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Who is responsible for installing and maintaining an electric car charging station at a condo building? (July 17, 2019)

By Kevin M. Hirzel

Q: If I live in a condo and buy an electric vehicle, how do I work with my association to set up a charging station? Who is responsible for installation and maintenance?

A: Prior to purchasing an electric vehicle, you should review your condominium documents and applicable state laws. California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii and Oregon have passed laws regulating requests to install electric vehicle charging stations. Many municipalities also have adopted ordinances regulating installation.

Some condominium documents contain specific requirements for charging stations, but most don’t specifically address the subject. When the documents are silent on the matter, a request to install a charging station is typically handled as a request to modify the general or limited common elements. Most condominium associations will require an owner to submit detailed plans so the board or architectural committee can determine if the proposal is safe and otherwise complies with the documents.

If you do not consult with the association before installing a charging station, this may result in a bylaw violation, and the association may file a lawsuit to make you remove the station. Most condominiums will permit Level 1 charging (plugging into the wall) or Level 2 charging (a small wall-mounted charging station) if consulted in advance.

After an owner submits a modification request, it is common for the condominium association to prepare a written agreement that outlines the obligations of the parties. Common modification agreement provisions stipulate that the owner must:

  • Satisfy all building code requirements
  • Hire a licensed and insured professional to install the charging station
  • Adhere to any aesthetic standards identified by the association
  • Pay for any costs for installing, insuring and maintaining the charging station
  • Indemnify the association if the charging station causes any damage
  • Pay for all electricity usage, which in some instances will require the installation of a separate meter for the charging station

The association may also identify the length of time the charging station may remain installed and whether it needs to be removed upon the sale of the condominium unit.

Before purchasing an electric vehicle, you also might consider consulting with a local community association attorney. He or she can help you avoid any surprises by reviewing your condominium documents and state laws. The upfront investment may save you from making an expensive mistake and will make the process of requesting a charging station much smoother.

Kevin M. Hirzel is a Michigan lawyer and a fellow of the Community Associations Institute College of Community Association Lawyers. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. This article first appeared in the Washington Post.