On March 17, 2021, State Representative for the 25th Middlesex District, Marjorie Decker filed Bill H. 3858 “An Act providing for electric vehicle charging stations in the city of Cambridge.” On June 7, 2021, the bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation. Like the Home Rule Petition for the city of Boston, signed into law on January 2, 2019, this proposed bill would allow condominium owners in the city of Cambridge (“City”) to install electric vehicle (“EV”) charging stations in certain areas of a condominium, subject to reasonable restrictions.
If the bill is signed into law, associations should consider whether their current rules and processes for handling requests to install EV charging stations are responsive to, and compliant with, the new law.
The proposed bill states that any association in the City may not prohibit or unreasonably restrict an owner from installing an EV charging station: (1) on or in areas subject to their separate interest, (2) on or in areas to which they have exclusive use, or (3) on a common element, so long as it is within a reasonable distance of a dedicated parking spot.
Under the bill, the term “associations” is defined as “any association of homeowners, community association, cooperative or any other non-governmental entity with covenants, by-laws and administrative provisions with which a homeowner’s compliance is required.” An association in the City may require an owner to submit an application before installing a charging station, subject to the following provisions:
• If the association requires such an application, the application shall be processed and approved by the association in the same manner as an application for approval of an architectural modification to the property and shall not be willfully avoided or delayed;
• The association shall approve the application if the owner complies with the association’s architectural standards and the provisions of the act;
• The approval or denial of an application should be in writing;
• If the application is not denied in writing after 60 days from the date of receipt of the application, the application shall be deemed approved, unless that delay is the result of a reasonable request for additional information; and
• The association may not assess or charge the owner any fees for the placement of any EV charging station, beyond reasonable fees for processing the application, provided that such fees exist for all applications for approval of architectural modifications.
The bill further provides that installation of any vehicle charging station in the City is subject to the following provisions:
• The EV charging station must be installed at the owner’s expense;
• The EV charging station must be installed by a licensed contractor and/or electrician; and
• An EV charging station shall meet all applicable health, safety, and accessibility standards and requirements imposed by national, state, and local authorities, as well as all other applicable zoning, land use or other ordinances, or land use permits.
The bill also sets forth that the owner and each successive owner of the separate interest or with exclusive rights to the area where the EV charging system is installed in the City shall be responsible for:
• Disclosing to prospective buyers the existence of any charging station of the owner and related responsibilities of the owner under this section;
• If the EV charging station is removable and the owner intends to remove the station in order to install it at their new place of residence, they must also disclose this fact to a prospective buyer;
• Costs for maintenance, repair, replacement of the EV charging station until it has been removed, and for restoration of the common area after removal;
• Costs for damage to the EV charging station, common area, exclusive common area, or separate interest resulting from the installation, maintenance, repair, removal, or replacement of the charging station;
• The cost of electricity associated with the electric vehicle charging station; and
• Removing the EV charging station if reasonably necessary for the repair, maintenance, or replacement of any property of the association or of separate interests.
Furthermore, the bill states that the owner must connect the EV charging station to their own electricity utility account unless the licensed contractor performing the installation deems that to be impossible. In that circumstance, the association shall allow the owner to connect the EV charging station to the common electricity account, but may require reimbursement by the owner to the association for the electricity costs, per the owner’s responsibility for such costs.
MBM will continue to monitor this proposed bill as it could potentially make its way through the Massachusetts State House and onto Governor Baker’s desk. If the bill is signed into law, associations should consider whether their current rules and processes for handling requests to install EV charging stations are responsive to, and compliant with, the new law.
Associations may also want to have standard applications for EV charging station requests and unit owner license agreements for approved applications. Each charging station application should include, at a minimum: the name and address of the unit owner; the number or other designations of the parking space as to which the application applies; the number of the owner’s unit to which that parking space is appurtenant; drawings, specifications, and photographs of the EV charging station model, location, point of connection to the electric supply, attendant metering and wiring; and proposed contractor’s license, certificate of insurance, and reference information on prior installations of similar charging stations.
Associations will also want to ensure that there are appropriate, reasonable restrictions protecting the common area, including allocating responsibility for maintaining architectural standards, indemnification rights, insurance coverage, any required upgrades to the electrical system and unauthorized use of the EV charging station.