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Electric Vehicles

By Ray White Whitsunday

More Queenslanders are deciding to switch to zero-emission vehicles as Australians reduce their carbon emissions footprint. Zero-emission vehicles include:

  • hydrogen vehicles
  • fuel cell vehicles
  • electric vehicles (EV).

In 2022 the Queensland Government released:

It is anticipated that by 2030, 50 per cent of new passenger vehicle sales in Queensland will be zero emission and 100 per cent by 2036.

With this in mind, bodies corporate should anticipate an increase in requests for EV charging on common property and within lots.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling an EV charger request or whether body corporate consent is needed, and the way consent must be given can vary.

This article will canvas some of the more common ways to seek approval for EV chargers as well as some of the aspects bodies corporate may consider when planning for an EV future.

The information in this article is based on bodies corporate regulated under the Body Corporate and Community Management (Standard Module) Regulation 2020 (the Standard Module). You can check your community management statement (CMS) or contact Titles Queensland on 07 3497 3479 to see which legislation applies to your scheme.

This is general information only and does not take into consideration the unique circumstances of your body corporate. This article is not a substitute for legal advice.

Private electricity networks

If a body corporate allows occupiers to ‘take’ electricity from the wiring it owns, operates or controls, it can be deemed to be operating a ‘private electricity network’.

It is illegal to operate a private electricity network without a network exemption from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and there may be further requirements the body corporate needs to meet under the National Energy Laws (NELs).

Your body corporate may already be meeting these requirements under the NELs. If you are unsure you may like to seek legal advice. Information on the NELs goes beyond the scope of our office.

Scenarios

1 – Lot owner seeking approval to install their own EV charger

Most of the time, owners will require the consent of the body corporate to install an EV charger on common property. There may be a by-law regulating the installation or it may be considered as an ‘improvement’ to common property.

By-laws

Some bodies corporate may have a by-law requiring a lot owner to seek body corporate consent for the EV charger and may even stipulate a particular type of charger (as well as other requirements such as its location).

By-laws are unique to each scheme and are generally contained in your community management statement. You can obtain a copy of this document from Titles Queensland. You can read more on our website about what by-laws apply.

Improvement to common property by lot owner

Whether the EV charger impacts common property will need to be considered. This is because improvements (changes) to common property by a lot owner require body corporate consent under the legislation (Standard Module, section 187).

Installing an EV charger in a common property car park can be identified as an improvement to common property. However, EV chargers installed inside the lot boundaries may create issues. Even when being installed inside a lot, some electrical wires (utility infrastructure) can be common property (Act, section 20).

In many bodies corporate, an EV charger will be connected to common property utility infrastructure in some way, deeming the EV charger an improvement that requires body corporate approval.

Body corporate consent

The committee may consider an improvement to common property by an owner if the:

  • total cost of the EV charger (including installation) is less than $3,000; and
  • the EV charger does not detract from the appearance of a lot; and
  • the body corporate is satisfied that the use and enjoyment of the charger is not likely to be a breach of the owner’s duties as an occupier.
  • Examples of duties can include not causing a nuisance to others in the scheme (Act, section 167), and not impacting the supply of utility services to other lots or common property (Act, section 166).

If the improvement is outside the committee’s authority, it must be authorised by ordinary resolution at a general meeting (Standard Module, section 187).

If approved by the body corporate, the owner must maintain the improvement and comply with any conditions of approval unless excused by the body corporate. You can read more about lot owner improvements on our website.

How to apply

If a lot owner requires approval, they can submit a motion to the appropriate meeting of the body corporate (either a committee or general meeting motion).

Things an applicant may like to consider

A lot owner should check their EV charger will not overload or cause supply issues with the electrical utility infrastructure. It is an offence to interfere with utility infrastructure or utility services in a way that may affect the supply of utility services to another lot or common property (Act, section 166).

Further, if a lot owner does not seek approval when they are required to under the legislation or by-laws, they may be held responsible for resultant property damage (Act, section 281).

Things the body corporate may like to consider

The body corporate and its committee should make reasonable decisions regarding the request (Act, section 94 and section 100).

