Doctor sells electric car after EV charging blocked

Old-petrol-station.jpg

This is not Dr Gupta's car - just a funny juxtaposition of the old and the new.

Confusion about strata by-laws has resulted in a busy doctor having to sell his electric vehicle (EV) and go back to a gas-guzzling, polluting car when his strata committee refused to let him charge up at his parking space … even when he offered to pay for the electricity.

As a doctor regularly treating patients suffering the ill effects of floods, heat and bushfires, Dr Akhil Gupta is always eager not to contribute to climate change himself, reports Sue Williams in the SMH.

But he’s devastated after being forced to dump his electric vehicle in favour of an old petrol car because the apartment block where he lives refused to allow him to use a power point in the garage to charge it, despite his offer to pay for the electricity.

“It meant I was having to drive around Sydney to find a charger somewhere else and then sit in it for up to an hour, as my EV was a few years old, to fully recharge the battery,” said Dr Gupta, 34, who lives in an apartment in Darlinghurst.

“It added such a huge amount of time onto my commute to the hospitals I work in, and my 10-hour working day, and it seemed ridiculous when there was a perfectly good working power point in our garage where I could charge up the car overnight. But when the strata sealed it up to stop anyone having access to it, I had no choice.”

Dr Gupta, an endocrinologist and obstetric physician, had offered to pay a weekly fee to the Owners Corporation for the electricity – about $10 a week – or to pay for his exact use if a meter was installed.

The building manager contacted him, however, and said the strata committee insisted that he, a tenant, had to persuade the owner of his unit to pay for independent legal advice to draw up a bylaw and then put it to a meeting of all owners to see if it would be passed.

Where they got it wrong

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“We’d have had to hire a solicitor at our own cost to propose something that would benefit the whole building,” said Dr Gupta, who eventually felt compelled to get rid of his 2018 Hyundai IONIQ and bought an old Mercedes Benz instead.

“It would involve so much money and time and work, but we’d have to bear that despite the likelihood that there’d be many more EVs there in the future. It seemed such backward thinking.” 

Luke Bowen, managing director of Sky Living Strata, which looks after the 15-storey, 120-unit Parkridge Apartments on Oxford Street, said he would not go into detail about the case.

“But we can’t allow one individual to use the power as the whole building would be paying for it,” said Mr Bowen. “And an owners corporation can’t invoice one individual to pay. He’s been told that a bylaw would have to be drafted to allow access to common power and proposed at a general meeting.”

At a time when a huge number of apartment buildings around Australia are now having EV-charging systems installed in their premises, knowing that the ownership of EVs is taking off, Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari said this position was extremely short-sighted.

“The problem is that, for existing apartment buildings, there’s currently no consistent set of rules about how to approach this issue,” he said. “Strata committees often look at it and think it’s too hard, so they end up not bothering trying, and doing nothing at all.

“Yet there are now a lot of companies that can provide solutions for buildings in this position. Otherwise, it’s hard to expect the first person to get an EV to bear all the costs and pay for everything, so the second owner and the third and fourth pay nothing.”

Latest figures show that the number of NSW-registered EVs, hybrid petrol-electric cars and those using alternative fuels, like hydrogen, more than doubled from 37,238 to 78,644 in the two years to September 2021. In Victoria, EV registrations have more than tripled in the last four years.

Nationally, annual sales have grown to around 20,000, with recent soaring petrol prices adding to the push to electric. “Everyone should have the right to have this option, and apartment buildings shouldn’t be able to hold people back from buying EVs” said Mr Jafari.

As for Dr Gupta, he still feels a huge sadness at having to go back to the technology of the past. “My role is to help people, not harm them with carbon emissions,” he said. “This short-sightedness has compromised my ability to do the best I can for the community.”

A NSW Fair Trading spokesperson didn’t make any comment on the rights of tenants – who make up 50 per cent of apartment residents – but said an owner could approach an owners corporation to make a by-law governing their use, or propose to install an EV charging station using the sustainability infrastructure process.

“If the owner cannot resolve the issue with the owners corporation they can apply to NSW Fair Trading for mediation,” she said.

This story first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Where the strata scheme got it wrong

Let’s look at the three contentious pieces of information behind the refusal of Dr Gupta request to be able to charge his car (writes Jimmy Thomson).

  1. That it would require the owners of his apartment to pay for a by-law to be written by a lawyer.
  2. That by-law would need to be approved by a general meeting of the owners corporation.
  3. That there was no way any resident could be invoiced separately for the provision of a service.

