|CONDOCENTRIC: THE ART OF COMMUNICATION - Is E-Mail Always Easier?|
In this day and age, a lot can be said with respect to electronic communication. In the context of condominium communities, e-mail can serve as a great tool for communicating with owners and residents alike. The delivery of event notifications, newsletters and other correspondence electronically has a number of advantages as this method of delivery saves paper, time and cost. Recipients no longer have to check a physical mailbox or bulletin boards; they simply log onto their computers or view their smart phones and can receive communications wherever they are in the world.
E-mail also provides written verification of correspondence that makes record keeping easy for management and owners. No longer is there a need for photocopying or paper filing. No longer does a distinction need to be made between residents and non-residents or postage costs incurred in delivery.
Many condominium corporations are developing websites and utilizing other electronic means to keep the community in touch. Pictures of amenities are posted on-line to maintain/enhance marketability; elevator and party room bookings can be coordinated from the comfort of one’s home or office; and event reminders are delivered directly to your inbox.
Embracing technology makes everything easy! It’s a win-win, right? Consider this…
i. not all notices can be delivered electronically, even with consent in place;
ii. the threshold for successful provision of an electronic communication may be debatable – is a read receipt or delivery confirmation necessary or is the message simply appearing in your sent items folder sufficient? What happens if a delayed delivery notification arrives in your inbox a week later or the recipient claims your message was considered SPAM? and
iii. unless all owners consent to receiving electronic notices (when permitted), more than one method of delivery will have to be utilized. This complicates evidencing delivery and administration.
When one considers the additional burden of obtaining written consent from new owners whenever units are sold, it is easy to envision an administrative nightmare occurring and the potential for the provision of notice to be compromised.
While there are certainly advantages to electronic communications, critical thinking surrounding intention, goals, design, implementation and risk management is warranted. Confusion, conflict and additional administration costs on both the condo and their property management can ensue if there is enough thought around these issues. Electronic communications can be effective in fostering community, but traditional means of communication may, and must in some circumstances, still need to be utilized.
We encourage condominium communities to consider both the positive and negative aspects of electronic communications in determining how to effectively utilize it and to develop communications policies. While such policies may vary based upon the technological literacy of the given community, all such policies should recognize the applicable components of the Act and clearly set out parameters surrounding communications by electronic means.
We suggest that formal notices be provided by traditional means only, with electronic communications utilized to draw attention to their delivery and send reminders (i.e. an electronically delivered newsletter can alert owners that AGM packages will be delivered to them in the mail). To ensure that an over-reliance is not developed on electronic communication in light of the restraints upon same provided by the Act, we recommend clearly setting out restrictions of electronic communications on community websites and in electronic newsletters.
Rather than encouraging a sentiment of electronic communications replacing traditional means of communication, it may be creative and cost effective to embrace a hybrid approach where the advantages of electronic communications are married with traditional communication avenues with a view to keeping all members of the community informed and maintaining the integrity of formal notifications without complication or confusion.
By Marc Bhalla - April 2012
All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only, and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this newsletter is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.