Sustainable infrastructure: Is your Strata Scheme Ready for Electric Cars?

Electric cars are sparking the interest of strata residents, many of whom are keen to find a way to charge electric vehicles within their scheme. With a variety of residential electric car chargers now accessible to the market, lot owners and owners corporations are considering how to streamline approval processes, manage energy consumption, and future-proof car parking spaces. The latest proposed amendments to the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (the “Act”) regarding sustainable infrastructure encourages adoption of electric car chargers by only requiring a simple majority vote for approval. Here we review the approval options available, making the road to electric transportation smoother.

Private parking

In many schemes, residents are leading the charge by retrofitting electric car chargers into their car parking space or garage. Some lot owners prefer the convenience of overnight charging, while others may require a charger to be installed in the same location where the car is routinely parked for their vehicle to remain within warranty.

The process for approving installation works will depend on the proposed location of the electric car charger. If the installation works only involve minor wiring and power outlet changes, approval from the owners corporation may be in the form of an ordinary resolution for minor renovations pursuant to section 110 of the Act.

However, if the installation works touch or affect common property, a common property rights by-law may be required. Following the recent amendment the installation of an electric car charger is now considered “sustainability infrastructure” under the Act, and a by-law regarding installation of a car charger may be approved by a “sustainability infrastructure resolution”. This means that your by-law will be approved if a simple majority of persons present and eligible to vote at the general meeting vote for your motion.

Lot owners should note that a common property by-law will require your written consent to be provided before the general meeting at which the by-law is voted upon.

Common charging areas

Some schemes may prefer to install an electric car charging bay on common property. Owners corporations may approve the installation of common car charging facilities by a sustainability infrastructure resolution of a section 108 motion.

The owners corporation’s rules regarding the proper use of the common car charging facilities can be set out in a section 136 by-law. Such a by-law may also provide that residents may only use the common car charging facilities following written approval by the owners corporation. An electric vehicle register can assist with monitoring compliance with such a by-law.

Any changes to by-laws of the strata scheme that are for the purpose of the installation or use of sustainability infrastructure, including electric car chargers, may be approved by the owners corporation by a simple majority vote for a “sustainability infrastructure resolution” at a general meeting.

Energy use

A common concern amongst owners is the impact that electric car chargers will have on energy use throughout the scheme. Owners corporations may wish to require documentation that assures the owners corporation that the electric car charging system that a lot owner proposes to install includes sufficient surge protection.

In addition, some owners corporations are making it a condition of approval of electric car charging system installation that the lot owner ensure that the charger is only in use during off-peak hours.
On-site renewable energy can also take the load off. Integration of electric car charging systems with the lot or scheme’s solar energy systems can reduce the scheme’s reliance on grid electricity from their energy provider.

Managing energy bills

The new amendment to the Act includes a requirement that before approving a resolution that relates to an electric car charger, an owners corporation must consider any expected installation, running and maintenance costs.

The big question for many lot owners who do not wish to install an electric car charger, is whether through their levies they will be subsidising the additional energy use of the residents who do.

An individual meter read by a third party energy provider can measure a lot owner’s usage and may be of assistance in apportioning any additional energy costs incurred by operating an electric car charging system. “Smart meters” allow owners corporations and lot owners to monitor energy usage conveniently through a mobile app. Such monitoring data allows an owners corporation to calculate the additional energy costs incurred resulting from an individual car charger.

A section 143 by-law can grant lot owners exclusive use over the meter measuring the energy use of their car charger, and may provide that a lot owner will be responsible for paying ongoing fees to the owners corporation, set as an amount that reflects the additional energy costs incurred by the scheme.

If the works to install an electric car charger are to be approved by a section 110 minor renovations motion, the motion may be ordinarily resolved subject to conditions making the lot owner or occupier responsible for the payment of a contribution to electricity charges from the scheme’s utility provider. However, any conditions accompanying a motion will only be kept as long as the minutes of the general meeting at which the motion was considered. The motion may also be subsequently amended by the owners corporation in the future without the consent of the lot owner.

Our office has considerable experience in these matters and can assist owners corporations and lot owners with a range of motions and by-laws to help you to green your scheme.