When it comes to your strata corporation council members, resignations and unanticipated leadership changes are inevitable. While you can’t predict when and how the change will occur, there are things you can do to minimize disruption and preserve harmony in the community. The following are seven expert tips for handling a council member’s resignation.
1. Prepare in advance.
Abrupt resignations happen in all organizations, including strata corporations, and can negatively impact the normal course of business. That’s why it’s important to prepare and have plans to handle them before they happen. Once a year, governing documents and council member resignation bylaws should be reviewed. If your strata doesn’t already have established bylaws for council resignations, make it a priority to implement them to ensure resignations are properly and consistently handled. Research the legislation to confirm your policy is compliant or consult with your community manager to reach out for legal advice. Keep a list of confidential documents or categories of documents routinely given to council members, so you’re aware of all the information the resigning council member has stored. Also, develop a succession plan that includes everything a new council member would need to know to facilitate a smooth transition of duties.
2. Get everything in writing.
When a council member steps down, ask them to submit a written letter that states the date when the resignation takes effect. The resignation should be added as an agenda item to the next council meeting, where the council should formally accept it and include the letter in the records and minutes of the meeting. While it would be ideal for the resigning member to give a month’s notice to provide time to find a qualified replacement, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often.
3. Arrange an exit interview.
There are many reasons why a council member might resign, ranging from new time commitments to irreconcilable differences with other council members. Regardless of the situation, arranging an exit interview and having a polite conversation with the resigning member can result in valuable feedback that can improve the council. You might be surprised to find that he or she has deep institutional knowledge that’ll aid current and future council members. Create a standard exit interview checklist that includes questions such as:
- What prompted you to resign as a council member?
- What did you like best and least about your position?
- Did you feel well equipped to succeed as a council member?
- What could’ve been done to keep you from turning in a resignation?
- Did you feel like a valued member of the council?
- What suggestions do you have for the council members? How could we improve?
- Do you have any other issues or comments you’d like to address?
If something new and useful is discussed, add it to your standard list of questions.
4. Restrict access to strata corporation documents.
On the effective date of resignation, immediately change the resigning member’s passwords and restrict access to internal documents and email accounts. Update communication distribution lists so future strata emails aren’t inadvertently sent to the former council member’s personal email. Redirect their association-affiliated emails to the appropriate contact person. A best practice is to structure strata email accounts with titles instead of names, such as secretary@StrataXXXX.ca instead of john.doe@StrataXXXX.ca. That way, you don’t have to shut down email accounts or lose past emails, and the replacement council member immediately receives relevant emails. If the council member has any hard copies of documents, be sure to get those back and have them sign and date a form stating that all documents were returned.
5. Update marketing and communication materials.
Remove that person’s name from present and future communications, including any places where names might appear on the strata website, newsletter mastheads, or printed letterhead. Don’t forget to check standard PDFs that are links on your website or frequent attachments to emails sent to residents.
6. Notify the community.
You may not want to divulge the reasons for the resignation, but it’s crucial to be transparent with the community that the council member has resigned. Encourage interested candidates to apply and reach out to prior volunteers. Depending on the situation, you may even want the resigning council member to help vet or recommend their replacement. Remember that he or she might still live in the neighbourhood and is a constituent served by the strata, so it’s best to keep a professional tone, thank them for serving their community, and follow the communication guidelines outlined in your governing documents.
7. Fill the seat.
While you may have to operate with fewer council members until the next election cycle, reach out to your strata manager to review the governing documents and Associa’s legal resources on the legalities of filling a council member’s seat when it becomes available. Some strata corporation’s bylaws may allow the council to appoint a new member when there’s a vacancy, but others may require a vote from the homeowners. Still, when a council member leaves, it opens an opportunity for a new member with new ideas to join the council, which can benefit the association long term.