Digital Home Owner Meeting - what is it?
As the owner of one or more apartments in an apartment building, you have the opportunity to take part in an owners’ meeting or floor meeting (Switzerland), usually once a year (Germany, Switzerland) or once every two years (Austria).
The central body
The owners' meeting (floor meeting) is the central body that decides on all pending questions and problems of a community of owners.
The owners' meeting is convened by the relevant property management company at least once a year or every 2 years in Austria (more often if necessary) and it is a mandatory event that gives apartment owners the opportunity to communicate and to clarify problems.
Owners' meetings are meetings that are not open to the public and in which only the apartment owners or persons authorized by them may participate.
The relevant property management is legally obliged to convene such a meeting and to inform the apartment owners of this by means of a proper invitation.
Typical points that are discussed at a shareholders’ meeting include:
- the annual statement of house money and possible allocations
- the preparation of an economic plan for the next year
- the discharge of the administrator
- the dismissal or appointment of the administrator
- the determination or adjustment of a reserve for maintenance
- necessary changes in the house rules
Of course, these are just some of the topics that can be discussed at an owners' meeting. In addition, current changes to the structure of the property (e.g. repairs or necessary conversions) are often points that need to be discussed and clarified.
ETVs - legal certainty
As already mentioned, the legal aspect as well as compliance with all regulations that are necessary for the proper and legally compliant conduct of an electronic meeting of owners is a very central aspect.
In addition to fulfilling all measures that are part of data security, the clear identifiability of the participants is of course a very important point.
Each participant must have a uniquely identifiable account with which to participate in the conference. In addition, it should be ensured that the participant has to confirm his participation in the conference by means of a digital signature and is thus also clearly identifiable.
Another important point that should be considered is the possibility that decisions made, as well as minutes and other confidential information, must be made accessible to the owners in a protected form.
To this end, it is advisable to send encrypted e-mails and a mailbox for each member that is set up in a central area. Access to such a mailbox can only be achieved through a unique user identification with a corresponding password. It should also be possible to send encrypted e-mails.
It must be ensured that unauthorized persons can neither take part in the conference nor gain insight into the decisions or correspondence of the participants in any way. In addition, the leader of the meeting should be able to see online at any time who is present.
All data should be hosted in the EU, otherwise the GDPR is very difficult to comply with.
Owners save time and money
The owners' meeting, which takes place once a year, is part of proper property management and is also legally regulated by the Residential Property Act (WEG).
With the introduction of the new Residential Property Act (WEG) in Germany, which has been in force since December 2020, Section 23 (1) WEG now also offers the option of holding the owners’ meeting in digital form. In Austria, this possibility has existed since July 1, 2022 (§25a Para. 2 WEG Austria)
There are basically two variants of how such an owners' meeting can take place.
In a purely digital form - with all participants only meeting via video chat (however, this requires the consent of all participants). In Austria there are no regulations regarding purely digital owners' meetings. All owners must first agree to this.
In hybrid form - this is a mixture of physical presence and video chat of the participants. In Germany, a hybrid form must be offered.
Since the end of 2020, participants in an owners' meeting have also had the opportunity to take part in the scheduled owners' meeting of their residential property via video conference in purely digital form.
If all the formal requirements for a digital owners’ meeting are regulated and fulfilled, then all the necessary votes and resolutions can also be drafted in digital form and are therefore also legally compliant and therefore valid.
More about vDecision - hybrid home owner meetings
The legal situation
The 2022 amendment to the Austrian WEG from 2002 now enables participation in owner meetings in digital form for the first time. From July 1st, 2022 it is now possible for the property management to enable the participants in a owners' meeting to take part in such a meeting in digital form. In Austria, a general meeting of owners must be convened at least every two years.
However, it should be noted that this is primarily intended to take the form of hybrid owners' meetings. It must therefore be ensured that, in addition to pure digital transmission, there is also the possibility of physical presence (e.g. in a meeting room or similar).
In Austria, the invitation to the owners to the digital owners’ meeting must be sent at least 14 days before the date.
As already mentioned, digital owner meetings (in hybrid as well as completely digital form) have been legally compliant and therefore permitted in Germany since the introduction of the new WEG law in December 2020 (§23 Para. 1 WEG).
In Germany, a purely digital, i.e. only online, owners’ meeting is only possible with the prior consent of all owners. Otherwise, the meeting must be offered at least as a hybrid.
If only one of the owners is against the purely digital holding of the owners' meeting, the property management must provide appropriate premises so that the physical presence and thus the participation of the owner can also be guaranteed.
It is very important to comply with GDPR compliance. Ensuring data protection is one of the most important points that must be clarified and observed so that the owners' meeting can be carried out in digital form and in accordance with the law. This is necessary, among other things, to be able to carry out secret voting.
In Germany, the invitation to the owners to the digital owners’ meeting must be sent at least 21 days before the date.
The situation is similar in Switzerland with the holding of floor meetings in digital form. In Switzerland, digital floor meetings have been possible for some time and are also practiced in this way.
