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Finally got approval to install charger at my condo!

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by David29, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. David29

    David29 Member

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    DEDHAM, MA
    This week I received final approval from my condominium association board of trustees to install an EV charger for my Model S. It took me nearly a year to get to this point, so it is very gratifying to be able to say this. I am not yet done, of course, because installation still lies ahead. With luck it will be complete this summer.

    The proposal that finally was approved was my third proposal. The first approach was to provide a charging solution that anyone could use, so that other residents could benefit if they got an EV. The second proposal took advantage of an unexpected situation that developed. The third was the result of a suggestion from a board member.

    I will tell my story in some detail, in case it is helpful to others in similar situations.

    By way of background, my condo association has 87 units in a dozen or so separate buildings. Although some units have parking garages, mine does not. My parking space is in an open parking lot, separated from the power supply for my building by a roadway and a substantial grade change. So it was never going to be feasible to run power to my own parking space.

    My first approach was to propose a charging arrangement for community use, in an area that could be used by any resident. I hired an electrician, and we walked around the property to identify potentially feasible locations. The maintenance manager gave us access to various buildings so the electrician could see the power panels (where the meters and main disconnects are for each unit). I prepared a report to the board and identified several possibilities. The board was not receptive, however, mainly because our site is so limited in available unassigned parking. In addition, most of the locations would involve costs that the board did not wish to incur. (One member was very skeptical, stated the electrical vehicles were a "fad," a "California thing," and that it was very unlikely there'd ever be another resident that had one besides me. He was very vocal in this first phase.)

    I actually submitted that first proposal before I had my Tesla. When it did not fly, I was not too concerned because I have the good fortune to live only a couple of miles from the newly opened Tesla store in Dedham, MA, which also is a supercharger site. So I figured I could charge there or at any number of level 2 chargers in the area. I am retired, so I am not as dependent upon the car always being fully charged as many other owners are.

    For the first couple of months, I did just that, with no particular difficulty. I still had my previous car, a Mercedes, for a couple of months after I got my Tesla. So I needed an additional parking space for it, until I could sell it. I could park it on the street, but that wasn't especially attractive. So I asked a friend if I could use an extra space he had, which happened to be in a garage. He kindly agreed. So the idea occurred to me that I could possibly arrange to keep this space, and put a charger in it. My friend was willing to let me do that (with some caveats that I won't get into). I had the electrician come out a second time and he worked up an estimate to install a charging circuit with a NEMA 14-50 plug. Because the space was at the extreme end of the garage, and some distance from the power panel, it would cost about $3000. I submitted a proposal to the condo board for this arrangement. The board disapproved this proposal, citing several reasons. One was that the conduit for the power would run through parking spaces owned by several other residents, and another was that it would require connecting to the common area power supply (rather than to my own). So I put aside this concept.

    My friend did allow me to continue using his garage space through the winter, however, which was a big advantage -- I did not need to worry so much about snow and ice on my car from parking in my open lot. (My spouse was a bit envious, I think.) But that arrangement was temporary and has now ended, so I'll be back in the open lot next winter. Charging in the winter proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. The energy use is much higher, of course, so I had to charge more frequently. And schlepping to and from the supercharger, and hanging around while the car charged, was less pleasant in the winter. In fact it became somewhat tedious and inconvenient. So I began to think that I needed to keep trying to find a solution at the condo.

    At the suggestion of one of the Board members, I looked into the possibility of setting up a charger on the outside of one of the buildings, where the utility wires happen to be overhead and not buried. (All the other buildings in our complex have underground power service.) I contacted two residents who have parking spaces adjacent to this building, and proposed to swap spaces with them. Both were willing to make a swap. I then contacted my electrician again, and asked him to review the feasibility of the idea, and to estimate the cost. It looked both feasible and reasonable in cost. So I developed a proposal to the Board.

    At this point, I was a bit afraid of having worn out my welcome with the Board. After all, I had already taken up their time with two other proposals, and they had plenty of other concerns to address besides how I charge my car. But I did some preliminary groundwork with one or two board members, and then submitted the proposal. After about six weeks, the property management person told me that the board had approved the proposal, subject to my signing an agreement to cover the details of the arrangement. Their lawyer prepared an agreement, it was reviewed by the board, and then sent to me for signature.

    Since the document is several pages, and deals with liability, insurance requirements, and other details, I decided I needed an attorney to look it over. That then led to some negotiated changes. In addition, my lawyer thought it was important for me and the other resident to document our parking space swap. I will spare you the details -- suffice it to say, we have arranged a "license" to use each other's parking spaces. (The nature of the arrangement involved considerations of what the condo trust document said about the ownership of the parking spaces, the board's authority, Massachusetts law, etc.) Once my neighbor and I had agreed to that document (and her lawyer had reviewed it for her), we signed those agreements. Then we went back to the board for them to sign the agreement with me, as revised to suit the legal review. Getting the documents agreed to took from early March to early July.

    So, now I have permission. I have told my electrician to proceed, and have ordered a Tesla Wall Connector. With any luck, work will be done this month.

    Part of the reason I tell this story in some detail (and it is still abbreviated, believe me!) is to help other condo residents who may be facing the same thing. But another reason is also to help people understand the extra difficulties that residents of multi-family housing (condos and apartments) may have when they try to arrange charging for their EVs. There is not yet widespread knowledge of charging needs or practices among building owners, property managers, and condo boards, so part of the need is to educate people, one situation at a time.

