With electric cars becoming the trend, owners in Florida condos and HOAs are requesting that their Boards consider installing charging stations. Before as a Board you act on the request, there is much to be considered first.
Adding charging stations at a condominium is a material alteration which per Chapter 718 would require a vote of the membership. Chapter 720 does not require an owner vote to add charging stations on HOA-owned property, but the CCRs for the development should be consulted as some restrict improvements by Board vote alone.
Bringing Electrical Service to the Charging Stations
Whether you lease or purchase the charging stations, you will need to get power to support the charging stations. An electrical engineer should be contacted to determine if your current electrical system can support the additional load and how best to bring the power to the charging stations. Obviously, the cost of extending the electrical service to the charging stations will have to be included in the budget for the project. Typically, the charging station vendors have preferred electrical contractors, but they don't otherwise involve themselves in that work.
Maintaining the Charging Stations
Charging station manufacturers and vendors have been very effective in meeting the demand for charging stations nationwide. However, the volume of charging stations installed in the last few years has outstripped the capacity of the charging station vendors to maintain them. In California, which has led the nation in the installation of charging stations, it is not uncommon for half the charging stations at any particular location to be out service, with the situation going unresolved indefinitely. Vendors in their contracts offer quick maintenance service if the problem is resolvable remotely. If not, there is typically no requirement for the vendor to send a crew out to repair a problem within x amount of days of a problem being reported. If leased, the best you might get is a credit against the lease obligation.
The association's insurance agent should be consulted to determine if existing property and liability coverage is sufficient to cover the risks associated with the operation of charging stations. It may be necessary for a special rider covering such a use to be secured.
Protecting Against Station Damage or Abuse, and Claims by Users
It is essential that the Board establish carefully conceived and drafted user rules and regulations and require that users sign documentation making them responsible for damage they might cause to equipment, and indemnifying the association against potential claims by the users. Signage should be considered stating clearly that the association is not responsible for damage which might result to a vehicle or the user through the use of a charging station.
Passing the Cost of Use Through to the Users
There is a good argument that since the charging stations will only be benefitting a portion of the association membership, the fees charged to the users should be sufficient to cover the association's initial investment, electrical usage, maintenance, insurance riders, legal fees, and other incidental costs. For a cut, your charging station vendor will process user fees.
It is appropriate for HOA and condo boards to do their best to accommodate owners' needs, and installing charging stations falls into this category. However, boards should enter the venture with open eyes. What hidden costs have not been anticipated? Will we be able to get maintenance performed? How do we control potential user abuse? What should be charged for use? Consult your general counsel for assistance in negotiating the agreement with the vendor, establishing reasonable rules and regulations for use, and drafting appropriate user agreements.