Different definitions apply to majority votes

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Read your bylaws, as rules for strata may vary by situation

Tony Gioventu
The Vancouver Sun

Dear Tony:

At our first council meeting since the AGM, we spent two hours arguing about how strata councils make decisions at council meetings.

We think the problem is the way the act was written, as it has two separate interpretations for majority votes. The definitions define a majority vote as a majority of those votes cast by eligible voters who are present or by proxy at the time the vote is taken and who have not abstained. The standard bylaw defines a majority vote as a majority of council members present at the meeting.  These are not the same definitions and treat abstentions differently.

Could you possibly clear this up before we have another round of council debates with nothing accomplished? 

Martin B., Courtenay

Dear Martin:

You are correct that there are two different definitions and there could be even more if your strata amended its bylaws to different definitions. 

We have to start with the Strata Property Act, which first states that at an annual or special general meeting, matters are decided by a majority vote unless a different voting threshold is required or permitted by the act or regulations.

This definition applies to general meetings, which is the definition in section 1 of the act. It ensures owners may be represented in person or by proxy, and compels those who are eligible voters at the meeting to vote in favour or oppose a resolution or motion if they wish to have their vote matter. The definition also precludes any type of absentee or advance balloting at general meetings, as it requires the vote calculation at the time the vote is taken by eligible voters present at the meeting. 

A majority vote for council is different for a variety of reasons. It requires that council members must be present, which includes electronic attendance if the council agrees. Council members are not permitted to assign proxies as they are not representing their strata lot; as individuals, they are elected to a position on council and, of course, if a council member abstains, their vote is technically a no, as the vote is based on the number of council members present.

For example, under the standard bylaw, if six council members attend, at least four will have to vote in favour of the motion for it to pass, and this applies to every decision of council. The definition also helps resolve the issue of council members who are required to leave a meeting in the event of a conflict of interest. They are no longer present at the meeting, which should be recorded in the minutes, and the majority is reduced by that number. 

This is also the reason why the president or vice-president is given a tie-breaking vote. All council members vote on a motion, and if the result is a tie, the president or vice-president has an additional vote to break the tie. That would also be recorded in the minutes.

Before strata councils make any assumptions, it is essential that you read your bylaws first.

Want to learn more about winding up your strata?  Join us for a public forum at the Vancouver Public Library on Sunday April 30 at 3 p.m. In partnership with a legal team from Clark Wilson, we will take you step by step through the winding up process. Call 1-877-353-2462 for complimentary advance registration or email Donna at [email protected]

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