The installation of electric vehicle charging stations at Ontario condo properties will be steered by new rules starting next week. But the new rules may have a blind spot.
As the provincial government rolls out regulations designed to support condo owners who want to swap gas-fueled vehicles for electricity-powered vehicles, condo sector professionals suggest electrical capacity could in some cases continue to impede the introduction of this infrastructure at certain sites.
The new rules relax Condominium Act requirements tied to making changes to the common elements that would otherwise have to be satisfied for electric vehicle charging station installations to proceed.
Minister of Government and Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles announced the impending May 1 arrival of the regulations at a press conference earlier this week. She said the move comes as part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan and follows consultations on how best to facilitate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at condo properties.
“Condo owners have indicated to us they face significant challenges in seeking condo board approval to install electric vehicle charging systems on condo premises and frustration with the inability to obtain a condo board approval for installation,” said MacCharles.
After conducting in-person consultations with key stakeholders and reviewing more than 600 submissions, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is adopting two out of the five regulatory proposals it put forward for public feedback last fall. The new rules will essentially limit the ability of boards to reject owner applications to install electric vehicle charging stations as well as restrict the ability of owners to challenge board plans to do the same.
“Part of the problems that we’ve been dealing with is that for condo corporations that want to install it, depending on the cost, it would fall under the section 97 notice to owners,” said condo lawyer Denise Lash. “With these new regulations, it will now be easier for boards of directors to have these stations installed at their discretion, and there won’t be that cumbersome process.”
Boards will still have to notify owners of plans to install electric vehicle charging stations, but owners won’t have the 30 days they are generally given to object to proposed changes to the common elements by forcing a meeting of owners where this type of proposal can be voted down. The only prerequisites for taking this route are that the costs of installation can’t add up to more than 10 per cent of the corporation’s operating budget and the installation itself can’t be foreseen by the board to measurably diminish owners’ enjoyment and use of the property.
Similarly, owners who make applications to install electric vehicle charging stations that satisfy these and several other requirements can expect to receive approval from their condo board.
“There will be certain provisions in the regulations that will deal with what a board can look at in order to determine whether or not to permit the electric vehicle station, so they can’t just arbitrarily refuse it,” said Lash.
The reasons a condo board can reject a condo owner’s application to install an electric vehicle charging station include that a professional qualified to do so has provided the opinion that it would conflict with electrical safety legislation or pose a serious risk of damaging the property or harming its residents.
However, Lash said she’s been told a condo property can only accommodate so many electric vehicle charging stations — an issue echoed by Rob Detta Colli, manager of energy and sustainability at Crossbridge Condominium Services.
“From the electric vehicle owner’s perspective, I think it’s loud and clear that they will only accept a charger in their own spot,” said Detta Colli. “They do not want to move their vehicle back and forth.”
“From the condo management perspective, and from the board’s perspective, that leads them down a road where you know you can honour the first request, the second request, maybe the fifth request, but the sixth person you’re going to have to say no to.”
Electrical capacity varies from building to building based on a variety of factors, including design and location. Detta Colli pointed to inadequate space in a building’s mechanical room for new infrastructure as well as a lack of capacity at the transformer station supplying the building’s electricity as some of the constraints.
The new rules give condo boards some flexibility to ask owners to make changes to their proposed installation, which may indirectly provide options in cases where electrical capacity is a concern. Detta Colli explained that if it’s not possible to accommodate a charging station at a condo owner’s parking space, the condo board could suggest relocating the proposed installation to a visitors’ parking space, as an example.
Crossbridge Condominium Services will be encouraging its clients to have the electrical capacity of their properties assessed so they have that information handy when they start fielding requests from owners under the new rules. Condo boards will be obligated to supply condo owners with the details needed to complete their written applications, which boards will have to respond to within 60 days. Condo boards that take the initiative to install electric vehicle charging stations that meet the prerequisites for using this expedited process will similarly be able to proceed 60 days after notifying owners of their plans.
Once a condo board has approved an owner’s application to install an electric vehicle charging station, the parties will have another 90 days to hash out an agreement which addresses who is responsible for costs, insurance and maintenance (owners are expected to absorb installation costs unless otherwise negotiated). Condo boards and owners who fail to come to an agreement could find themselves headed to mandatory mediation and arbitration, a costly process which Detta Colli said some condo managers worry owners may be eager to trigger.
Despite some outstanding obstacles, he said he sees the potential for the new rules to make it easier to install electric vehicle charging stations at condo properties by introducing a defined, step-by-step process for dealing with applications.
Speaking at the press conference, MacCharles acknowledged some of the other, sweeping changes to Ontario’s condo laws that have started to roll out, which include mandatory licensing for condo managers and training for condo directors.
“Over the next year, we’ll continue to phase in new laws to protect condo owners as we continue to address the growing needs of our condo communities across the province,” she said.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.