The developments in new EV technology are exciting for many people, but they have also led to unexpected issues for some condominiums. That’s the theme of an article published this month in the Florida Community Association Professionals journal.
“Electric Vehicles — Coming Soon to a Parking Area Near You!,” by Lilliana Farinas-Sabogal, offers insights into how state regulations are shaping EV policies for condo living. It unveils some of the anticipated difficulties with shared spaces and EV charging needs. The article also places some blame on EVs when deferred maintenance and upgrades are the real problems.
Let’s look at the timely, major points of the article and conduct a deep dig. That can inform us how condo associations are wrestling with pressures to make EV charging accessible and easy while also trying to keep common costs low.
Tesla has led the way in the EV revolution, as any regular reader of CleanTechnica knows. However, by reframing EVs early in the article as a once-upon-a-time “niche for adventurous Tesla explorers,” Farinas-Sabogal asks her readers to segregate Tesla from legacy automakers. Her intent is to reach out to a mass audience beyond early adopters, certainly. She concurrently mentions that Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning are arriving at dealerships “near you.” She adds that other familiar automakers such as Toyota, Nissan, GM, and Audi are already producing all-electric versions of their vehicles.
Noting that “the advertised MSRP for electric models of many of these vehicles appears to be comparable to their traditional gas-powered counterparts,” Farinas-Sabogal confirms that neighbors owning EVs “may become far more commonplace, far sooner than many people thought.”
The revelations give her condo-owning audience food for proverbial thought.
State Statutes About Condos & EV Charging
While focusing on Florida state statutes regarding EVs in condominium communities, the article identifies the mandates and gray areas for all condo boards as they muse over charging.
So, what is the language in the Florida statutes about condos and EV charging?
- Declarations or restrictive covenants in condominiums cannot prohibit any unit owner from installing an electric vehicle charging station within the boundaries of the unit owner’s limited common element parking space or the unit owner’s exclusive designated parking area.
- Owners must use licensed and registered firms familiar with the installation or removal and core requirements of an electric vehicle charging station.
- Unit owners are required to provide a certificate of insurance naming the association as an additional insured on the owner’s insurance policy for claims related to the installation, maintenance, or use of these, as well as to reimburse the association for increased association insurance costs resulting from any such installation.
She commends the legislature for being “aware of and taking steps to address existing and future needs of unit owners relating to new EV technology.” “Aware?” We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, people. Please, act; don’t react.
Perceived Dilemmas with EV Technology & Condos
“The idea that a great many owners would be interested in this installation did not seem likely.” With this comment, the author suggests that initial EV charging laws don’t interest many condo owners. Farinas-Sabogal seems to have missed projections that, at current growth rates, there will be more than 30 million electric vehicles on US roads within a decade.
Florida Power & Light (FPL) concurs with anticipated influx of EVs, offering a list of reasons why all-electric vehicles will quickly appear at condo complexes in Florida.
- They cost 80% less to operate.
- They release 70% fewer emissions.
- They help the US to achieve energy independence by drastically reducing oil consumption.
- They’re FUN to drive – with quick, quiet, and smooth acceleration, sophisticated displays, and smart phone applications.
Chargepoint says if an individual is putting in a charging station in their assigned parking spot, they should pay for the installation and electricity used because they’re the one benefiting.
The more pressing question than lack of EV interest is one we posed at CleanTechnica nearly a year ago — Where will they all charge? (Note: The post, supported by EVmatch, suggested that the company could offer “an affordable EV charging solution for apartments and condos, up to 60% less than other options on the market.”)
“Concerns arose particularly with the older buildings.” Farinas-Sabogal says that distress did arise because many condo buildings have electrical systems that are several decades old. Discussions of EV charging stations overloading the system, interfering with the electrical system, or lack of capacity weren’t fully addressed in the statute.
However, condo dwellers often have air conditioners, dehumidifiers, air purification systems, washer-dryers, sound systems, computer setups, and EVs, all of which draw power through the building’s electrical system. The limits of the construction of older buildings need not hold back the expectations of 21st century living.
