CBC Radio interviewed me as part of a news story about a unit owner wishing to charge his electric vehicle at his Ottawa high-rise condominium.  

I had written about the emerging debate on electric vehicle charging in condo garages last year. It seems that more cases of owners wishing to charge electric vehicles in their buildings are emerging and that condo boards are scrambling to respond. Unfortunately, there appears to be a disconnect between owners and condo boards, with the result that these cases get off on the wrong foot, with confrontation rather than effective communication.

For one thing, owners are acquiring electric vehicles without first verifying that their condominium can actually accommodate their electricity needs. If the required service turns out to be unavailable, the vehicle owner is faced with a difficult situation and few options. Informing the board just prior to taking delivery of an EV is not sufficient because receiving board approval is not assured. The owner must, prior to acquiring an electric vehicle, determine whether the necessary service is available and whether it can be used for the specific purpose of charging a vehicle.

Next, condo boards must carefully consider an owner’s request, perform a delicate balancing act of several relevant factors and then provide a reasoned answer. Boards have a duty to ensure that owners have reasonable use of the condominium premises and services while promoting safety and preventing unreasonable interference with other owners’ use of the common elements and services. Rules governing the use of common elements bad and services must be reasonable.

Boards must also prudently manage the finances and monitor expenses being shared by all the owners. As we have said before, owners who wish to take advantage of additional services should be prepared to pay the freight. After all, the cost of the utility is a significant issue, with rates on the rise and the fact that electric vehicle ownership will likely increase over time. What might be a dollar a day right now can exponentially grow, driving up common expenses fees.

Cost, however, is not the only issue. Owners must keep in mind that condo boards must also consider technical and engineering aspects, safety, aesthetics, impact on other occupants and fairness to the unit owners as a whole. The board must analyze, weigh and balance various issues, competing interests and future implications. Unit owners often do not appreciate the numerous factors that boards consider when making decisions and are consequently surprised and frustrated when they do not receive a positive answer.

Complicating this scenario is the fact that many condominiums are not properly equipped to provide sufficient electrical service to all parking spaces. Indeed, the Ottawa unit owner in question must park in the visitor space in order to use the single plug that has sufficient voltage to run his charger. Where do visitors park? What happens if someone else wishes to charge an electric vehicle? The issues in this story therefore run deeper than just cost.

The situation at each condominium will be different, owing to their layouts, technical capabilities and the wishes of the unit owners as a collective. Each condominium must have a frank discussion as a community, consider emerging technologies and practices and then devise its own solution. Not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but compromise is a hallmark of condo living.

Join the debate. Watch the television piece here, then listen to the radio interview here and then share your thoughts below.