How can I charge my electric vehicle in my apartment? A comprehensive guide to charge an electric car if you live in an apartment.

The surge in sustainable transport, notably electric vehicles (EVs), is gaining momentum. This evolution amplifies the need for effective and readily available charging points, especially in high-density locales such as strata schemes. In New South Wales, integrating EV charging solutions in strata schemes requires looking into personal rights, strata laws and laws regarding electric vehicles.

For making a decision about EV charging facilities, it is important to consider the provisions of the Strata Scheme Management Act (SSMA 2015) and its amendments. This involves understanding the interplay between individual lot owners, their shared duties, and the onus of the owners corporation in implementing EV charging amenities. As EVs become more common, it’s important for strata schemes in NSW to stay informed and prepared. In this article, we’ll explore the challenges of this growing area, providing both strata residents and administrative bodies with insights and guidance on integrating EV charging facilities smoothly.

Table of Contents

What do strata laws say about EV charging in apartment buildings?

The inclusion of EV charging systems in strata schemes in New South Wales (NSW) is now more important than ever, with the rapid adoption of EVs. To address this growing need and support environmentally friendly initiatives, changes have been made to NSW strata laws, making it easier for strata schemes to add EV charging facilities.

The Strata Schemes Management Act (SSMA 2015) serves as the principal legislation directing alterations to shared property in strata schemes. Section 108 of the SSMA 2015 lays down the fundamental legal provisions for modifications to shared property, which, in the realm of EV charging, involves to adjustments to a building’s electrical framework.

To support the growth of sustainable infrastructure in strata schemes, the introduction of the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Sustainability Infrastructure) Act 2021 is significant. This amendment plays a crucial role in enabling the incorporation of EV charging stations in strata environments.

One notable change brought about by this amendment is the adjustment of the voting threshold required to approve resolutions concerning the installation of sustainability equipment, such as EV charging stations. As per the revision:

  • A resolution concerning the addition of EV charging systems would only be overruled if 50% or more of the cast votes (based on unit entitlement) oppose the proposal.
  • This marks a significant deviation from the typical benchmark for a special resolution, where opposition from 25% or more of the cast votes would negate it.

By classifying EV charging units under the “sustainability infrastructure” umbrella, the revision not only recognises the ecological significance of such installations but also streamlines the decision-making process for strata schemes. This modification effectively overrides the special resolution requirement originally set forth by Section 108 of the SSMA 2015.

In essence, for NSW strata schemes considering the installation of EV charging stations, the legal framework has evolved to be more accommodating. While adherence to the SSMA 2015 is still essential, the recent amendment provides a more supportive route to embracing sustainable infrastructure.

What are the owner’s responsibilities for charging your electric car in the strata apartment complex?

If you live in a strata property and are contemplating buying and EV, here’s a structured guide to assist you with your responsibilities:

  • Examine the By-laws: Begin by scrutinising your strata’s by-laws. They might contain specific provisions related to EV charging or other stipulations that could influence your capacity to install a charger within the premises.
  • Obtain Consent from the Owners Corporation:
  • For Owners: Approach the owners corporation to secure permission for setting up any EV charging infrastructure. Adhering to the correct procedures is crucial to ensure compliance with any strata rules.
  • For Tenants: Tenants typically possess limited rights relating to modifications or additions to shared property. Hence, you should first obtain consent from your landlord. The landlord can then talk to the owners corporation on your behalf. Often, your property agent can act as a mediator, streamlining the dialogue between you and the lot owner.
  • Assess the Building’s EV Compatibility
  • For EV-Compatible Buildings: If the structure is already furnished with EV charging facilities, adhere to the strata committee’s guidelines to connect your specific EV charger.
  • For Buildings Without EV Infrastructure:
  • Acquaint yourself with the building’s renovation guidelines. This is vital as the installation of EV chargers often requires modifications to shared areas.
  • Inspect the capital works fund plan to ascertain if funds have been earmarked for EV charging systems. A pre-allocated budget can fasten your application.
  • Use the building’s renovation procedure to table a formal request for EV charging. Ensure you adhere to the established procedures and furnish all requisite details to support your proposal.

