What a Year It Has Been
When the pandemic was first declared in March of 2020, we were all immediately concerned about a myriad of ramifications. We were obviously concerned about the health implications for ourselves and our loved ones. And we were concerned about our occupations. But there were special considerations for condominium corporations as well.
To name just a few:
- How would condominium residents (and their visitors and contractors) travel safely through the common elements?
- Would it be possible for condominium Boards and owners to meet? And what would this mean for AGM deadlines?
- How might virtual meetings be organized and conducted?
- Was there a risk of transmission from delivery packages or even from correspondence? How should deliveries and correspondence be handled differently to maintain safety?
- Should persons on the common elements be required to wear masks?
- What role does a condominium corporation play when a resident tests positive for the virus? What about quarantine requirements, screening and enforcement?
- What extra sanitation measures might be required?
- Should planned work projects be delayed (both in the units and on the common elements)?
- Should amenities be closed?
- What might be the difference between activities held indoors or outdoors?
- What about owners who find themselves without work (and therefore unable to pay common expenses)?
In many cases, the answers weren’t immediately obvious… particularly because knowledge among health care experts about the science surrounding the coronavirus seemed to constantly evolve. You will all recall the resulting debates (and “feeling our way”) in the condominium industry.
All the while, condominium corporations had to deal with new, virtual dispute resolution processes (including Court processes)… because disputes didn’t all disappear during the pandemic (and the pandemic also resulted in some new sorts of disputes).
[With some delay] We were assisted by emergency orders from the province. Among other things:
- AGM deadlines were delayed.
- Virtual meetings (attendance and voting) were authorized without any need for a by-law.
- Electronic notices (to owners) were authorized without any need for the owner’s consent.
- Boards could meet virtually without required consents from all Board members.
- “Non-essential” activities were prohibited for different periods of time.
We also eventually saw Court decisions confirming the rights of condominium corporations to maintain safety by restricting the permitted activities on the property, both on the common elements and in the units.
[At the same time] Out of simple necessity (and through considerable determination) we have all become familiar with virtual meeting and virtual voting platforms. We are now, almost all of us, the Zoomer Generation.
And gradually our public health experts have figured out “mostly” how the virus is transmitted, and how we need to be especially careful about indoor activities and about wearing masks (particularly indoors).
In some ways, it seems we’ve now found a “rhythm” …a sort of understanding of life during the pandemic.
And now, at the anniversary of the pandemic, we’re seeing the miraculous arrival of vaccines… but we also have news of virus variants and vaccine delays. And so, we seem to be seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel”. But at the same time we’re also not sure how long the tunnel might be… and we don’t know whether or not there may be some big curves in the tunnel, still to come. For now – as we move between different zones of colour – it seems that our primary task is to be patient. But again: The end of the pandemic appears to be coming… likely some time in 2021. How will that look?
There’s no question, in our view, that some things (from the past year) are “here to stay”. For instance, virtual meeting and voting will no doubt be the preferred approach for many meetings going forward. Now that we’ve “made the adjustment”, the benefits of virtual meetings (including the convenience and greater flexibility for all attendees) are just hard to ignore (if not for all meetings, at least for many meetings).
At the same time, the social nature of human beings is to “get together”. Virtual connections are just not the same. So, we have to expect that – when the pandemic is finally behind us – condominium residents will be seeing much more of one another “in person”. That will definitely be welcome. But more than that: We will all be grateful to leave behind the worry, during a pandemic, of connecting with others (whether friends, loved ones, co-residents, contractors, or others).
Finally, we will of course remember those who have suffered, departed and lost during the pandemic. They won’t be forgotten.