allowed for meetings to be hosted virtually. As a reminder, the following timelines continue to apply for the purpose of hosting AGMs:
- If the AGM was originally scheduled to be held between March 17th and July 24th, it must now be held by October 22, 2020.
- If the AGM was originally scheduled to be held between July 25th and August 24th, it must now be held by November 21, 2020.
- If the AGM was originally scheduled to be held after August 24th, it must be held by the original deadline.
As a further reminder, condominiums can continue to organize meetings (and voting) virtually without having passed a by-law to that effect until November 21, 2020. After that date, only condominiums that have approved a by-law allowing electronic meetings can continue to host them (although there is also some talk about a possible extension of the November 21st deadline).
We previously reported in our blog on meeting options that Boards had several options at their disposal for organizing their meetings (including electronic meetings, “proxy meetings” and regular in-person meetings subject to physical distancing and related requirements).
Although not absolutely clear, it appears that the new gathering limits may well apply to in-person condominium meetings. Given the large potential penalties (for any violations), we are inclined to recommend against exceeding the 10-person limit for any indoor meeting (and the 25-person limit for any outdoor meeting) held on the condominium’s property… at least until the province says otherwise.
As mentioned above, the new restrictions do not apply to gatherings and events held in “staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events”. Therefore, we do feel that one option would be to hold an in-person meeting at such a facility (such as a staffed banquet hall or gym or church). In our view, the new 10-person limit would likely not apply to such a meeting. [The 50-person limit for indoor gatherings and events would, of course, continue to apply in such cases. Moreover, physical distancing requirements would have to be met]
With these limits in mind, in our view, an electronic meeting continues to be an excellent alternative. We’re involved in chairing and hosting many such meetings – and they have been going extremely well!
On a final note, we would like to emphasize that Boards have the ultimate discretion when it comes to selecting the meeting option that is best suited for their condominium(s). That decision should be taken on a case-by-case basis and taking into account the size of the condominium, the nature of issues to be discussed during the meeting, and the nature of the community. The discretion to choose, however, must be coupled with the duty to comply with the new gathering limits in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible and to ensure the safety of residents.