Don’t have AGMs

If the majority of a board is worried that they will not win an upcoming election, then if they don't schedule an AGM. Therefore they don't have to worry about losing.

This is more common than most owners may think. There are condos that have had an AGM once every three years or so when the owners insist on it.

One North York condo had an AGM only when an owners group took the corporation to Superior Court to get a court order. In seven years, they had two AGMs.

Delay the AGM
Another tactic is to have AGMs but hold them six to eight months late. That way, the board can hang on to power for an extra half year or more.

How to force an AGM
There are two ways the owners can force the board to hold an AGM. One is to start a requisition to replace the board. If you can get the support of 50% plus one of the units, you can remove the directors. This can be tough to do.

A second way to force the board to hold an AGM is to apply for a court order. You need to hire a lawyer to assist you in making an application.

This will cost approximately $8,000 but if you win, you will get most of your legal fees back by a costs award.

How effective is this?
If the board freezes the condo fees, or raises the fees by miserly amounts, they will retain the support of the majority of owners. Very few owners are willing to spend their own money to pay legal fees to force an AGM.

If the board raises the fees by an unacceptable amount, or levies a special assessment, then the owners may turn on them.

Canary in a coal mine
This excerpt from the Vancouver Courier shows how tough the fight between two groups of owners—in this case, the short-term landlords and the owner-residents can become.

Ulrike Rodrigues, who runs the Facebook page Homes Not Hotels — No Airbnb and who also spoke before council last Wednesday, said she’s used Airbnb in the past and is not against the service outright, but stressed that unless government steps in to curb the problem, short-term rentals coming at the expense of market rentals will only become more common.

Rodrigues owns and lives in a suite at the Fairfax, a stratified 60-unit building in Mount Pleasant. She and other owners have spent the last few years fighting unwanted Airbnb units in the building. Until recently, 10 former market rental suites, all of which are owned by real estate agent Zul Jiwa and various members of his family, were listed on Airbnb as short-term rentals.

In 2014, the building’s strata council fined Jiwa and company more than $18,000 for numerous strata bylaw infractions relating to the 10 suites, including unreported tenant move-ins and move-outs, unauthorized alterations and damage to common property, and illegally constructed walls in some of the units in order to convert them from bachelor into one-bedroom suites. According to the City of Vancouver, no permits were issued for any alterations to the suites.

At the strata’s annual general meeting in February 2015, Jiwa, his son-in-law Jamil Manji and two other owners became the new strata council, and at a later meeting reversed all sanctions against Jiwa and his family.

Rodrigues and other owners at the Fairfax allege that, despite repeated requests, they have yet to receive minutes from that last AGM or any subsequent council meetings, making it impossible for them to know why the fines were cancelled or whether Jiwa or Manji were involved in that decision. Owners say they have also been denied copies of the strata’s audited financial statements and that the deadline for holding the 2016 AGM has come and gone. The alleged infractions are violations of both the strata’s bylaws and B.C.’s Strata Property Act. Jiwa did not respond to the Courier’s requests for an interview.

Rodrigues called her building a “canary in a coal mine,” saying what’s happening to rental units there is almost certainly happening elsewhere in Vancouver.

“When you have a shared building and somebody wants to offer their suite, either as an owner or as a renter, it’s problematic because you’re in a shared building and there’s no accountability to the other neighbours,” Rodrigues said, adding it’s worse when a real estate agent, business person or commercial interest takes an empty suite, outfits it as a hotel room and offers it on Airbnb.

Eva Vladinski has lived at the Fairfax with her husband for 30 years and was on the strata council that levied the fines against Jiwa and his family. What bothers her most about the short-term rentals in her building is that it’s being done without consulting other owners or getting strata approval. She said several owners have complained to the city, but were referred back to their strata council.

“Unfortunately, our council is the ones who are doing it,” Vladinski said. “I have nothing against Airbnb in a building where everybody agrees to it or in a private home… but this is our home, not a hotel.”

Readers comments
I'm an owner at The Fairfax. Here's what I've observed:

As Strata Council members, Jiwa and his son-in-law Manji are led by the Fairfax 2015 Strata Council chair, Lewis N. Villegas—Urban Design Specialist, who is not named in this article. The fourth man is Artem Andreychuk.

Villegas and his group have not given owners the 2016 Annual General Meeting they are entitled to (as of today April 13, 2016 -- a month-and-a-half past the due date required by the BC Strata Property Act.) As a result, they continue to control the Strata Corporation, though they were not elected in 2016.

In addition, they have been operating with a >2014< budget because the revised 2015 budget was also not approved by other owners. Legally required to call a Special General Meeting to table a new budget, Villegas's group got around to it in November 2015 -- almost NINE months later. This 2015 new budget was not approved, possibly because it included allowances for Airbnb-style operations. But I don't know, because, as chair, Villegas has still not provided owners with Minutes from the SGM, despite repeated requests.

With communication muzzled the owners are beyond frustrated as we continue to be kept in the dark about our investment, and in my case -- my home.

On Twitter, I've tagged this #FairfaxPapers. :-)
Ulrike Rodrigues

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