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Can we hold Community meetings during the pandemic?

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The restrictions arising from the State of Alarm have changed many of our habits during this pandemic year. One of the activities that has virtually disappeared, since March 2020, is Community Meetings (AGM & EGM).

 

Considered a possible focus of covid-19 contagion, most of these annual meetings have been postponed. During the toughest weeks of the third wave – when we were in Phase 4 Grade 2, with all non-essential activity closed – Community meetings were not allowed.

Now that the numbers have dropped, these meetings are permitted, however, specialists recommend that they are not held.

«It is mandatory to hold a Community Meeting every year, but if it is postponed there are no major consequences. We continue to recommend not to hold them at least until the situation improves», says Joni Burnett, Administrator for COMUNIMAS, one of the main Community Administrators on the Costa del Sol.

As Joni explains, this has also been a difficult year for Community Administrators. «I remember the first meeting I had to cancel last year, it was on March 15th and I cancelled it less than a week before it was due. Owners did not understand why we were cancelling it, the state of alarm hadn’t been announced yet, nor had the restrictions, but I saw that this was going to be a problem. We couldn’t put our owners or our staff’s health at risk.»

Common decisions such as budgets, fees or community representatives can be extended by one more year without a problem. But what if an emergency issue arises, if there is a major repair and a cash call needed to continue to function?

«If it is an emergency the meeting can be held,» replies Joni Burnett, «Community meetings are regulated just like congresses or conventions,that is, if a community reserves a hotel lounge to hold its meeting and the capacity is 300 people, the room capacity would reduce to 50%, this would be 150 – to maintain security measures.»

Another viable option would be to hold online  meetings, but these have not yet been regulated in Spain. «In Catalonia they did issue the necessary regulations to hold telematic meetings, but in  the rest of Spain these have not yet been regulated.   A draft has been submitted to Parliament calling for this regulation.’

While this issue is being approved, COMUNIMAS has developed a mixed system, i.e. they hold a meeting with people in the room – 4 or 6, depending on the covid rules in place and the room capacity – and enable a videoconferencing connection for those who do not want to attend in person, but do want to participate from home. «The only thing these people can’t do is vote online because that’s what hasn’t yet been allowed under Spanish law,» Joni says. If these people wanted to exercise that right, they would have to send their proxy to vote so that someone physically in the room can represent them.

The CEO of COMUNIMAS foresees  a «radical change» in the way Community Meetings are managed in the near future. Once the online meetings are legalized, they will be here to stay, just like working from hom.

«Until now the meetings were held once a year and at that meeting everyone’s problems needed to be dealt with. Some meetings could last six, eight or ten hours, so having online, more regular, meetings should hugely improve communications. When online voting is enabled, it will be more complicated for administrators because they will be forced to modernize their offices, but in the long run it’s going to make things a whole lot easier,» says Joni Burnett.

From COMUNIMAS they expect for online meetings to be authorized at the state level. «All the steps have already been taken by Professional Colleges and the National Community Administrator Associations, for this to happen. This sector also needs modernizing, it should have happened last year, but better late than never! “.

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