    And it is not inexpensive. Besides the installation cost for the electrical hardware, I incurred costs for two preliminary electrician's estimates (for the proposals that did not get approved) and I have had to pay for three lawyers -- the condo lawyer, my lawyer, and lawyer for the person with whom I am swapping spaces. So this will turn out to be very costly electricity, unfortunately! (On the other hand, I know that some condo residents will be lucky enough to have much simpler and less costly solution, mainly a result of where they park and the specifics of the power supply.)

    I am excited and pleased to be nearing the end of this process, and am looking forward to the convenience of charging at home.
     
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  2. Max*

    Max* Autopilot != Autonomous

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    Good read, glad to hear you got it sorted it out.

    Every board has one or two of those ;)
     
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  3. David29

    David29 Member

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    One detail I should have mentioned is that I was required by my condo association to increase my liability coverage to $1 million on my homeowner insurance policy, and to add the association to the policy as a named insured. This was easy to do, and inexpensive. The original request was for a million dollar umbrella policy in addition to my homeowner and auto policies. That would have been considerably more costly. I was able to negotiate out of the umbrella policy because the condo association's own insurance agent thought it was overkill.
     
  4. Pollux

    Pollux Member

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    @David29,

    I salute you, sir! I appreciate you taking the time to share your story. I'm afraid that it stirs some of my not-so-deeply-hidden prejudices against condo life: I can't believe what you had to go through!

    Are you still the only Tesla or EV in your condo association?

    When you hook up the first time to charge your car, I'm thinking you should have a magnum of champagne and an official christening ceremony for the new charger!

    Best regards,
    Alan
     
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  5. David29

    David29 Member

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    Having a champagne toast is a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

    As for condo life, my spouse and I thoroughly enjoy it. No grass to cut, no gutters to clean, no driveways to shovel snow off. It is a great placer with lots of character and amenities. But nothing is perfect. And when we bought here 11 years ago, EVs and their charging needs were far from my mind! The basic problem in a nutshell is that the parking spaces we have just happen to be remote from our building and our power source. So every possible solution involved different power sources, different parking location, or long and costly cable runs, or some combination.
     
  6. beeeerock

    beeeerock Active Member

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    Good for you - glad you didn't give up! This is a problem faced by virtually every strata owner, because I don't think a strata council exists that is impartial and above all, 'reasonable'...! I'm aware of a similar problem in a strata (luckily just a seasonal place) that started in October last year. The most recent proposal, which included the pre-ducting work for *all* stalls in the building at no cost to the strata, was also rejected on the grounds that those in the other four buildings wouldn't see any benefit from this...

    Seriously. 'Free infrastructure' wasn't fair. Apparently no recognition that some sort of formal EVSE buildout will be necessary in the future... which will inevitably require a special fee charged to all strata members. Why would it be better for the entire group to share in the costs for servicing five buildings as opposed to four? Mind-boggling.

    Very happy to read a success story, even if it was a costly one!
     
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  7. David29

    David29 Member

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    I had not previously heard the term "strata" as a form of property ownership so I Googled it. From reading about it, I gather it is a form of ownership used in Canada, Australia and various other countries and is similar to a condominium concept, in that it has individual property and common property. Sound about right?
     
  8. David29

    David29 Member

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    Sorry, should have answered earlier. Yes. Maybe once the Chevy Bolt and other upcoming EVs are out, there will be more interest. Frankly, not many people here seem to spend much on cars. Out of the 87 units, I know of only one S-class Mercedes, on M-class MB, my Tesla, and one older Lexus. No Jags or other big luxury cars. Couple of Priuses, though.
     
  9. beeeerock

    beeeerock Active Member

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    Yes, I think so. Strata comes is a variety of forms... most common would be a typical condo, in which you own the interior walls and within and share equally in the ownership of the common property such as roads, grounds and building exteriors. You might also have 'limited common property', which would be things like your private parking stall and deck. Those are for your private use, but owned and maintained by the strata and governed by strata bylaws (so they can prevent you from using your parking stall for storage etc.). There are also 'bare-land strata's' in which you actually own and maintain a plot of land and the entire house... with the strata sharing in the road and utilities. The latter is generally used where a subdivision just can't quite meet the requirements for City approval... not enough room for the full width roads, or grades a little on the steep side.
     
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  10. theflyer

    theflyer Member

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    @David29, thanks for the update. I've been working with my condominium board since January 2013 when we bought our Volt. We reached an agreement with the Board to charge off a 110V outlet at our spot, but this is far from ideal since the circuits can't support more than one vehicle and charging time is quite long.

    While the details are different, your story feels sadly familiar to me. I tend to think that existing condominiums have it worst of all when it comes to adding charging. The infrastructure was never designed to accommodate charging, Boards don't want to act until there is demand but demand can't come until there are charging solutions, and existing by-laws and legal documents can make it very hard to accommodate charging.

    I keep my Board updated with EV trends and believe they are becoming more receptive. I continue to advocate for a comprehensive strategy that works for all owners in the Association.

    It is heartening to know you found a way forward with your condo association. The reality is though that most people will not go through that amount of pain. They simply won't buy a plug-in vehicle. I think condominiums are going to find themselves caught out by the speed with which EVs will be entering the market. I think the day is only 3-5 years away before it is untenable for a condominium to not have viable solutions for charging.
     
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