With the new strata legislation coming into effect in NSW on November 30, 2016, day-to-day strata management and owner engagement will have the potential to significantly change due to the introduction of electronic voting at owners corporation meetings.
These changes will mean that you could be attending strata meetings in the near future by video uplink and casting votes using an app on your phone.
The new legislation allows an owners corporation to adopt its own preferred method of electronic participation and even allows for votes to be cast prior to owners corporation meetings. By the passing of an ordinary resolution, owners will be able to choose whether they will allow voting at meetings by teleconference, video-conference, email or some other electronic means. It will only be a matter of time before strata managers will be offering the capability for owners to vote via a website or a phone app managed by the strata manager.
Owners will have the option to decide how motions are to be voted on and can choose to have votes decided by electronic votes cast at the time of the meeting (in addition to votes cast by people at the meeting) and/or by electronic votes cast prior to the meeting. To ensure electronic votes are counted correctly, electronic votes cast prior to the meeting will need to be cast strictly in accordance with the instructions provided to owners before the meeting. A motion that is to be passed by the counting of pre-meeting electronic voting will not be able to be amended at the meeting if the effect of the amendment is to change the subject matter of the original motion. This will ensure electronic votes are not cast on motions that no longer closely resemble their original form and also prevent amendments that would in turn invalidate all pre-meeting electronic votes.
Pre-meeting electronic voting has the potential to significantly streamline owners corporation meetings and provide greater opportunities for owners to actively engage and interact with the management of their building with the least amount of effort required on their part. With fewer barriers to participation, owner apathy should play a smaller role in reducing the number of owners that vote at owners corporation meetings and voting numbers should increase across the board.
Owners will need to consider not only what can be gained by allowing pre-meeting electronic voting, but also what is lost. If a motion is to be decided by pre-meeting electronic voting alone, it will mean that owners will not have an opportunity to discuss the motion at the meeting with a view to influencing how people will vote (as the vote will have already been decided). A good example is voting to confirm the previous minutes. Now, it may not be necessary to spend time discussing the merits of voting for that motion, whereas voting to change rules regarding use of the common property is likely to be a matter that owners will want to discuss in detail before voting. What matters are and are not to be solely decided by pre-meeting electronic voting will be a decision that owners will probably come to over time as they find what works best for their building.
With the advent of electronic voting, it also means that the need for proxies should significantly reduce as owners will now be able to vote electronically from their interstate or overseas locations. This increased ability to vote will be necessary as the number of proxies that people will be able to hold in the future is being significantly reduced. Once the new legislation commences, a person will be able to hold only one proxy in schemes that have less than 20 lots and in larger schemes, the maximum will be no more than five percent of the total number of lots in the scheme.
Electronic voting definitely has the potential to be a good thing for the management of strata buildings going forward, but no doubt there will be teething moments along the way.