Can I Force My Building to Install Electric-Car Chargers?

Q: I own a co-op in Woodside, Queens, with a dedicated garage that is locked and only I have access to it. I want to buy an electric car, but the garage does not have electricity. Con Edison informed me that if I install electricity in my garage, it will connect the line to the grid. However, my co-op board will not give me permission to do the work, saying that the technology is still new and may change. Can the board refuse my request? Is there any way to persuade it to change with the changing times?

A: Electric vehicles are coming to New York in a big way. In September, New York State passed a law banning the sale of combustion engines for cars and light trucks by 2035. Residential buildings need to prepare for the changes ahead.

“I know 2035 is a long time from now, but the state is going electric,” said Leni Morrison Cummins, a real estate lawyer in the Manhattan office of the law firm Cozen O’Connor. “It’s happening, it’s just a matter of when.”

The city is already grappling with the growing need for charging stations. By 2030, the Department of Transportation plans to install 10,000 curbside stations and equip 40 percent of parking spots in municipal lots with Level 2 chargers.

If you lived in a condo and not a co-op, your board would have to respond to your request. Because of changes made to state property laws in 2019, a condo board cannot impose unreasonable restrictions on the installation or use of charging stations on an owner’s property or deeded space.

Co-ops aren’t subject to the rule, and most co-op buildings were obviously not designed with electric vehicles in mind.

“You’re dealing with buildings that could be from 1910 — they were using horses when that building went up,” said Mitchell Karasik, director of business development at En-Power Group, a mechanical-engineering firm that is in the process of installing around 2,000 charging stations in 200 residential and commercial buildings around the city. “The infrastructure upgrades that are needed can often be significant.”

But older buildings can, and are, installing charging stations. Mr. Karasik said he’s noticed a sharp uptick in interest from buildings over the past year. You’re not going to be able to force your board to do this, but you might persuade it to think differently. Charging stations could increase property values — any buyer who already owns an electric vehicle, or wants to, will not want to purchase an apartment in your co-op. Ask if you can speak at a board meeting, or speak at the next annual meeting. Run for a seat on your board, or gather signatures from other neighbors interested in installing chargers. Speak with your local City Council member to gather political support.

If the board can see this as an upgrade that will benefit the building as a whole and understand that ultimately it will have to address this issue, it may be compelled to act.

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