By Ashley M. Nichols, Cornerstone Law Firm, P.C.
Believe it or not, the electric car has a long and storied history dating back to the 19th century when inventors across the globe started tinkering with building cars which would run on electric power. In 1891, William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa built the first successful electric automobile in the United States.
However, with the introduction of Henry Ford’s gasoline powered Model T in 1908 and the invention of the first practical electrical automobile starter in 1912 (which made gasoline powered vehicles more alluring because it eliminated the hand crank starter), the vision of the electric car began its demise. However, throughout the late 20th century and certainly in the 21st, we have seen advances in the electric vehicle, leading to greater horsepower, the ability to drive longer distances, and lower costs allowing more access to the market.
The growing interest in these vehicles should not come as a surprise if you’ve driven on the roads in Colorado. In September of 2017, the Denver Post reported that there were more than 10,000 EVs on Colorado roads compared to less than 100 in 2011. Colorado boasts the sixth highest EV market share in the nation and the fourth-fastest growing EV market, according to the report.
Colorado passed legislation in 2013 regarding community associations and electric vehicle charging stations, declaring that the “widespread use of plug-in electric vehicles can dramatically improve energy efficiency and air quality for all Coloradans, and should be encouraged wherever possible.”
So, why are we talking about this in 2018? While Colorado was one of the early adopters of legislation promoting the use of electric vehicles, associations should not consider it “old hat.” It’s certainly a trend affecting condos and HOAs across the nation in 2018. We are in a time where more and more individuals own or are looking to purchase electric vehicles. Because of this, associations, which may not have had to deal with this issue regularly since 2013, may have to entertain more requests for accommodation for owners’ electric vehicles. So, what exactly is the law in Colorado and how can you make sure that your association is compliant?
In Colorado, community associations are required to permit owners to install Level 1 and Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations on their lots and on limited common elements designated for an individual owner’s use.
Level 1 Charging:
- When one charges the electric vehicle (EV) using the charger included with the car. These chargers can be plugged with one end into any standard 120V outlet, with the other end plugging directly into the car.
- Can take upwards of eight hours to fully charge the vehicle.
Level 2 Charging:
- These chargers are sold separately from the car (although often purchased at the same time). Those chargers need a bit more of a setup, as they are plugged into a 240V outlet, which often requires the work of an electrician.
- Takes around four hours to fully charge the vehicle, but is costs more than a Level 1 charger.
The law does not require that associations incur expenses related to the installation or use of the stations. Because of the growing number of consumers purchasing electric vehicles (in large part to state and federal tax credits), community associations should consider adopting a policy regarding electric vehicle charging stations. Provisions which can be included in the policy are:
- Bona fide safety requirements, consistent with an applicable building code or recognized safety standard;
- Require that the charging station be registered with the association within thirty days after installation;
- Reasonable aesthetic provisions that govern the dimensions, placement, or external appearance of an electric vehicle charging system;
- In certain circumstances, require that the owner engage the services of a licensed and registered electrical contractor familiar with the installation and code requirements for electric vehicle charging stations;
- Require that the owner bear the expense of installation, including costs to restore any common elements disturbed in the process of installing the system; and
- Require that the owner provide proof of insurance naming the association as an additional insured on the homeowner’s insurance policy for any claim related to the installation, maintenance, or use of the system, or payment of the association’s increased insurance premium costs related to the charging station.
The bill also created the electric vehicle grant fund, which is used to provide grants to install recharging stations. Therefore, communities that want to participate in the progressiveness of today’s electric vehicle are encouraged to apply for grants to assist with funding electric vehicle charging stations on common elements as an added amenity for owners.
The primary purpose of the law in Colorado was to “ensure that common interest communities provide their residents with at least a meaningful opportunity to take advantage of the availability of plug-in electric vehicles rather than create artificial restrictions on the adoption of this promising technology.” And that is also certainly one of CAI’s initiatives. According to CAI,
by 2040, community associations will represent over 50% of the housing stock in the United States. By the same year, it is anticipated that electric vehicles will represent 35% of new car sales. To help promote these principles in your community or for questions about the potential impact of electric vehicles in your association or for your members, contact your legal counsel.
Ashley Nichols is the principal and founder of Cornerstone Law Firm, P.C. She has been in the community association industry for ten years, providing associations with debt recovery solutions for their communities. Cornerstone Law Firm represents Colorado communities in all areas of common interest community law. You may find out more at www.yourcornerstoneteam.com.