Okay, firstly, does it need a by-law? Under section 132B of the Strata Schemes Management Act, Financing and installation of sustainability infrastructure, changes to common property that advance the sustainability of the building only require the approval of a simple majority of owners at a general meeting , even though the approval would be a considered a special resolution.

This section of the Act specifically mentions moves to “facilitate the use of sustainable forms of transport” and gives as an example “installing electric vehicle charging stations.”

Now, section 132B says the owners corporation must consider the cost of the sustainability infrastructure and works including any expected running and maintenance costs, as well as who will own, install and maintain the sustainability infrastructure.

However, there is no mention of a by-law being required, just a special Sustainability Infrastructure Resolution which, in these sustainability cases, only requires a simple majority vote.

Sect 132B goes on to say:

“Sustainability infrastructure resolution means a resolution to do any one or more of the following that is specified to be a sustainability infrastructure resolution—
(a) to finance sustainability infrastructure,
(b) to add to the common property, alter the common property or erect a new structure on common property for the purpose of installing sustainability infrastructure,
(c) to change the by-laws of the strata scheme for the purposes of the installation or use (or both) of sustainability infrastructure.

Also, elsewhere in the Act, installing electrical wiring and power points are considered minor renovations which only require the committee’s approval.

But key to all this is the simple fact that Dr Gupta didn’t need a special fast-charging outlet to be installed, he only needed permission to plug his charger in to a mains socket and “trickle” charge the vehicle overnight at off-peak energy prices.

All of which is to say that the strata committee and the strata manager could and probably should have made it easier for the tenant and his landlord.

Finally, there is the question of whether the tenant could be invoiced separately for the electricity. All over NSW and beyond, residents are invoiced individually for everything from storage space rental to hot water usage. It’s really not that hard to do.

Is it strictly legal? Does it appear in the Act? Does any of that matter? This is an issue that could have been resolved simply and easily without the StrataKops coming round (because there are no Stratakops).

Which brings us to Fair Trading and their refusal to comment. How much easier life would be if Fair Trading actually offered advice on the tricky stuff, rather than pointing us to the published information that we can discover for ourselves, only to find that it doesn’t answer our questions.

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Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 32 total)
  • Author
    Replies
  • #62486
    Boronia
    Flatchatter

    What happens when there are two EVs (or more) in the building? Are they going to share that power point?

     

    #62488
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    It’s a building with more than 100 units.  Looking at the picture in the SMH, there are many power points in the garage.

    Even so, it is very simple to put an in-line meter on a power source and a separate locked socket for anyone else that needed it.  The available technology is very advanced and inexpensive.  You can even access some meters using your credit card, phone or pass key.

    Strata Answers is running courses for City of Sydney informing people what their real choices are.  Saying ‘too hard” is not a valid option.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by .
    #62493
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    A useful thing for an Owners Corporation to have is a staged EV charging plan. For the first few early adopters, it would not cause any problem to do something formalised but simple and temporary such as allowing the use of ordinary common property power points with conditions attached. Those conditions could include a simple kWh counter in line so that the EV driver can reimburse the OC for the costs or a reasonable estimate of costs based on milage.

    Another condition would be recognition that such arrangements are temporary until EV numbers are higher and a more sophisticated arrangement may be needed. More sophisticated arrangements could include a building load management system to share the available supply capacity among networked charging outlets by slowing down or stopping charging during the evening peak and speeding up charging as the demand from the rest of the building is reduced during the day and night.

    #62513
    StM@lo
    Flatchatter

    Here’s an Idea! Perhaps instead of telling Strata Communities their position is extremely short-sighted. Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari, and his organisation could be pro-active and research, and create a “standard bylaw” proposal that is compliant with strata law, and make it available to all!

    #62516
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    Perhaps instead of telling Strata Communities their position is extremely short-sighted. Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari, and his organisation could be pro-active and research, and create a “standard bylaw” proposal

    Maybe because strata law isn’t his area of expertise.  Perhaps someone will pass his comments on to SCA or Fair Trading or the Property Commissioner or anyone who wouldn’t have to learn a completely new skill set just to ask the right questions. (oh, hang on, I think I kind of did that already).

    I am flabbergasted at the level of resistance there is to electric vehicles in this country, especially among politicians.  The recent reversal of sustainability measures proposed by NSW Planning is a huge retrograde step and a clear message to the strata community that our leaders think climate change and energy security aren’t serious issues.

    All it would take is for our invisible Fair Trading Minister to get one of her many minions to say: “Go ahead and fix a meter or two to the electricity supply, on a user-pays basis, and charge the owners for the energy used, until such times as you want to upgrade to full EV charging in your block.  We’ll sort out the legalities later.”

