Board meetings behind closed doors

H.L. writes:

Dear Paul:

I asked to attend one of our Board of Directors’ meetings to see how the affairs of the corporation are handled, but I was told that board meetings are closed and that unit owners cannot attend. Can you explain to me why that is?

Paul replies:

Dear H.L.:

First, I wish to commend you on showing a genuine interest in the governance of your condominium corporation. I trust that your interest is for positive purposes and not to find fault in your volunteer directors. Most condo corporations experience enough challenges in finding qualified owners willing to serve as directors that anything that could be a deterrence to serving on the board should be carefully considered.

I am not aware of any legislation (I am not a lawyer) that bans unit owners from attending board meetings. A practice to exclude owners from attending may be reasoned by the desire to encourage a free exchange of ideas among the board members. We can all appreciate that there can be an intimidation factor at play when discussions about controversial issues are debated in the public eye.

 Closing attendance to owners could be a stipulation that is included in your governing documents. The board may simply be following the established rule. To change such a requirement would require a change in the governing documents. While there may be no written rule, it may be a long-standing practice.

You must understand that allowing you to attend a meeting, would not allow you to participate in the discussions. Generally, you would be considered an observer only. Some organizations require individuals who wish to address the board to make a request in advance and for the board to approve the request. This is to ensure that representations do not overtake a board meeting or degenerate into complaint sessions.

Some parts of a board meeting will, by necessity, have to be held in private. When issues to be dealt with include employee matters, delinquent condo fee payments, complaints, vendor contracts, insurance claims, and legal actions, confidentiality is in order, and should be restricted to board members only. This part of a meeting is known as being an executive session or in camera, meaning behind closed doors.

If you ask the board to allow you in to observe once or twice, they might do so without creating an open invitation for everyone. In the meantime, trust that your board has your best interests at heart. If not, vote the members out office at the next opportunity. All the best!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Paul T

    Claire, Any board member should keep personal information private as a matter of common sense. Recognizing that common sense may not always prevail, legislators have drafted various pieces of legislation that seeks to protect private information. In Canada, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is one. Condo corporations, like any other corporation, needs to collect certain information from unit owners in conducting the business dealings between the owner and the corporation. An example might be banking information required to set-up pre-authorized debits to pay monthly condo fees. The corporation, however, by law cannot share this information with anyone without the owner’s specific permission. Another example could be if a unit owner defaults on their monthly fees. Within a certain number of days, the corporation will have to file a lien against the property in order to secure payment. The corporation does not need the owner’s permission to disclose the necessary personal information to the government agency with which the lien must be filed. Once filed, the information becomes a public record accessible by anyone. Another example would be if one unit owner complaints to the board about another unit owner. While the board will address the issue with the offending owner, it cannot disclose the complainant’s identity. I hope this answers your question. Thanks for asking.

  2. claire

    Interesting…with the above post in mind, I was wondering if board members have a duty or by law an obligation to keep condo owners’ information private? for instance, do they need owners’ approval to share their information…what if they have to divulge information to a third party to collect fees etc. would they need the owner’s permission?
    Thank you!

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