As technology increases its influence on daily life, one cannot help but notice the increasing chatter about electric vehicles. While fully-electric vehicles and “plug-in hybrids” represent only a small fraction of the number of vehicles sold each year in the United States, nevertheless, it goes without saying that an association should anticipate a growing interest in this type of vehicle from its residents.
In order for most electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to operate, the vehicles must be charged using a special outlet or charging station. For most homeowners associations where homes are built with enclosed garages, it is unlikely that the association will have little involvement with the potential installation of a charging station or outlet to service an electrical vehicle. But for condominium associations and other associations, especially those with shared parking facilities/lots, the questions are more numerous. If an owner wants to install a charging station, is that a material alteration to the common elements? What type of approval would be required for that? Should the association install a charging station for the use of all residents? Who should pay for the electricity on common elements or limited common elements? Should the association allow an owner to pay for the installation of a charging station to service his or her vehicle only? If the association does not have assigned parking spaces, would the installation of a charging station servicing only one resident create a de-facto assigned space? Should the association just allow a resident to “run an extension cord” to charge his or her car? If so, what is the liability?
Unfortunately, the answers to most of these questions remain uncertain. Your association’s documents may provide guidance on a number of these issues, and if the documents do not currently provide such guidance, the association may be able to amend the documents in order to provide such guidance.
Clayton & McCulloh also anticipates future action within the state legislature with regard to electric vehicles. In the 2016 Florida legislative session, a bill was proposed that would have, among other things, set forth a process by which common elements of a condominium could have been altered to allow for the installation by an owner of a charging station servicing his or her vehicle. Unfortunately, such bill was not approved, and Clayton & McCulloh is not aware of any similar bill proposed for this legislative session. Nevertheless, we do not expect this issue to go away, and expect future legislation on this topic.
Your association should consider reviewing its documents, and updating them, if necessary, with regard to this issue. Moreover, and especially to the extent that your association anticipates making changes to its documents, policies and/or procedures, it’s important to have legal counsel involved in the association’s consideration of this issue to avoid “sparking a fire” among your owners.