Electric vehicles are here—sooner than many people thought. A recent article in Car and Driver noted electric vehicle registrations increased 60% in the first quarter of 2022, despite new car registrations dropping 18%. The article pointed out some estimates project electric vehicles to comprise 25–30% of all new car sales by 2030 and 40–45% by 2035.
For community association boards of directors and managers, now is the time to consider the impact of electric vehicles on a community—and the inevitable need for charging stations. Many homeowners seek to install charging stations near their units or in garages. With ever-increasing demand, the urgency to put timely thought into how to handle the installation and management of EV charging stations is essential. There are several things to consider.
The first issue an association board must consider is whether to allow installation of charging stations. In jurisdictions without any state or local laws, a request to install a charging station is usually treated the same as other architectural applications.
Where a state or local law exists, they often mandate an association allow installation if the owner complies with any prerequisites. For example, Colorado requires an association to allow installation of a Level 1 or Level 2 charging station on that owner’s property.
If installation is proposed on a limited common area owned or assigned to the owner in the declaration, the association can require:
❚ The owner to comply with architectural requirements.
❚ A licensed contractor for installation.
❚ The owner be responsible for all costs, including restoring common areas that are disturbed.
❚ The association be named as an additional insured on the owner’s policy.
If the owner complies with these terms, the association must allow installation.
Single-family neighborhoods don’t typically see many applications for installation of a charging station since many of them are hidden in a garage. For those that are submitted, an association can usually follow its general architectural approval process.
In townhomes, condominiums, and cooperatives, the location and effect of charging stations requires much more forethought. Often, requests to install a charging station are near a parking space. Depending on governing documents, parking spaces may be in areas over which the association has maintenance obligations. These spaces may be on a common area or on a limited common area. Even if the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the charging station will be the obligation of the owner installing the station, architectural approval is generally required.
In states without any statute or local laws, associations with responsibility over the location of installation can require a binding agreement that makes the owner responsible for all costs connected with the charging station, including its potential removal and reinstallation.
The agreement should be executed by the parties and recorded in the owner’s chain of title so that future owners are equally bound by it. That way, there is no question in the future about who is responsible for any costs connected with the charging station and who is liable for any damage resulting from its existence. If the charging station is entirely on owner property, such an agreement is unlikely to be needed unless the governing documents make the association responsible for maintenance of portions of the owner’s property.
In states with statutes in place, those will control and may require that many of these protections be in place for any association in exchange for the right to install the charging station on property of the association or that is exclusively controlled by a homeowner.
When it comes to charging stations, one consistent theme is who pays for the costs connected with installation and use. The main exception to this issue is when installation will be in common areas and meant for the use of more than just one owner. In that case, the association may be responsible for the costs of installation. If an association installs a charging station meant to be shared, it may need to create rules or regulations governing access to it, especially as demand increases.
The most important thing for boards to do now is to work toward creating a policy for handling requests for charging stations. It is always better to be proactive when that first application appears. The policy should consider any state or local law that may apply. Even if there is no law in your jurisdiction yet, it is helpful to be aware of what other states have done because most state legislators interested in creating a law will look to states that already have one in place.
For townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, especially older communities where space may be at a premium, boards should review their governing documents and available parking areas to evaluate potential locations for charging stations. Having an attorney review the governing documents to verify whether selected locations are common elements (assigned or unassigned), limited common elements, or part of an owner’s property will be essential. Some boards may have authority to assign common elements for the exclusive use of an owner; others may not.
Boards should keep in mind that parking rights—and a board’s ability to make changes to them—vary. In some cases, boards don’t have legal authority without a vote of the membership to make needed changes to facilitate installation of a charging station. In those cases, the owner seeking installation should be prepared for the additional cost of obtaining that vote.
Boards also should consider future owners and future use of charging stations. What happens if the owner who wanted the charging station moves or gets rid of their electric vehicle? What will happen to the station? Can another owner assume responsibility for it? Does it have to be removed? Does the right to use it convey to a new owner?
If an association has enough current demand or just wants to be prepared for the future, a board may consider installing one or more charging stations in the common area. The types and configurations of charging stations are increasing; boards will want to consider how to maximize available space and availability for stations. The board also will have to decide the type of station to be installed, taking into account costs and whether existing infrastructures can handle the demands and develop rules for use once stations are installed.
Rules could include things like who can use charging stations, when, and for how long. They could also include rules on how to pay, length of charging time, and fines or towing for vehicles left too long or for nonelectric vehicles parked in charging spaces.
Associations also may begin to see companies willing to pay for leases to install charging stations on association property—or for the right to install a station on owner property by a third party.
Here’s an example of leasing: An electric vehicle manufacturer offered to pay a landowner $800 per month per charger to allow stations to be placed on the owner’s property. As the demand for charging increases, it may become common to see these types of requests. Far-sighted developers may take this into account in new communities to allow space for installation of charging stations with growth in the future.
Where associations are responsible for charging station maintenance open to all residents, some boards may want to consider installing surveillance cameras to monitor stations and reduce the likelihood of vandalism.
It also may be necessary for an association to grant an easement to a power company across common areas to power the charging station. Some boards, depending on their governing documents and state law, may be able to grant the needed easement independently while others may need membership approval. The costs of obtaining approval also should be considered, and an owner seeking installation should be prepared to shoulder those costs.
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