Strata corporations aren’t immune to abrupt resignations and unanticipated changes to the council's structure. It’s difficult to predict when a change will occur and how the leaders and community will be affected, but your council should know what to do if a vacancy arises. To help you prepare, we’re sharing five tips and best practices for filling strata council member vacancies.
1. Look to the governing documents first.
Governing documents are, in essence, the constitution, bylaws, and rules that explain how a strata corporation is governed. Before acting, refer to these documents on the legalities of filling a council member’s seat when it becomes available. Within them, you’ll find information and guidelines about council member elections, resignations, removals, appointments, eligibility, and more. You should also check local and provincial laws and ensure compliance.
2. Evaluate the necessity of a new council member.
Once a seat becomes vacant, your council may be overwhelmed and unaware of what actions to take next. While filling that spot may seem like the appropriate move, it might not be necessary. Often, councils have too many members when all that’s required is a few in the first place; it’s not always about the number of council members, but the quality of their work. Based on what your strata bylaws say, evaluate if you can operate efficiently with one less person. Here’s what to consider:
- Determine council morale. Is the council s currently a positive or negative environment? Will the addition of a new council member improve or damage council morale?
- Confirm the council can handle its workload. Have the exiting council member’s duties been assigned to existing members? Can the existing council effectively fulfill these new duties and previous ones? Will the council now lack expertise without the exiting council member?
- Ensure you’re working within all applicable bylaws and rules. Every strata corporation has different bylaws on if, when, and how vacant seats can be filled. Is your strata corporation required to operate with fewer council members until the next election cycle, or is it required to appoint a new council member or fill the seat immediately?
- Get a pulse on membership. Will members feel excluded from the opportunity to serve on the council if there is an open seat? Will members believe the council is acting out of authority if someone new is appointed?
3. Communicate with homeowners.
You may not want to divulge the reasons for a council vacancy—and you may not have to—but it’s crucial to be transparent about the occurrence and next steps. Communicate the update to residents, and if you’re looking to fill the role immediately, encourage interested candidates to apply. Depending on the situation, you may even want the resigning council member to help vet or recommend their replacement. Remember they might still live in the neighbourhood and are a constituent served by the strata corporation, so keep a professional tone, thank them for serving their community, and follow the communication guidelines outlined in your governing documents.
4. Create a council member job description.
To help fill the role with a suitable prospect, demonstrate your due diligence by creating a job description that clearly identifies the commitment involved and the skills that would be valuable in the position. The more information you share, the more likely you are to find a dedicated member who will have a lasting and impactful tenure on the council. When communicating about the vacancy and requesting a new volunteer, include a job description that entails:
- General overview of the role, responsibilities, and requirements
- Council meeting frequency and attendance requirements
- How many hours per week or month they’d need to dedicate to council duties
- Any specialized skill that would help the volunteer excel in their role (i.e., for a treasurer, financial acumen would be helpful)
5. Don’t rush the process.
While your council may be eager to fill the vacant seat, it’s important to be careful and methodical in how you appoint or select a new council member. Take your time and thoughtfully seek to identify potential candidates who will strengthen the council. Council members should be of high character and integrity, active and positive in the community, willing to devote sufficient time to fulfilling their responsibilities, and free of any interest that would violate laws and interfere with proper performance.