By-law Changes Cannot be Initiated by Owners

Gerry Hyman has another article for the Toronto Star.  There were only two questions in this article, and I want to discuss one of them:

QUESTION:  Unit owners in our condominium provided the board with a notice of motion requiring a vote at our upcoming annual meeting for a bylaw amending our current bylaws. The board refused to put the vote on the agenda for the annual meeting. Can the board refuse to hold the vote?

ANSWER:  The current Condominium Act does not specify what may and may not be the subject of an owners’ requisition for a vote at an owners’ meeting. The current amendments to the act, which are not yet in effect, will provide that owners may requisition a meeting for three purposes only: (1) for an information meeting at which there will be no vote on any matter other than on routine procedure, (2) to remove or elect one or more directors and (3) any other purpose for which the act or regulations permit the owners to requisition an owners’ meeting.

It appears that the current act was not intended to permit owners to requisition an owners’ meeting to vote on any matter. The amendment appears to clarify that a requisition is limited to the three situations set out above.

While bylaws must be confirmed by an affirmative, majority vote of the owners, the owners cannot initiate bylaws. The board was correct to refuse to call the meeting. However, the board might have advised that its refusal was because the owners were not entitled to vote on the passage of the bylaw.

Firstly, Mr. Hyman totally missed the question – the requisition was for the By-law to be added to the Annual General Meeting, not a Special Meeting of owners.

Secondly, as he points out the Board should not have added the issue to the Annual General Meeting Agenda according to the current Condominium Act.  This is a major problem with the Condominium Act – it is also unfair and creates a double standard.  Rules in a Condominium can be changed (created, amended, and/or removed) without the consent of the Board.  But the By-laws cannot be created, amended, or removed without the approval of the Board.  This is simply not correct.  Owners should be allowed to make changes to their By-laws without requiring Board approval.

One way to deal with this is to have a committee to oversee the recommendation of changes to the By-laws and Rules.  It would be known as the By-laws and Rules Committee and can meet on an ongoing basis, perhaps quarterly or semi-annually (i.e. twice a year) to take a look at the By-laws and Rules of the Condominium and when the Board or the Owners want to create, amend, or remove a By-law or Rule then they can ask the Committee to review it.  The Committee could then make sure it is consistent with the other By-laws and Rules, and if necessary provide recommendations on other By-laws and Rules that may require an amendment if the suggested change passes.

The Committee would not act as a decision maker, simply it would report back to the owners as to the proper wording for the By-law or Rule, plus any other changes that may be required if the original change passes.  If a By-law or Rule already exists – then the Committee would advise that no meeting is required as the By-law or Rule exists so there is nothing to vote upon.

Under the current system, if the Board refuses to make the changes that the owners are requesting then the owners need to vote for new candidates and get a Board that listens to the people they represent.

Let’s have some democracy and allow the owners to make the decision on what By-laws exist in their community!

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