It’s becoming more common to find yourself next to a Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, or Tesla Model S in traffic…and perhaps in the parking lot of your condominium, homeowner, or townhome association.
Various reports indicate that the sales of electric vehicles will continue to grow. However, the feasibility of supplying the growing number of electric vehicles with fuel remains a significant issue. Public charging stations are massively outnumbered by gas stations. As such, many electric vehicle owners find that it is more convenient to charge their vehicles at home. This can get complicated in a community association where residents share parking areas and the costs of supplying their association with electricity.
Considering the rising ownership of electric cars, board members and property managers may be approached with proposals to install a charging station. As these requests become more common, you may be wondering whether your association is obligated to accommodate such a request. If so, how should these requests be addressed? The answers depend on a variety of factors which include, but are not limited to, analyzing state law and the capabilities of your association’s electrical grid.
Below are five factors to consider when reviewing a request to install an electric car charging station within your association.
- Know the law
Some states (ex. California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York, Oregon) are subject to “Right to Charge” laws that prevent associations from blocking proposals for charging stations.
Specifically, these laws state that the association’s governing documents cannot restrict charging stations or give board members the power to deny all proposals outright. Associations in these states do, however, retain the power to evaluate charging station proposals and recommend changes before they are implemented.
Nevertheless, these laws do require owners’ proposals to meet certain conditions and the requesting homeowner is expected to take responsibility for the costs to install and remove their respective charging station.
- Check governing documents, rules, and regulations
Due to the recent popularity of electric cars, older communities and/or associations with outdated governing documents may have little to no guidance in their covenants, by-laws, declaration, and or rules and regulations that explicitly reference electric charging stations.
Nevertheless, since charging stations can be considered exterior alterations and/or modifications that are typically installed in common areas of the property such as parking lots or parking garages, association’s still retain significant power over the installation of electric charging stations, even if they are not explicitly referenced in the documents.
That said, there are a number of factors (ex. whether the parking space at issue is deeded to the requesting owner or part of the common areas) that can affect your association’s ability to restrict and/or regulate the installation of an electric charging station. Accordingly, it’s important for board members and property managers to work with their legal counsel to review all aspects of any plans and/or specifications pertaining to the installation of an electric vehicle charging station so that your association is well aware of its rights and obligations.
- Determine your property’s electric capacity
Charing an electric vehicle requires more than an outlet. Building codes, weather conditions, and the existing electrical capacity are just some of the issues that need to be reviewed. An electrician can present viable options but it’s also a possibility that the infrastructure of an older building may not support the electrical demands of a charging station.
- Discuss ownership and management dynamics
Your association can choose to own and/or manage the charging station/s that are installed in common areas, allowing for control over billing and operations.
Some community members might be concerned that electric charging stations will negatively impact their own electricity bills. As a result, your association may want to consider installing a charging station equipped with software that tracks users, separates electricity costs, and bills users directly.
Further, it may also be prudent to determine whether the electricity supplying the charging station can be sub-metered such that the costs thereof will be separate and apart from the cost of supplying electricity to common areas and/or individual units. This will help to ensure that any additional costs associated with the electric charging station are allocated to the owner(s) that are benefitted by the charging station.
Alternatively, your association may condition its assent to the installation of electric charging station in exchange for the requesting owner(s) agreement to pay a regular monthly/yearly fee to the association to defray any additional costs associated with the charging station. In any event, it’s important to keep in mind that an Electric Vehicle Service Provider (EVSP) can handle the maintenance and collection of payments from owners that utilize the charging station.
There is also the option of allowing the homeowner to own, manage and pay all costs related to their charging station. This works well if the demand for charging stations is limited to one homeowner. However, if there are multiple electric vehicles within the community, it may be easier to consolidate all charging stations under the same management umbrella.
- Have a proposal process in place
Electric car owners and homeowners who are contemplating an electric vehicle purchase will often look to their board for guidance on how to handle charging stations. In order to ensure that the board is handling these matters consistently, the board should have a written policy in place.
As part of that policy, the board may require homeowners to submit a detailed installation plan created by a licensed and insured contractor. The proposal should also reflect the owner’s understanding that, depending on the association’s rules, they are accountable for funding the project. Installation should not begin before the board has reviewed the project and granted permission.
Pioneering electric vehicle management at your community association may be a challenge, but it can also be an opportunity. Charging stations are an amenity that can enhance the desirability of your association while promoting a modern, environmentally conscious image.
If your Association has questions regarding electric car charging stations, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. We have four office locations, serving hundreds of clients and thousands of communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.
Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
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