Attracting and retaining residents and tenants with EV charging may require condo complexes to upgrade their electric systems. What potential condo owner is willing to buy into a complex that has “older buildings” with “electrical systems that are several decades old?” The electric utility company may need to add a transformer or two to its lines in front of the building, or new wires connecting the transmission lines to the building may need to be installed by the utility company.
“Associations were left wondering how to handle ‘too many’ requests for installation of personal charging stations.” It’s probably more important for condo associations to know the law about charging in their states than pondering how-many-is-too-many requests. Some states — California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York, Oregon — are subject to “Right to Charge” laws that prevent associations from blocking proposals for charging stations. Condo association boards should:
- check their governing documents, rules, and regulations for guidance in their covenants
- determine the infrastructure of buildings to be aware if they can support the electrical demands of a charging station
- discuss ownership and management dynamics
- have a proposal process in place so car and homeowners who are contemplating an electric vehicle purchase can look to their board for guidance on how to handle charging
Farinas-Sabogal does ask boards of directors and managers to “give much thought to how best to begin implementing changes to meet the needs of their individual communities.” Her recommendations are to implement:
- a survey to gauge interest in EV technology
- a discussion with an electrical engineer to assess capacity and options
- a meeting with the community’s attorney to discuss the proper procedures needed to protect the unit owners, the association, and the residents
“Finding an equitable way to manage the potential issues can be difficult.” Farinas-Sabogal poses the scenario of a condominium’s electrical system that is capable of adding a limited number of charging stations without incident, but then additional installations require “a significant upgrade to the electrical system.” Who is to bear the cost of the upgrade?
Associations need to determine how to handle a fair opportunity of use of these stations by owners, the author continues. That makes sense, as does the responsibility for the condo association assuming the cost for extensive electrical upgrades that will benefit the ownership community beyond simple EV charging.
Condo association boards that are aware of potentially serious problems with their buildings have a fiduciary responsibility to address those problems. Experts say the vast majority of associations are not adequately funded to pay for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of all portions of the property for which they are responsible. Indeed, some well-meaning but short-sighted boards will even proudly announce that they have not increased the assessment amount in many years, even though this failure to do so is likely a breach of their fiduciary duty to the association and its members.
Solutions Posed: EV Technology to the Rescue!
“Fortunately,” Farinas-Sabogal sighs, “the idea of community charging stations has also become a little more popular.” She explains that community charging stations are located in non-assigned spaces and how “parking areas by a third party on behalf of the association for use by any person in the parking area” are starting to gain interest.
In this option, condo owners pay the third-party provider for the use of the EV technology using a credit card. The Florida statutes leave it up to the individual condominium associations to establish the charges or the manner of payments for the users. Yes, it is worth condo boards investing in charging stations that come with advanced software features. These features can separate the cost of electricity used for charging, track users, and charge related fees straight to users’ credit cards.
Near the end, the author indicates there are “a whole host of other issues” that are unnamed in her article; the inference is that EV charging at a condominium is fraught with problems. Other issues about community charging in the article included:
- How would community charging stations installed in common element parking areas work through questions of material alterations? The Florida statutes indicate that such installation would not constitute a material alteration or substantial addition to the common elements or association property.
- Would approval of the unit owners be required for such an installation?
- Did the association have the authority to “sell” electricity?
- How would associations enforce rules and regulations they may adopt regarding community charging?
- Would they involve valet services?
- How and where would it be best install these stations to avoid collisions or traffic obstructions?
- The installation of a community charging station would not allow the association to prohibit personal charging station installations upon request by a unit owner, so any issue regarding overloaded electrical systems remains with the condominium association.
To end the article with a slew of additional, unanswered questions is nearly negligent.
Instead, let’s look at the plusses to EV charging in condo complexes.
- It will increase the value of a property. Image if the MLS listing can include an EV charger.
- It will help to attract future and current eco-conscious residents to the condo, thus elevating the rent that can be charged or the price asked upon sale.
- Condo owners many be able to take advantage of EV charger incentives to subsidize the cost of initial investment.
- On top of these financial gains, condo owners with EV chargers will contribute to facilitating the all-important clean energy transition.
Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Yes, persuading the association to see the power and place of EV technology for both current and future homeowners will be challenging. But, in doing so, you can be part of a movement to change the way we do energy in the US and the world.
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