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Real Estate Matters: How are condo associations handling increases in utility costs due to electric cars?

Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: We have 12 units in our condo building, and each unit has its own garage. The association pays for the electricity for all of the garage units. What happens if someone purchases an electric car? Would that unit pay more because they’re using more electricity?

A: This is a great question. We, too, have wondered what condominium associations will do with this issue now that so many people are buying (and are being encouraged to buy) electrical vehicles.

The premise of your question is that it doesn’t seem fair to have all of the unit owners share equally in the electric bill when there are one or more homeowners that own electric vehicles and power them in the garage.

True enough. That doesn’t seem fair. Still, condominium boards have broad discretion on how to run their associations. We’ve now been to a number of condominium buildings and seen charging stations. In each of these instances, it looked to us like the charging station was tied into the building electric system and was not separately metered. (One exception: A local workout club has a meter on their charging station, but the cost is pennies for several hours of charging.)

If you don’t want to meter up the charging station, you could consider the charging station an amenity like any other. Some buildings have picnic and grill areas and provide homeowners with free gas, logs or other items for their parties and activities. Other buildings have party rooms with tables, chairs and other items for their members to host parties. In most, if not all, of these other situations any homeowner can take advantage of the party room, pool, recreational facility, exercise room, and other available benefits without paying extra fees.

Where the charging station is available for any homeowner to use, we view it as another amenity offered by that building, one that will ultimately make the property more desirable to future buyers (and may even help propel values higher). However, if the charging station is only available to one owner (and only that owner), then it may be fairer for that owner to pay the building the estimated cost for the electricity — or perhaps reimburse the building for the cost of installing the charging station.

Perhaps the condominium association could require owners to sign up for a slot and then charge those owners a monthly fee to use the charging station.

 

That’s an easy workaround, since it’s likely too expensive to install a separate electric meter. But your association should compare past electrical bills with the current bills to see how much the extra electricity has cost and come up with a fair sum to charge that unit owner or any other unit owner that wants access to the charging station.

Over time, you can decide if the monthly fee is fair or change it to make it fair for everyone. We’d love to hear from our readers about how their condo associations are dealing with this issue, especially since climate change seems to be on everyone’s minds these days.

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(Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact Ilyce and Sam through their website, bestmoneymoves.com.)

©2021 Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

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