What is the owners corporation responsible for?

The owners corporation plays a crucial role in ensuring the residents of an apartment building can charge their electric cars in the strata property. The main responsibilities of the owners corporation are mentioned below.

Formulating EV Strata By-laws and Managing EV Charging Requests

The role of the owners corporation is important when it comes to integrating EV charging facilities in strata environments. Their primary duties encompass:

  • Crafting EV Strata By-laws: The owners corporation is responsible for framing by-laws for the installation of EV charging stations in the strata building, payment plans and all other allied issues.
  • Processing EV Charging Requests: Owners keen on using the EV charging service should forward their applications to the owners corporation. Once received, the corporation takes responsibility for coordinating the installation and managing the payment structures for the EV charging infrastructure.

Getting the Building Ready for EV Integration

The owners corporation needs to comply with the following stages to get a strata building ready for electric vehicle charging:

  • Launch a Resident Survey: Begin with a survey targeting the residents to gauge their needs and perspectives on EV charging. The feedback from this survey can help in deciding the right scale of infrastructure and the best timing for its rollout.
  • Conduct an Energy Evaluation: Appoint an energy expert to carry out a detailed analysis of the building’s energy profile. This review will shed light on the potential effects of EV charging on the building’s power usage and will guide planning for the extra electrical load brought by EV charging points.
  • Deciding on an EV Strategy for Your Building: Different buildings have distinct needs, so a universal solution might not always be applicable. Here are some potential strategies to ponder:
  • Individual Method without Pre-existing Infrastructure: Ideal for smaller structures, especially where residents’ meters are readily available. This doesn’t factor in future infrastructure growth and might increase the building’s electrical demand. In this setup, the owners’ corporation individually handles each application, often requiring specialised by-laws. While the corporation oversees power connections and billing, the cost mainly falls on the residents.
  • Individual Method with Current Circuits and Meter: Suitable for flats and terraced houses with existing individual metering, this method permits easy expansion or adaptation of current circuits. EV charging billing integrates effortlessly with the current system.
  • Collective Use on Shared Property: This is especially useful for buildings with restricted parking. Charging points are typically located in communal areas, like visitor-designated spots. However, fairly allocating these shared spots can be a challenge, which can be addressed with effective scheduling and access rules.
  • Step-by-step Approach: Designed for buildings mindful of their budget and expecting limited EV uptake, this strategy promotes a staggered introduction of the EV charging setup. This ensures a balance between expenditure and user requirements. The owners’ corporation needs to provide prior approval, and any future connections would also necessitate individual permissions.
  • Comprehensive Building Approach: Suitable for bigger buildings or those expecting a rise in EV usage, this strategy seeks to provide charging amenities for all parking spots. Although it requires a more significant initial outlay, this method might be more cost-effective for new builds compared to retrofitting older structures. It’s crucial for the owners’ corporation to set aside adequate funds for this endeavour.
  • Choosing a Payment Structure for EV Charging: For EV charging in residential settings, the owners corporation needs to select a payment structure for the residents in its strata apartment complex. Following are the most common options:
  • Billing for Usage: Depending on the kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage, the owners corporation has various billing options to explore, like no charge for usage, levying a uniform fee, charging based on actual consumption, or opting for a third-party managed option.
  • Recouping Infrastructure Costs: The owners corporation has several options for managing the costs of EV charging. They can treat it as an enhanced service and cover the costs without passing them on to residents. Alternatively, they can directly recover the full expense of the EV charging setup from property owners. Another option is for the owners corporation to handle the initial design and installation costs, gradually recouping these expenses from residents over a specified period as the facility is used.

