A Charged Situation
Question: An owner in our community who has just purchased an electric car has asked the board to install, or allow him to install, a charging station for it. How should we deal with this request?
Answer: Putting aside the obvious (the owner would have been well-advised to approach the board before buying the car), you should begin by recognizing two realities: If you reject this owner’s request, he may start shopping for a very large extension cord; and this is unlikely to be the only electric car-related request the board will receive.
There were more than 400,000 plug-in vehicles on the road at the end of last year, according to industry estimates, and while the plummeting price of oil will no doubt slow the sales pace, it won’t reverse the trend. More existing residents in your community will no doubt acquire electric cars over time. Equally important, some future buyers will own them too. Charging stations, over time, will become a competitive advantage for communities that have them, and a disadvantage for those that don’t.
That said, electric car owners still represent a minority – in your community, currently a minority of one. And residents who won’t be using the charging station will understandably object to financing its installation and paying to maintain it over time. It is reasonable to require this owner and others who use the station (or stations) in the future to pay those costs.
That’s just one of the policy issues your board will have to address. You will also have to consider:
• Where to locate the charging station (or stations). This could become complicated if parking spots are deeded -- for example, if the electric car owner’s spot is not near a feasible location for the station. If spaces aren’t deeded, the board can designate the location. In this case, it is probably best to select the least desirable spots rather than the most desirable ones, to avoid, or at least reduce, friction with other owners.
• How to manage the installation. The board can either oversee the installation process itself (at the expense of the owner requesting it) or grant an easement allowing the owner to take care of it. If the latter, the board should insist on approving the installation plans and either select or approve the contractor the owner uses.
• How to monitor and bill the owner for utility costs related to the charging station. This may require the installation of a separate meter, for which the owner using the equipment should also pay.
• Additional protections for the association. The board should require the owner using the station to maintain insurance covering it and to indemnify the association for any damages resulting from their installation, use, or maintenance.
These are just some of the complicated and potentially fractious issues the board will have to consider. Addressing them now may defuse conflicts before they erupt and may give your community a competitive edge as electric car ownership continues to increase.