How Video Calling Platforms Play an Important Role in Condominium Meetings
Everything seems to be centered around the pandemic lately as it should. It is reasonable to say that this has changed our lifestyle in many different ways (some of those ways were nearly unthinkable prior
Everything seems to be centered around the pandemic lately as it should. It is reasonable to say that this has changed our lifestyle in many different ways (some of those ways were nearly unthinkable prior to the pandemic) and that there are not many choices other than adapting in the best possible way to this new way of being.
Can you imagine what would have happened if all this took place during the 1990s or a mere 10-15 years ago? Things would not have been that accessible for us, and chances are that the isolation we suddenly find ourselves in would have not been as easy to tolerate.
Still, back in the 1990s, the technology that we know today had not even been imagined yet (in spite of creative enterprises like the Back to the Future film series). That was a time that I like to call “the last calm and nice decade.” This was an era before social media finally took over our lives (proud 90s kid here), when cellphones still resembled bricks, when pagers (or “beepers”) were the hippest thing, and when phone booths were commonly seen (finding one nowadays is the equivalent of running into the Holy Grail or the Amber Room).
Luckily enough, we are already in the second decade of the 21st century and things have improved, especially regarding the ways in which we can communicate with our significant others or colleagues. Now, the hippest thing seems to be Zoom which is an application I personally had not heard of until the pandemic struck.
My first (and so far only) experience with Zoom was some time ago, when I had the chance to attend a condominium virtual meeting, but in spite of it being my first time attending a meeting or assembly in such manner, I would dare say it was quite the experience. I guess there are myriad of similar articles to this one out there, but it is my intention for the purposes of this article to share some of my experiences from this virtual meeting. This, perhaps, will allow me to give you an honest insight on the topic.
The pandemic suspended many plans indefinitely and holding a formally summoned in person meeting was not an exception. In a situation like this one, many parts of our lives were made secondary to maintaining our health and safety.
Perhaps you have never lived in a condominium and therefore you are not quite aware of the pros and cons that usually come with such an acquisition, but don´t worry, I happen to live in one, and let me tell you that sometimes, even though I can recognize the pros, I have also become convinced that people just don’t seem to know how to coexist in a condominium setting. Even seemingly insignificant situations which seem like a swift breeze at first, can turn into a hurricane in the blink of an eye.
Situations like that can influence the dynamic of a condo meeting beforehand and, if you add that the meeting is being held through Zoom, well… chances are you are in for an interesting experience. Still, it´s reasonable to say that having the chance to resort to this type of communication app is reassuring, since it’s clear that certain situations cannot be postponed for a long time.
First off, it’s important to know that there is a specific time that for meetings like this, however, there is no need to move from your house as long as you have a capable enough computer, cellphone, or tablet near you. If you don’t, or if you do but happen to not be very tech savvy, you may have to resort to using somebody else’s computer.
One of the most crucial aspects that must be addressed during the first stages of a condominium meeting is the verification of the attendees. This is important because, in principle, only the owners can attend the assembly to duly execute their rights. As you may understand, the meeting is perhaps the most important aspect of a condominium’s management, since it’s through it that the owners can discuss aspects of general relevance that in the end will apply even to those owners who decided not to attend the meeting for any reason.
Now, as I just stated a few lines back, I said “in principle” because there is, of course, the chance to have representatives stepping in for certain owners through proxies. Their legitimization to attend the meeting must be verified beforehand as well (even though it would be fair to say that, since a virtual assembly has the undeniable advantage that it can be attended from anywhere in the world, there would not be any need for the owners to grant proxies, but such a possibility exists in spite of it).
This verification, however, may take a little longer than a regular, in person assembly, and that is mostly because of the technology that is involved. For instance, one attendee may have a slow or sloppy internet connection, another one is not really familiar with the app (count me in), or the apps’ tools simply do not cooperate during the meeting. So, in this scenario, an exchange like this one is to be expected:
- Hey, can anyone see me?
- No, we can´t.
(A few moments later…)
- How about now? Are you able to see me yet?
- No, no success.
(Another attendee intervenes)
- Why don´t you try clicking on the icon that appears on the left corner of your screen? Can you see it?
- No, where is it? I am using a tablet, not a computer.
- It´s right there. Hello? Are you still there? Hello?!
And so on.
Once all those eventual technical problems have been solved, the meeting may start formally following the agenda that was previously announced. If no other technical issues appear, the meeting will be carried almost as if it was being held in person.
One advantage to the virtual meeting that is noticeable is the fact that the host of the virtual meeting or any attendee has the chance to share their respective screen for the other attendees to see. This tool gives attendees the chance to show a previously made presentation to better address a topic of interest, like a legal or financial report of the condominium’s current status.
As for the counting of votes on proposals or motions, if the attendees are clearly visible, raising their hands can suffice for that purpose in particular. There is the possibility of using software to carry a virtual ballot to count the votes, but this can become a challenge for certain attendees or even create a disturbance for others (it usually requires each attendee to indicate an email they have access to, then receive a link through it, click it, place the vote, and so on).
Usually, an ad hoc secretary is appointed for a condominium’s meeting in its earliest stage. The role of the secretary is to take the meeting minutes. These minutes include the notes of all the topics that were discussed, the motions that were presented, the votes in favor and against, and if a certain topic was challenged because someone considered it was not part of the agenda. Since there can be many changes during the course of the assembly, chances are that the secretary may not be able to take note of every single thing mentioned. In such case, it is possible to record Zoom sessions, which can greatly help clean up the minutes later. In addition, it can be used for the future reference of the owners as well.
As for Costa Rica, of course, the National Public Registry has addressed and therefore accepted the possibility of handling meetings virtually, as long as three basic requirements are met:
1. Simultaneity: This basically means that the individuals that make up the board must agree simultaneously regarding the formation of the will that is attributable to the board. Simultaneity is crucial since it is linked to deliberations and the process of constituting the board’s will. In simpler words: the board needs to guarantee that the legitimized attendees are present at a given time, no matter their current location.
2. Interactive quality: This means that there needs to be clear, real-time communication, meaning that the assembly is broadcast live and directly, without interruptions that may affect the participation of the attendees.
3. Comprehensive quality: This means that the communication must be comprehensive since it must allow the forwarding of images, sound and relevant information for the purposes of the meeting.
If those requirements are present, the assembly can be held and can be legally enforced (as long as it was duly summoned following the condominium’s bylaws previously, of course). This is also relevant because sometimes, and depending on the circumstances, certain discussions cannot be delayed or postponed in spite of a pandemic or similar calamity. Zoom serves an alternative in such a situation.
So, if you happen to have the need to attend a meeting through Zoom, it’s good that you know that the app itself offers interesting advantages, but it is important to bear in mind that it may carry with it certain challenges that need to be handled in order to have it properly held.
Like I said in the beginning: adapting is critical in this new way of living.