THE STRATA CORPORATION AND EV CHARGING STATIONS: DON’T PLUG IN YOUR CAR JUST YET
Your strata corporation may be considering installing an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station within the parking structure of the complex. This may have evolved from a request from an owner to install a charging station, to take advantage of a government incentive program, or simply to increase the value of the property for future purchasers. Whatever the case may be, there are a few considerations that must be taken into account before cars are plugged in.
The first consideration is the electrical service of your complex and the speed at which the charging is to take place. Most buildings in British Columbia can accommodate some level of EV charging, but it would be advisable for a strata council to engage the services of a certified electrical contractor who will be able to undertake an analysis of the complex’s electrical service capacity and determine the work required to connect a charger to the electrical source. The work required to connect a charging station to a complex’s existing service may include the installation of new conduits or outlets, or even coring and trenching.
Secondly, it is important to understand the available charging options. For example, the cost to set up EV charging can range from $300-$2,500 for a simple charger that plugs into a normal outlet (Level 1), to $6,000-$20,000 for a more powerful and faster charger (Level 2).
Generally, parking stalls and facilities within strata corporations are the common property of the corporation or limited common property, subject to the exclusive use of a strata lot owner. Nevertheless, the installation of a charging station in common property or a limited common property parking facility would most likely be deemed to constitute a significant change to the appearance of the property. As a result, it is regulated under the bylaws of the strata corporation, the Strata Property Act, and may require the owners’ approval during an annual or special general meeting.
Specifically, section 71 of the Strata Property Act is clear that a strata corporation must not make a significant change to the use or appearance of common property or land that is a common asset of the corporation unless the change is approved by a resolution passed by a ¾ vote at an annual or special general meeting. The law is evolving with respect to what is considered a significant change in appearance. The installation of fences and trees that were not part of the original construction have been found to constitute a significant change to the appearance of the property. As a rule, if a charging station was not present during the original construction, the installation of one would, most likely, constitute a significant change to the use or appearance of common property.
If the charging station is to be installed for the exclusive use of a single homeowner rather than all of the owners within the complex, a strata corporation may want to set up an agreement with the homeowner specifying the terms and conditions for use of the equipment. If doing so, make the agreement as specific as possible to avoid complications in the future.
Some issues to consider when drafting the agreement include:
- Ownership of the charging station. This will become particularly important if the homeowner sells their property and if the charging station is located within a common property parking stall.
- Management of the charging station installation. As the charging station is to be installed within the property of the strata corporation, an agreement should be reached as to who will be responsible for providing a certified electrical contractor.
- Management of and payment for maintenance of the charging station. Depending on the model of charging station and the service provider, maintenance schedules may vary and an agreement should be in place as to who is to be responsible for the cost of maintenance.
A strata corporation must also act in a manner that is fair to all owners. This principle is paramount when the use and consumption of electricity is considered. The electricity invoice for a strata complex is a common expense. When one owner is drawing more electricity than a neighbour, with all owners paying a share of that common expense, a strata corporation may be exposed to a claim of unfairness. To address this issue, on March 7, 2018, the Provincial Government amended Regulation 6.9 of the Strata Property Act Regulations to allow a strata corporation to charge a user fee based upon consumption, as long as the fee charged is reasonable and set out in a bylaw established under section 128, or a rule that has been ratified under section 125(6) of the Strata Property Act.
There are several ways to track and bill for EV charging in apartments and townhouses to ensure that fees charged are reasonable, including:
- Establish a fixed user-fee for the electricity consumed on the building’s main account;
- Install a networked charger that tracks electricity use;
- Install a utility-based EV charging account;
- Install a sub-meter; or
- In the case of a single user, directly link the charger to the homeowner’s electrical account.
While all of this may sound daunting, with an understanding of the potential hurdles the installation of a charging station within a strata corporation can be seamless. Moreover, as automobile technology continues to evolve, the installation of a charging station may simply become the normal course for a strata corporation.