Posted by David C. Swedelson,
Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb; Community Association Legal Expert
With the proliferation of electric vehicles comes a new law that limits and restricts California community associations’ ability to prohibit an owner from installing their own electric charging station. On July 25, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 209, which adds new Civil Code Section 1353.9. The new law takes effect January 1, 2012.
New Civil Code Section 1353.9 will prohibit California condominium and other community associations from unreasonably restricting the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Homeowners who place charging stations in the common areas will be responsible for costs associated with maintaining and repairing the station, as well as costs for damage to common areas and adjacent units resulting from installation and maintenance of the station. The new law will impose other responsibilities on the homeowner, including maintaining a liability insurance coverage of $1,000,000 that names the association as an additional insured.
Unfortunately, the new law allows individual owners to use or occupy common areas, contrary to existing statutes and case law. In his signing message, Governor Brown stated that the author of the bill plans to introduce legislation that protects the right of common interest developments to establish reasonable rules for any use of common areas for charging stations. Governor Brown recognized this issue in his signing message:
“To the Members of the California State Senate:
Senate Bill 209 advances the important state interests of lowering vehicle emissions and decreasing dependency on foreign oil. These interests are advanced statutorily by removing unreasonable burdens in common interest developments to the installation of plug-in vehicle charging stations. Charging stations are part of the infrastructure that must be built to integrate electric vehicles into our daily lives by allowing plug-in vehicles to be recharged faster and to minimize impact to the electrical grid. I enthusiastically support this bill.
This bill, unfortunately, contains language that could permit individual homeowners to unreasonably use or occupy common areas. The author has assured me that she will pursue legislation that clearly protects the right of the common interest developments to establish reasonable rules for any use of common areas for charging stations.”
This new law restricts any covenant, restriction, or condition contained in any deed, contract, security instrument, or other instrument affecting the transfer or sale of any interest in a common interest development, or any provision of the governing documents of a common interest development, from effectively prohibiting or restricting the installation or use of an electrical vehicle charging station as being void and unenforceable. The new law will authorize an association to impose reasonable restrictions on those stations, and would impose requirements with respect to an association’s approval process for those stations.
This is new law, and as the technology it deals with is improving and changing, and as this law will most certainly be modified to deal with the common area issue, we would encourage California community associations to take a wait-and-see position before taking steps to modify the common area to allow for these charging stations. We will be monitoring the new law and will keep you advised.
Questions regarding electric charging stations and a California community association’s compliance with this new law? Contact David Swedelson, California Condo and Community Association Attorney, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.