The General Meeting of the co-owners takes its decisions by a vote. Without this list being exhaustive, two voting procedures are set out in article 351 of the Civil Code of Quebec: the show of hands or, upon request, the secret ballot. The choice of one or the other voting procedure is predicated upon competing objectives of simplicity or of confidentiality in the decision making process. A focus on the different terms and conditions of voting in a General Meeting:
SHOW OF HANDS
Due to its swiftness, a show of hands is a widely used method. By its nature, it is necessarily a non-secret vote, as each co-owner knows the vote of each co-owner.
During this procedure, the president of the General Meeting will rely upon raised hands to decide whether the draft resolution tabled was adopted or not.This approach has practical and legal limitations. Indeed counting the votes accurately can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible, because:
This method should be used only in the case of a unanimous vote of the co-owners present or represented or when the chairman is able to identify unequivocally, the co-owners holding by themselves a sufficient number of votes to pass or reject a draft resolution.
ROLL CALL VOTE
This method is to proceed to the tally of the votes by calling each fractions comprised in the co-ownership. Each co-owner is thus called, in turn, to announce his decision. Although this process takes time, it has many benefits over a show of hands. Firstly, it allows distinguishing clearly the decision of each co-owner that is to say to identify clearly who voted and how he voted. It also limits the risk of error in the vote tally and thereby of legal challenges with respect to decisions taken during the General Meeting.
To ensure the confidentiality of the votes, a secret ballot may be requested by the President of the General Meeting or by any co-owner present or represented. Unlike voting by a show of hands and by a Roll call, a secret ballot is conducted for each resolution, using a voting form. It allows to clearly identify the position of each co-owner between, in favor, against, or abstention.
Moreover, the co-ownership decision making process does not provide secret ballots, in the true sense of those words, because article 1090 of the Civil Code of Québec stipulates that: "Each co-owner is entitled to a number of votes at a General Meeting proportionate to the relative value of his fraction." Thus, the ballot must necessarily indicate the number of votes attached to the fraction of the co-owner.
It is the duty of the president of the General Meeting to ensure the confidentiality of the scrutineers. It must also keep the ballot forms under seal, at least until the expiration of the deadline to contest a decision of the General Meeting before the court.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! A show of hands is better suited for small co-ownerships comprising up to ten units, while for larger ones it is better to favor roll call votes or secret ballots to avoid an error in the calculation of the votes.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND: The General Meeting votes by a show of hands. However the president of the general meeting or the co-owners may prefer holding a ballot using voting forms. This type of ballot may also be required after a vote by show of hands, in the event the issue of the vote is uncertain. However, this demand should be made immediately, which to say before addressing the next item on the agenda .
WARNING! Despite its quick results, the show of hands has its drawbacks in terms of democratic process. The undecided co-owners or even those who do not wish to disclose openly their dissent will tend to imitate the choice of other co-owners, not to be frowned upon.
CONSULT THE PUBLICATION: Guide de procedure et de fonctionnement des assemblées des copropriétaires (Procedures and operation of general meetings of co-owners guide)