Imagine that your homeowners association is occupied with extensive restructuring work, hired a new janitor, and is planning to refurbish the roof. All of these issues would normally be discussed during homeowners association meetings. The manager of a given homeowners association (HOA) is obliged to convene a general meeting of homeowners at least once a year and to invite all homeowners for the occasion. Whenever there is no HOA manager because none has been appointed yet or because the homeowners association intends to switch managements, it is the administrative advisory board’s job to convene the annual meeting or an extraordinary meeting, as the case may be.
The gathering of homeowners is an important element in home ownership law. Only by casting their vote do homeowners make themselves heard in a legally effective manner during the process of adopting resolutions on the various agenda items. The items of business in a meeting’s agenda may include, for instance, building works involving jointly owned parts of the building, the appointment of a new manager or special assessments. Absent homeowners cannot cast their ballots, unless they authorised a third party to represent them. It is in the best interest of the homeowners, but also the most sensible way to adopt resolutions concerning the administration of the commonhold property, to actively collaborate with the other homeowners either in person or through an authorised representative. In these times of COVID-19, that is easier said than done. Due to the pandemic, events of any sort are subject to tight restrictions and limited to a certain number of attendees in all of the German states, including the city states.
In its efforts to curb the pandemic, the German Government has also restricted the attendance of private meetings, which includes private homeowners association meetings, too. According to the Federal Government, the German states have been authorised through an amendment to the Infection Protection Act (IfSG) to limit the number or people attending private gatherings or social contacts, and not just for the unvaccinated but even for vaccinated and recovered individuals. The relevant regulations are continuously adjusted in response to the latest trend in infection incidence, updates being available on the homepages of the various states and on www.bundesregierung.de, the website of the Federal Government.
The regulations on social contacts now apply even to private homeowners association meetings. However, in order to ensure that homeowners and their managers remain able to pass resolutions and to keep making decisions, special rules were enacted in German home ownership law as early as March of last year. They are included in the Act to Mitigate the Consequences of the Covid 19 Pandemic in Civil, Insolvency and Criminal Proceedings. The special coronavirus rules, which were originally meant to expire by 31 December 2021, have now been extended through August 2022. Incumbent managers will retain their position until recalled or replaced by a new management. Analogously, approved budgets remain effective until the homeowners have had a chance to vote on the next budget.
To prevent a possible cancellation of annual general meetings of homeowner associations in the year now started, many HOA managers are taking advantage of the option to gather online in hybrid format. This means that the general meetings will still be convened in a physical location but will include the possibility to attend remotely via video conferencing. Conducting such a meeting exclusively online would require the unanimous consent by the collective of homeowners. But even the hybrid format for the annual general meeting has to be approved by a majority vote of the homeowners association. If approved, digital homeowners association meetings are subject to the same quorum rules as the traditional annual face-to-face events. More than 50 percent of the co-ownership shares must be present or represented to adopt any resolution. To help things along, the VDIV association of German property managers produced information flyers about online meetings for its member companies, which a given management can distribute to its homeowners.