Apartment ownership in Finland, part III: virtual shareholders’ meetings

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This is a third blog post covering apartment ownership in Finland. In this one, we talk about virtual shareholders’ meetings.

In the other blog posts, we’ve:

Annual shareholders’ meetings

As we explained in our previous post in this series, the annual shareholders’ meeting is the highest decision-making body of Finnish housing companies. In it, the shareholders decide what happens in the apartment building. And how much money all of that can cost the shareholders.

We also explained

  • what topics are usually covered in the meeting;
  • how the meeting usually goes;
  • who can participate in the meeting;
  • why you as a shareholder should take part in these meetings.

In contrast, we didn’t explain that these meetings normally take place face to face. In smaller housing companies they might be held in someone’s home. But larger companies often rent out a space for these meetings if they don’t have a suitable room in the building.

However, there are times like now when these types of large gatherings are not wise. So, what happens then?

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Postponing the meeting

The Limited Liability Housing Companies Act says that the annual shareholders’ meeting must be held within six months of the end of the last fiscal year. In most housing companies, this means that the meeting should be held by the end of June. So, the housing company can legally postpone the meeting all the way there. That might even be the smartest way of doing this.

However, if the housing company has urgent things going on, postponing a meeting might not be possible. It might be that certain important repairs just need to start and a decision by the shareholders has to happen.

Then it is possible to organize virtual shareholders’ meetings. Or somewhat virtual at least.

Somewhat virtual shareholders’ meetings

The Finnish Real Estate Management Federation and the Finnish Real Estate Federation recommend that in this situation, housing companies should hold shareholders’ meetings online if they cannot be postponed. The Finnish Ral Estate Management Federation has drafted instructions and guidelines on how such virtual shareholders’ meetings should happen. We’ll summarize them here.

The current law doesn’t allow arranging completely virtual shareholders’ meetings. At least the property manager and the chairman of the board have to be physically present in the meeting. Everyone else can participate virtually.

But the housing company can’t legally prevent a shareholder from coming to the meeting in person. Thus they have to prepare for people to show up and arrange the space so that physical distancing can be observed. They can also even at this point ask people to go home and participate online.

At this point, the board of housing company has to make sure that

  • all shareholders can participate in the meeting.
  • and that the housing company follows the current restrictions on social gatherings put in place by the Finnish government.

Making the virtual shareholders’ meetings accessible to all

If indeed the annual shareholders’ meeting has to happen now, your invitation to the shareholders’ meeting can now include in addition to the address of the physical place of the meeting also

  • a request to participate in the meeting virtually online; and
  • instructions on how to do it.

It is likely that the housing company chooses one of the common virtual meeting applications such as Google Hangouts or Zoom. Both of these require that the housing company knows your email address. Thus the invitation most likely includes a request to sign up for the virtual meeting so that the housing company can send you a link to the meeting.

If you don’t have the possibility to participate with the system the housing company suggests, ask if you can phone in.

You can always also ask someone to represent you. As we explained in the second post of this series, you have to issue a power of attorney to that person. They can participate in the virtual shareholders’ meeting on your behalf.

These three blogs give you a good idea of how apartment ownership in Finland works. After reading these you know

  • what the ownership structure is like,
  • how housing companies are managed, and
  • what is your role as a shareholder.

We’ll have at least one blog post coming in this series. In that, we’ll talk about for example how much apartments in Finland cost.

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