Digitising the owners' meeting. Can we?

Our wishlist in the digitalization of processes in property management is long. As so often, the limit of what is feasible is determined by legal requirements. An example: the digitization of owners' meetings.

Simon Österle

We are frequently asked whether it would be possible to hold the annual owners' meeting by other ways than by a physical meeting of the owners. The requirement is obvious not only because of the physical distance between many co-owners, the management and the property. In fact, the Corona crisis, which has not yet been overcome, is currently posing great challenges for property management companies and owner associations. We are discussing here which possibilities the legislator allows for the virtualisation of owners' meetings and whether, or how individual elements of the overall process, from the preparation to the post-processing of an owners' meeting are already available and practiced by us today from the point of view of the digitisation strategy.

1. Preparing the owners' meeting

The preparation of owners' meetings can be made easier and more transparent using IT-supported processes.

  • Collecting the items on the agenda
    In the EST8 online portal, we provide a central online form that can be used by owners to request the items on the agenda (TOP). Alternatively, each owner can communicate by e-mail or post.

  • Auditing
    The execution of invoice verification is considerably simplified by digitized processes. The EST8 online portal provides the advisory boards with the invoice verification. Alternatively, we offer invoice verification via video conference or locally in the EST8 Office.

  • Invitation
    The invitation to the owners' meeting is available for each owner on the EST8 online portal. All participants receive a status update (notification) of the invitation including the agenda and powers of attorney by e-mail. At the same time, a message is posted on the digital bulletin board in the EST8 online portal. The EST8 receives reading confirmations.

2. Holding the owners' meeting

The spread in locations of owners in WEGs has grown considerably over the last decade. The combination of spatial distance and language barriers is a challenge for communities and individual owners, which is one of the reasons why the digitisation of owners' meetings is particularly interesting.

  • Meeting place: physical, digital or mixed?
    The choice of the place where the meeting is held is one of the first and fundamental challenges. The location chosen for the owners' meeting is usually a location within a two kilometre radius of the WEG or the headquarters of the property management company in Berlin. Although the place of assembly can also be moved by a resolution for the next meeting, e.g. to another city, there will always be owners who are at a disadvantage by one or the other regulation. The solution to this very fundamental problem can be alleviated with digital support despite the currently very rigid legal situation. The following options can be considered:

  • An video meeting by means of a video conference is a solution that may become the norm in many WEGs in the future. However, there are still a number of legal hurdles standing in the way of problem-free technical feasibility.

  • A video meeting is only legally secure if this way of holding the meeting has been unanimously decided in advance by a community, subsequently confirmed by a notary and recorded in the community regulations.

  • Experienced owners are aware of the difficulty of getting unanimous decisions in already existing WEGs. However, in newly established communities the conceptual phase of the community regulations offers a chance to set the digital rules from the scratch.

  • Even without a resolution, a community can hold owners' meetings via video conferences. It should be noted here that, in the absence of a corresponding provision in the community regulations, there is a risk that decisions taken in a video conference is subsequently challenged by individual members of the community. Only after a period of four weeks do resolutions in this case become legally binding (which is always the case, also in "normal" meetings)

Digitization "light": TED logging

Even physically held owners' meetings can be carried out with digital
support. In the worst case, protocols can be printed and signed on site. In the better case, protocol signatures can be made on tablets in an environmentally friendly manner. The collection of resolutions is generated automatically and is available directly after the meeting in the EST8 online portal. An established digital tool is voting by TED. This tele-voting procedure, which has been available for years, makes voting fast and legally secure and eliminates errors in the voting results. We are working on legally compliant voting tools where participants can log in and vote via a URL. This would also be a conceivable solution to allow remote participants to vote.

3. Follow-up and documentation

A precisely and effectively executed owners' meeting makes follow-up work easier, ensures a high degree of clarity and transparency and is the basis for effective property management. In the EST8 online portal all owners have access to all relevant documents. It is no longer necessary for owners to print out documents and keep them on paper.

Simon Österle