What is a reasonable decision will vary depending on the situation. There are, however, some universal aspects that could be considered.

These include:

  • What is the current capacity of the electrical utility infrastructure at the scheme?
  • What type of charger is being proposed?
  • Can the utility infrastructure handle multiple chargers?
  • For example, if the lot owner is proposing a fast, three-phase charger, will the utility infrastructure be able to handle this? Even if it may be able to handle one, what if every lot owner in the future wishes to have the same type of charger?
  • How will the body corporate meter and charge the lot owner for electricity usage?
  • Does the owner have, or should the owner have, additional rights, such as exclusive use or a lease or licence over the common property area?
  • Will the charger be installed by a qualified electrician and is the charger electrically compliant?

   You can read more about the Australian Standards and fire safety on the QFES webpage.

Service agreements

The body corporate may like to consider whether it is appropriate for the EV user to enter into a service agreement as a term of the approval for the EV charger.

The body corporate may supply (or engage someone else to supply) utility services (including electricity) to owners or occupiers of lots (Standard Module, section 210). Where the body corporate has an agreement with the person to whom services are supplied, the body corporate can then charge them the costs of the electricity that the EV charger is using. Importantly, though, the body corporate can only seek the actual costs incurred by the body corporate. Therefore, having a metering device may be important.

2 – Body corporate installing a communal EV charger

In preparing for the future, some bodies corporate may decide that a communal EV charger(s) on common property is best suited for their scheme.

For example, an expert may advise that the current utility infrastructure is only suitable for fewer EV chargers than lots in the scheme. Some bodies corporates may find it reasonable to have EV chargers available for use on common property to avoid a first-in-best-dressed scenario with applications for chargers (which could mean some owners in the future cannot have chargers when others can, and possibly lead to disputes).

Improvement to common property by body corporate

A body corporate can make an improvement to common property for the benefit of the body corporate if it is approved (Standard Module, section 186).

Some improvements can be approved by the committee, others will need an ordinary resolution and others will need a special resolution. The type of approval the body corporate requires will depend on the cost of the improvement and how many lots are in the scheme.

You can read more about improvements to common property by a body corporate on our website.

General considerations

As bodies corporate must make reasonable decisions, expert guidance may assist with the decision-making.

Considerations of the body corporate may be:

  • What is the current capacity of the electrical utility infrastructure at the scheme?
  • What kind of EV chargers can the current infrastructure handle, and how many?
  • Is there a suitable area on common property for the EV charger(s)?
  • How will the body corporate meter and charge the EV owner for electricity usage?
  • What administrative systems need to be in place to ensure the body corporate is not running a business (Act, section 96)?
  • If a communal EV charger is installed, should a by-law be implemented regarding use?

Visitor parking

If the proposed area for an EV charger is currently visitor parking, the body corporate may like to consider if:

  • any parking by-laws need to be amended to allow an owner or occupier to park in the area; and
  • whether removing this visitor car park would conflict with the Development Approval (DA) conditions.
  • Some developments will have a set number of car parking spaces that must remain visitor parking under the DA conditions. The committee may like to make enquiries with their local council or seek legal advice.

By-laws

The body corporate must administer the common property and assets for the benefit of the owners of the lots included in the scheme (Act, section 94). This is typically achieved through by-laws which are used to regulate the use and enjoyment of common property and assets (Act, section 169). A body corporate may find it necessary to include a by-law regulating the use of EV chargers as the use and management of communal EV chargers on common property are not expressly covered in the legislation.

By-laws do have limitations (Act, section 180). For example, a by-law cannot impose a monetary liability. A body corporate may like to seek legal advice on the wording of an appropriate by-law for specific situations. A by-law could cover things such as:

  • who may use the EV charger
  • when the EV charger may be used and for how long
  • whether vehicles that are no longer charging can remain parked in the bay.

You can read more about making and amending by-laws on our website.

Further information

For further information on bodies corporate in Queensland, please visit our website at https://www.qld.gov.au/law/housing-and-neighbours/body-corporate.

Our information service can also answer general questions about the legislation. Call us on 1800 060 119 or submit your question online.

Article Contributed by Commission for Body Corporate and Community Management 

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