Q: At present, our officers and committee members are reviewing the ‘Constitution’, which is some eight years old, and out of date.
We wish to include one prime change (which does not feature within our current ‘Constitution’) and that is, ‘to accommodate a member’s entitlement to appoint a proxy, primarily, because we have three apartment owners within the block who let to their family. The proxy will be able to exercise the right to vote on behalf of the owner/member.
The second change, is not so much a change, but clarification of voting rights
At the end of August, we enjoyed a stronghold of some 73 per cent membership ofour residents’ association (based on the number of apartments that paid an annual subscription in our block) and therefore a majority. Most members are; owner/residents, whilst a few are; owner/landlords.
The block is made up of one-, two- and three-bedroomed apartments, with an average of two owner/residents per apartment, though this differs from one to three residents, naturally.
In the past, decisions made on items raised within the Annual General Meeting’s Agenda, have been taken by a simple majority vote of those present at that meeting, however, the current ‘Constitution’ is not clear in this.
For clarity, are we able to include a clause within the ‘Constitution’, which will enable all resident/owners within an apartment to register their vote? Some feel that only one vote per apartment should be allowed, however, not everyone is in agreement.
An example would be; where 3 residents within one apartment do not agree in the decision.
We would like to resolve this issue in a effort to present at our AGM the ‘Constitution’ for approval from our members.
FPRA Committee Member Bob Slee replies:
A: It might be useful to take the second part of your question first. It is normal in residents’ associations of this nature for membership to relate to each housing unit and not each occupant. To do otherwise could even potentially lead to a challenge under equality legislation. It could be construed as discriminatory to allow a couple in one flat two votes on any issue (possibly even three votes if for example there is an adult child at home) but only one vote to an identical flat that happens to be occupied by an unmarried, divorced or widowed resident. Furthermore, although you haven’t said so explicitly, I have assumed from what you have said, that your membership fee is based on an identical amount per property. It would be illogical as well as unfair for one fee to be able to buy three votes in one instance but only one in another. It would of course be perfectly in order to have a joint membership in any property occupied by more than one person, but that membership should be able to cast only one vote. It is of course possible for joint members to wish to vote in different ways but that should not be permitted. One way of avoiding this I have seen in several other organisations is for joint members to determine how they wish their names to be recorded in the Association’s records and, in the event of a voting dispute, it would be the joint member first named in the records whose vote would count. Provided the names of joint members are properly recorded in the Association’s records there would be no requirement for a proxy form to be completed in the event of any one of the joint members being unable to attend.
However, I believe you are looking to introduce a proxy voting mechanism for more general absences. I recommend that you produce a standard proxy form for this purpose which you would issue with any meeting call-up notice. The form would need to have included the nature and date of the meeting, the name(s) and address of the member/joint members wishing to appoint a proxy, their dated signatures, a declaration that they wish to appoint a proxy for the meeting in question, whether or not they are placing any restrictions on how the proxy may vote (ie will that they have a free rein to vote how they chose or is there a mandate on how they should vote on any specific proposition) and the name and address of the proxy him/herself. The proxy form should also contain a statement that, in order to be valid, the completed proxy form should be lodged with the chair of the meeting before business commences.
Your intention to allow the chair of the meeting a second casting vote in the event of a tie is perfectly normal.
[Submitted October 2017]