Bill Morris in Board Operations on July 7, 2022
The other shoe has dropped. After granting housing cooperatives permission to hold annual meetings virtually — a stopgap pandemic measure that met with widespread favor — Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed a bill that grants the same flexibility to condominiums.
The bill amends the Real Property Law to allow condominium unit-owners to hold meetings, including annual meetings, virtually. The bill does not require condo boards to convene annual meetings electronically. It reads in part: “Nothing in this paragraph shall prohibit a board of managers from holding a meeting at a physical place and allowing unit-owners the option of attending such a meeting either at such a physical place or by means of electronic communication.” In other words, the bill has created the best of all possible worlds for condo boards and unit-owners — the freedom to hold annual meetings in-person, virtually, or a combination of both.
Last year, Hochul signed a bill that amended the Business Corporation Law and permitted co-op corporations to hold their annual meetings virtually. But the bill made no mention of condominiums, which one lawyer described as an “embarrassing” oversight. Now that oversight has been corrected.
“That’s good news,” says Robert Ferrara, president of the Westchester County-based Ferrara Management Group, which manages nearly 100 co-ops, condos and homeowners associations in metro New York. “This is going to give condo boards more flexibility to hold meetings if people are stuck at work or traveling. It’s going to allow them to move contracts forward and get work done without a lot of delays.”
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Ferrara estimates that 75% of his company’s co-op clients hold their annual meetings virtually, a handful conduct hybrid meetings, and the rest hold exclusively in-person meetings.
“Some like an in-person meeting because it fosters a sense of community,” Ferrara says, noting that the protocols for such meetings vary widely from building to building. “Some are held in big venues that allow for social distancing, and they require masks and proof of vaccinations. Others have no requirements.”
When the earlier bill covering co-ops was signed into law last year, Ken Jacobs, a partner at the law firm Smith, Buss & Jacobs, told Habitat: “We love it. Virtual annual meetings enhance shareholder participation, especially among elderly shareholders. And they allow for more orderly and efficient meetings.”
The condo bill was sponsored in the Senate by Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents the East Side of Manhattan; the Assembly sponsor was Nily Rozic, a Democrat representing northeast Queens. It had the backing of the Real Estate Board of New York, the Council of New York Co-ops & Condominiums (CNYC) and the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council. Geoffrey Mazel, a partner at the law firm Hankin & Mazel and general counsel for the latter group, says, “We think it’s a good thing to encourage participation by unit-owners. Many condo units are owned as investments, so absentee unit-owners can now participate in the governing process.”
Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the CNYC, adds: “It makes perfect sense in this day and age.”
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