Planning the Approval Process

The exact approval required for a strata building’s EV integration depends on the chosen EV strategy, the payment method selected, and whether there’s already an EV charging system in place. That being said, there are a few common steps involved:

  • Determining the Applicant: Typically, two main parties might request approval: the Strata Committee, on behalf of the owners corporation, and the individual property owners.
  • Initiating the Process: Regardless of the applicant, the first move is to gain the owners corporation’s approval. This is typically achieved by tabling a motion at an upcoming general meeting, with the aim of securing a resolution supporting sustainable infrastructure.
  • Crafting a By-law: A crucial aspect of the approval process is formulating an appropriate by-law. This legal document can detail aspects like the installation of EV charging points or outline mechanisms for cost recovery.
  • Consent Form for Individual Owners: A specific step for individual owners is the signing of a consent form. This form confirms the owner’s consent to the new by-law and any related decisions or actions.
  • Reviewing Current By-laws: It’s essential to ensure that the newly proposed EV-focused by-law doesn’t contradict existing ones, especially if they pertain to the use of shared parking spaces. If inconsistencies arise, the current by-law might need modification or removal to effectively incorporate the new provisions.

Overseeing the Installation of EV Chargers

Once the owners corporation is through the planning and approval process, the installation stage commences. This typically includes the following:

  • Choosing a Service Provider: The owners corporation has the choice of either appointing an independent electrician or partnering with an EV charging specialist.
  • Deciding on Installation Supervision: The corporation needs to decide if they’ll manage the installation internally or delegate it to an external party.
  • Researching Vendors: Make use of trusted sources like Transport for NSW and the Electric Vehicle Council to pinpoint suitable EV suppliers.
  • Initial Consultation: Before diving in, seek preliminary guidance. This can come from looking at installations in comparable buildings or by hiring an EV charging consultant for more complex undertakings.
  • Gathering Quotes: It’s essential for both the owners corporation and individual residents to obtain detailed quotations from multiple EV charging service providers, ensuring they align with specific needs.
  • Confirming the Supplier: After selecting a provider, work closely with them during the installation process. At the same time, coordinate with the building manager to ensure a smooth and efficient installation.

EV charging options if you cannot get approval from the owners corporation

If you’re an owner in NSW and encounter difficulties from the owners corporation concerning the installation of EV charging stations, here are some options for you to consider:

  1. Pause and Engage: Before deciding to buy an electric vehicle, it’s a good idea to assess the interest of fellow residents. A shared demand and a collaborative approach could influence the decision to support EV charging in the near future.
  2. Utilise Public Chargers: Lack of a personal charging point isn’t the end of the road. NSW has a variety of public charging facilities that can be accessed. This ensures your EV is charged even without a home-based station.
  3. Reassess and Resubmit: At times, a rejection is just a temporary setback. With the rising acceptance and feasibility of EVs, the owners corporation might become more receptive to the idea in due course.

In summary, while securing approval from the owners corporation is ideal, there are alternative paths and tactics to consider if you’re set on transitioning to an electric vehicle.

Conclusion: Embedding electric car charging for a better future

In the rapidly evolving landscape of electric vehicle adoption, understanding the intricacies of incorporating electric car charging in strata apartment buildings is crucial. The delicate balance between legal requirements, individual rights, and collective decision-making forms the foundation of this integration. With advancements in technology and a growing focus on eco-friendly transportation, it’s essential for both strata residents and committees to stay informed and proactive.

While this article provides a general overview, specific strata situations may present unique challenges that require specialised expertise. To ensure that your apartment complex remains compliant and prepared for the future, trust in PBL Law Group’s team of strata law experts in helping you understand your rights and obligations with EV charging in strata lots.

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Authored by

Raea Khan

Director Lawyer

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Raea Khan Circle
Director Lawyer
Raea Khan

Raea is Managing Director and Principal Lawyer for PBl Law Group. Raea assists clients with major projects, property developments, construction and strata law.

He has worked in Western Australia and Queensland assisting with expansion projects in the energy and resource sector and now predominately advises clients in Strata and Community Association matters.

He is a member of the Australian College of Strata Lawyers where majority of his work is advising developers and owners corporations with dispute related minor and major defects, strata governance and common property litigation. He is proficient at leading negotiations and meetings.

Raea has a particular interest in the commercial aspect of any dispute and always tries to weigh up the risk, reward and benefit of legal proceedings at each different stage.

Raea enjoys all forms of competitive sport, including Crossfit and actively participates in Triathlons, representing Australia as an age group athlete. He was a member of Red Head Surf Lifesaving club.

  • Strata Law
  • Construction & Major Projects
  • Commercial and Business Law
  • Planning & Environment Law