REDUCING THE CHARGE FOR ELECTRIC CARS
Fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are becoming more-and-more popular. At the same time, would-be drivers find themselves encountering more legal “potholes” en route to owning fuel-efficient cars. One such barrier is the fact that many community associations in New Jersey do not permit the installation of electric charging stations. However, proposed bills indicate that there may be some legal changes on the horizon.
By owning a condominium or townhouse in a complex, a unit owner agrees to the rules and regulations of that complex’s association. These associations’ governing documents define which features are part of individual units, and which features are “common elements.” While each association is different, most permit unit owners to make certain alterations to their units, but prohibit them from altering or modifying any part of a common element. In other words, usually unit owners can paint the walls inside their unit or install a new chandelier, but they cannot redo the siding on their home or re-shingle the roof, those are common elements and therefore the responsibility of the association to maintain and replace.
Similarly, by purchasing a home in certain developments or areas, a homeowner agrees to abide by the rules of any applicable community association. Individual houses owned in fee simple tend to be burdened by less cumbersome rules than condominiums. Nonetheless, there may be regulations regarding the installation of satellite dishes or painting homes anything but an “approved” color.
Whether to preserve the quality of common elements or maintain the character of a community, community association rules will generally prevent an owner from installing a charging station for an electric vehicle in a driveway or parking lot—even if not explicitly. This prohibition can serve as a significant impediment to the ownership of electric vehicles.
Among other proposed bills, NJ S.B. 2421 (2018) / NJ A.B. 1030 (2018), and NJ A.B. 1376 (2018) seek to alter such regulation.
NJ S.B. 2421 (2018) / NJ A.B. 1030 (2018) would not “prohibit an association from imposing reasonable restrictions on electric vehicle charging stations.” What it would do, though, is authorize a community association to grant a limited and exclusive use of a common element to a unit-owner. This grant would allow a unit-owner to install an electric vehicle charging station in a designated parking space. If a charging station were impossible or unreasonably expensive to install in a unit-owner’s parking space, the association would be authorized to approve a new space for this purpose. Any contrary language in the governing documents for the community would no longer apply.
Should this bill pass, electric vehicle charging stations would still be required to comply with the association’s architectural standards. Licensed contractors would have to install any charging stations. Unit-owners would have to name the association as an additional on their insurance policies. Further, the unit owner would be responsible for any electric charge stemming from the charging station. Associations willfully violating this law would be liable to the unit-owner for an up to $1,000.00, in addition to attorneys’ fees and costs.
NJ A.B. 1376 (2018) would prohibit an association from unreasonably restricting a unit-owner from operating an electric vehicle charging station. Upon the request of a unit-owner, the Department of Community Affairs would determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the restriction was unreasonable.
Neither of these bills would have any effect on apartments, which likewise also tend to prohibit the usage of electric charging stations in their complexes.
Even if these particular bills are not adopted—and may never be adopted—it seems clear that the law is moving in a particular direction. Soon, community associations may have to be more accommodating with regard to such requests. Alternatively, they may have to significantly strengthen their governing documents if they wish to prevent unit-owners from installing charging stations.
For any questions about this blog, or to schedule a consultation with an attorney, contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. at 973-366-1188 or through our website here!
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