Electronic communication and condo laws: What you need to know

Date Published : Apr-07-2020

Written By : Phillip Livingston

Do you have an idea of how much paper your condo association used last year? You may have lost track, but you probably sent out thousands of pages to your residents. In an effort to reduce printing costs, and their environmental impact, some property managers have decided to send out electronic documents to homeowners.
There are many good reasons why your building should make this switch, but before you do, there are some important things you should know about how electronic communication works for condo associations.

 

Condos have a legal obligation to communicate with owners

Condo associations must share certain information with homeowners, and are legally required to send formal communications about meetings, rules, finances, and anything else that could impact homeowners.
Residents need this information so that they a) know what’s going on in their community, and b) can use the information to make informed decisions and remain actively involved in their association.
In the past, PMs or board members may have printed a notice for an upcoming owners meeting or an AGM package for each homeowner, and hand-delivered or mailed those notices. Needless to say, this is time-consuming, and can be costly.
Email is a quicker, more cost-effective way of delivering these sorts of documents, however, this solution won’t work for every condo. Some states do not permit associations to send documents and notices electronically, and some boards are simply not comfortable with this delivery method, even if it is legal.
Provincial and state laws vary, so check your laws to see what is and what is not permitted. 

 

Condo laws that govern electronic communication

Below are electronic communication rules for various states and provinces. As you will see, rules may vary depending on where you live.  

 

Ontario

Under the Condominium Act, corporations can provide formal notices to owners by way of email or other electronic method. The act allows boards and owners to use electronic communication methods, provided that owners consent to receiving notices this way.
The board must pass a resolution confirming the method of electronic communication which may be used. Then, the homeowner will have to state in writing that they agree to service by this electronic method of communication. The association must keep a record of the consent document.
All owners will be required to advise the corporation of their name and current email address (or fax number). Owners are responsible for updating their contact information.
To streamline this process, condos may use a premade “Agreement to Electronic Delivery“ form to send out to homeowners. This form fully complies with the act, and homeowners are more likely to complete and return a simple online form.
Because Ontario law now requires corporations to send out two information certificates to all owners every year (unless 80% of residents consent in any given year to not receiving them) associations should consider taking advantage of electronic communications. 

 

Alberta

The Condominium Property Act of Alberta permits condo associations to send electronic communications if an owner requests and consents to receiving notices through email. The owner must provide an electronic email address for this purpose.
The corporation shall send minutes, notices and notifications, including, without limitation, notices of meetings or notices of non-compliance with bylaws and notifications of new rules by electronic means to that address. The recipients must be able to retain notices and attachments to the notices indefinitely.
The corporation is not required to send notices to electronic addresses unless the electronic address is an email address, or any other type of electronic address that is permitted by the bylaws or the rules, or that is acceptable to the board, as signified by a board resolution.
Notices or notifications are considered to have been received by the owner 24 hours after they are sent to the electronic address. Owners shall ensure that the corporation is notified if their email address changes.

 

Florida

Florida community associations may send membership meeting notices and some board meeting notices to owners electronically, if the association receives written consent from the owner. According to the Condominium Act, consent from an owner to receive electronic notices must specifically authorize, in writing, the association to send notices electronically. Consent forms must be kept as official records of the association.
Associations are required to post physical notices in a designated place within the condominium property, even if all owners have consented to receive meeting notices electronically.

 

Maryland

The Maryland Condominium Act allows the council of unit owners to provide notice of a meeting or deliver information to owners via electronic transmission if the governing body of the council of owners authorizes this method of delivery. The unit owner must give the council written authorization to provide notice of a meeting or deliver information by electronic transmission. A council officer certifies in writing that council has given notice of a meeting or delivered information as authorized by the owner.
Notice of delivery by electronic transmission shall be considered ineffective if council is unable to deliver two consecutive notices and the sender knows that delivery has been unsuccessful.  Note that the inadvertent failure to deliver a notice electronically does not invalidate any meeting or other action.

 

 

 

Illinois

The Illinois Condominium Property Act allows condo boards to adopt rules that authorize electronic delivery of notices and other communications required under the act. However, in order for a board to use electronic means for such notices, an owner must submit written authorization to the board and include their preferred email address.

 

California

The Davis-Stirling Act (the primary set of laws that govern common interest developments and homeowners associations in California) authorizes many notices, disclosures and documents to be delivered electronically to any member who has agreed to receive electronic communications.
However, before an association can electronically distribute anything, it must receive the recipient’s written consent. Consent must comply with all the requirements of Corporations Code §20, which includes a clear written statement to the recipient as to any right of the recipient to have the record provided or made available on paper or non-electronic form, whether the consent applies to a specific transmission or to specified categories of communications, and the procedures the recipient must use to withdraw consent.
The act does not mandate a specific form for consent, but consent must be written. An email qualifies as written consent. The email can be printed by the association and stored electronically or physically. Associations may create their own consent forms.

 

Additional considerations

The fact that an association has permission to use electronic communication does not mean that it is obligated to do so. Some condo communities may not find this delivery method as useful as others.
Owners cannot be forced to receive electronic communications. Unless written consent stating that a resident agrees to receive information electronically has been received, notices and documents must be mailed or hand-delivered.
There are a few types of notices that cannot be sent by electronic transmission, even if the owner has consented to receive electronic communications. These limitations will vary depending on where you live, but they may include: 

  • 30 to 60-day notices of assessment increases and special assessments
  • Collection and foreclosure notices
  • Notices of use of reserve funds
  • Disclosures to sellers
  • Notices of disciplinary proceedings and sanctions imposed
  • Notices of construction defect litigation, resolution and repair plans

Owners that request electronic notices are responsible for keeping management informed if they change their email address. Management must update their records once this information is received.
Consent to receive electronic communications can be revoked by the owner at any time. If they don’t like receiving notices through email, they can ask to have information delivered through traditional mail.  

 

Conclusion

Condos can get rid of some of that paperwork by implementing electronic communication. We can help you go paperless by setting you up with our electronic consent feature. This feature is fully compliant with all legal Acts, including the Ontario Condominium Act. Furthermore, condo buildings can participate in online proxy voting or e-voting if owners fill out these consent forms, increasing the board’s chances of reaching quorum.