Such a form of assembly is regulated by Ordinance No. 3 (818.101.24) on measures to combat the corona virus (Covid-19) of June 19, 2020, according to Chapter 4 and Article 27.
It is important here that the invitation to the floor assembly must be available to the residents a reasonable amount of time in advance and that the invitation meets the relevant formal requirements.
The legislature does not regulate this in more detail. In practice, 20 days in advance has been found to be appropriate. However, a few days beforehand can also be sufficient - this depends on the ownership structure and is a matter of discretion.
Appropriate software for digital owners meeting
Due to the changed legal situation and a fast internet that is available practically nationwide, it is of course also possible to hold a digital owners’ meeting and the acceptance of such a meeting has increased significantly.
For many property managers who are toying with the idea of also holding a owners’ meeting in digital form, the question arises as to a suitable software solution or perhaps the possibility of being able to do without the corresponding software altogether.
Software solutions often have the advantage that they can be adapted very well to specific requirements, but are therefore often quite expensive.
In addition, the corresponding software must of course also be installed by the participants, set up if necessary and updated regularly.
Although this is usually not a big problem and works perfectly in most cases, solutions that do not require additional software to be installed are usually preferred (Software as a Service = SaaS).
For this reason, there are also a variety of solutions based on using the normal Internet browser.
The clear advantage is, of course, that such a SaaS solution does not require any software installation. Updates are also not necessary, as this is already carried out by the operator of the SaaS solution. A link that is sent to the participants is usually sufficient, and the participant can then log in directly with a corresponding access code.
Agenda and Minutes
The application for convening a shareholders' meeting in electronic form, preferably an application that does not require any additional software, should also allow the agenda items to be created online and shared with the participants. It should also be possible to invite all participants by email.
The application should also make it quick and easy to create minutes based on the planned agenda items and add notes that were written during the meeting.
It should be possible to send notes and minutes as well as all other important information to the participants by e-mail after the meeting (or even during the meeting).
Minutes and other important documents created during the meeting should be output as PDF documents in A4 format - then they can simply be printed out.
There should also be the option of archiving all documents and saving them in a separate owner area so that they can access them from anywhere at any time.
Support for all draft resolutions
Regular resolutions recorded during the owners' meeting, as well as draft resolutions to be voted on by a specified time after the meeting, should be able to be made using the application.
Ideally, such votes can also be taken in other forms of resolutions, such as circular resolutions, via the Internet.
The implementation of additional resolutions is also an important point in the range of functions of an application, which is intended to enable and simplify digital owner meetings.
Additional resolutions can be started, for example, during a shareholders' meeting, but can only be concluded by a certain number of people voting by a specified time. The application should allow and support the inclusion of such reconciliations and the sending of the corresponding documents and protocols.
Another and very desirable functionality is the possibility of being able to carry out polls or surveys purely for informational purposes without a legally binding result. This serves the purpose of gathering a certain opinion among the owners.
Decisions - count votes automatically!
Due to the electronic recording of the participants and the recording of voting results, it is of course obvious that the votes are also counted fully automatically. The big advantage here is of course the speed - the voting result is immediately available - and at the same time errors in the counting are avoided.
A digital archive also ensures that all resolutions with the corresponding voting results are stored and archived chronologically. The property managers and the owners always have the option of being able to access all decisions, regardless of location.
The resolutions recorded in a separate resolution book make it possible to see all past resolutions at a glance and to recognize them quickly and precisely. Minutes of past ETVs that were part of the decisions taken should be easily accessible from anywhere, for example by clicking on the date of the meeting.
The archiving of resolutions in the resolution book and the associated logs in the log archive allow for a quick and easy analysis of past activities.
It is also possible for new employees in property management and new owners to quickly and easily get an overview of past votes in order to better understand and assess the history of the property.
The ideal application for holding a digital owners’ meeting should also have a tool that allows owners to be represented in the ETV and to be able to vote on resolutions in their own name.
This means that the property manager should be able to send a power of attorney online and the representative needs a way to easily participate in the digital meeting. This can be done, for example, via an invitation link that is only valid for a specific meeting on a specific day and time.
In addition to the functions mentioned, an ideal tool should also have a functional area for the moderating property manager. The moderator must have the opportunity to manage the owners' meeting in a meaningful way in the interests of the members.
This is also particularly important when it comes to moderating larger gatherings.
The moderator should be able to quickly and easily recognize through automation who is present digitally, who is present on site and who is not present.
The moderator should also see a chronological list of those who have spoken. Participants should appear on this list once they have spoken to share their comments, questions and additions. The speaking time taken up by a person present should also be visible.
Standard functions such as "muting" all participants and video control, which can be operated by the moderator, round off a good application for holding a owners' meeting in digital form.
Data synchronization - don't create virtual dead ends
In addition to these standard functions, it would of course be ideal if the SaaS application for property managers could provide additional functions.
It should be possible to connect to the property manager's existing software solutions. The export/import function of the data then also makes it easier for the property manager to process it further.