Electric Vehicles in Condos

electric cars.jpgToday, in celebration of Earth Day (yes I know I’m late), I thought that I would write about an environmental issue that is becoming more common in condominiums: electric vehicles. An electric vehicle is one powered by electricity stored in rechargeable batteries instead of using traditional fuel sources, like gasoline or diesel.  Some cars, called hybrids, use a combination of sources.

So you might be thinking “why is this an issue for condominiums?” Simple. There are many legal issues that need to be addressed before owners plug in their cars. Where is the vehicle charged? Who pays for the electricity consumed? What if the condominium doesn’t have a suitable location to charge the vehicle? Who pays to upgrade facilities so charging is possible? Can the condominium install charging stations to be used by all of the owners? These are only a few of the questions that I’ve been asked.

It is impossible to consider all possible factors, but there are a few basic ones that should be considered in all cases:

Location, Location, Location

Before buying an electric vehicle the owner should confirm that there is an adequate location to charge the car. If the only parking available is outside in a giant paved lot it might be best to find a different vehicle or parking space. If the owner has an indoor parking space, is there an outlet nearby or would the owner need to run a cord across two parking spaces?

Reasonable Use & Restrictions

Generally, the owners have the right to make reasonable use of the common elements, subject to the Act,  declaration, by-laws and rules. Is charging an electric vehicle a reasonable use of the common elements? It may depend upon the condominium, its residents, etc.

It is also important to make sure that there are no provisions in the declaration, by-laws or rules that prohibit charging cars on the property. Is there a rule that prohibits owners from using electricity supplied to the common elements? Is there a rule against making changes to the common elements or units without the approval of the board? Does section 98 of the Act apply? If so, the owner will need board approval before making any changes that might be required to accommodate a charging station for the vehicle.

Safety & Technical Issues

The board should consider the safety aspects of the owner’s request as well. If the charging is likely to damage the property or injure a person on the property, the request should be denied. The outlet might be inadequate to charge the vehicle, which may result in damage to the property or injury to persons. The board should consult with its engineers and other experts to ensure that it is safe to use the outlet for charging electric vehicles. Are there any special technical requirements?

Are there any special technical requirements? Are sub-meters used in the condominium for all of the units, including parking spaces? Would the installation of a charging station interfere with the corporation’s obligations to maintain or repair the common elements?

Cost

The most contentious issues probably relate to the cost. Who pays for the electricity consumed by the owner to charge his vehicle? Ordinarily, where an owner asks for a service not provided to other owners, he or she would pay the extra costs associated with it. In my opinion, the same should normally apply to situations where electricity is consumed by an owner to charge electric vehicles. There could be an exception where the condominium provides a charging station for use by all owners and visitors, in which case the electricity might be a common expense shared by all owners.

Who pays for modifications to the property? Again, ordinarily, the owner would pay for any costs involved to modify the property as a condition of approval from the board. A section 98 agreement would be prepared as well.

Shared Charging Stations

In some cases, the board might want to install communal charging stations for use by all owners and visitors. This decision could require owner approval, especially if the cost would represent a significant portion of the overall budget.

I’m not trying to dissuade condominiums from allowing their owners to charge electric vehicles on the property. To the contrary, I think electric vehicles are a great way to reduce emissions and should be encouraged. However, for condo boards, the first priority must be protecting the condominium.

Look for more posts in the next few weeks on solar panels, submetering, clothes drying racks, and lighting retrofits, to name a few.