    If we need to have a by-law every time there’s a miniscule change to common property – and I’m not convinced a by-law is necessary in this case – we’ll be back in the stone-age before we know it.

    #62518
    Level_one
    Flatchatter

    We are currently encouraging the introduction of EV charging facilities across our entire Community of some 55 Strata and unmanaged use of common property power as in this example we would consider one of the least desirable routes to go and not to be encouraged. It would appear I need to note that I am a Lot Owner as part of a team looking to develop guidelines to assist Strata in providing EV charging facilities within our Community and have been dealing with many of these issues at the “Coal Face”.

    Generally the design load and usage factor on a common property supply can be very limited. In our case the power available in the garage is designed primarily to operate the garage door openers and it is assumed all will not be operating at the same time. This circuit has to power 32 door openers which is fine if only a small percentage are being used at any one time.  To use such a circuit for multiple EV chargers is not likely to be sustainable.

    I would also suggest that expecting that all users will confine there charging to off peak times is optimistic. Bear in mind that any power usage that impacts on the capacity charge for your common property supply takes 12 months to work itself out of the billing cycle so even if you had 3 chargers working  simultaneously for only 5 minutes in peak period it can impact on the billing for the next 12 months.  If the peak capacity charge is impacted by even one EV charger this reports to the Owners Corporation irrespective of whether the user pays for the kW used for charging. Refer to Ausgrid for the calculation of the Peak Capacity charge.

    There are a wide range of solutions from relatively simple to more complex that ensure that EV charging can be retrofitted without any negative impact on the existing power supply to the overall complex and also ensure that user pays for power which is in the best interest of all Lot Owners. Buildings have already experienced brownouts with the installation of induction cooktops and so the emphasis of being able to install chargers without any increase to the design load is a key factor in getting approval.  Connecting chargers without load management into the common property supply is not seen as a way to help allay the fears of the uniformed.

    The NSW DPIE will shortly be releasing a document that has been prepared in conjunction with the OCN that will outline many of the available options.

    DPIE – Technical Guidelines for Making Residential Buildings EV- ready

    In my particular case we have both air conditioning compressors and Lot Owners meters located in the basement garage and with the appropriate interlocks the Lot Owner can use his own metered power within the design capacity of his supply to charge his EV. An excellent solution where available as 100% Lot Owner funded and 100% paid for on his own electricity bill and no impact on the OC peak capacity charge.

    This may require a bylaw to run cabling through common property from the meter/compressor to his garage but this option can be a totally user pays model and relatively inexpensive to implement considering the benefits to both the Lot Owner and the Owners Corporation. In many cases within our Community it is not possible to even get a 50% vote at a meeting because of concerns raised by non-informed owners about the risks associated with EV charging. These can be financial risks associated with the use of common property power but more commonly the impact on insurance premiums of which I am unaware of any facts to support this concern.

    Certainly in other cases where access to the Lot Owners metered power is not available a more sophisticated common property system might be required but even in this situation for a relatively small expenditure by the Owners Corporation there are options to install EV charging without any negative impact on the overall building supply.

    Keep a look out for the DPIE publication when released and assess what options might be applicable to your building.

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by .
    #62522
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    We are currently encouraging the introduction of EV charging facilities across our entire Community of some 55 Strata and unmanaged use of common property power as in this example we would consider one of the least desirable routes to go and not to be encouraged.

    Congratulations on embracing the issue across the buildings you manage and good luck with wrangling the myriad options and issues that will be presented.  But less face it, the strata manager concerned could have handled this better.

    Generally the design load and usage factor on a common property supply can be very limited . In our case the power available in the garage is designed primarily to operate the garage door openers and it us assumed all will not be operating at the same time. To use such a circuit for multiple EV chargers is not likely to be sustainable.

    Yes, but this wasn’t an application for multiple chargers, it was for ONE. The tenant was advised to get the landlord to go to the hassle and expense to get a by-law (unnecessarily).

    I would also suggest that expecting that all users will confine their charging to off peak times is optimistic.

    Realistic, not optimistic. Most people using low-voltage trickle chargers do so when they are at home in the evening.  Also this is ONE person. If there were more wanting to do it, you would presumably adapt your policy and limit the usage until the system could cope.

    This may require a bylaw to run cabling through common property from the meter/compressor to his garage but this option can be a totally user pays model and relatively inexpensive to implement considering the benefits to both the Lot Owner and the Owners Corporation.

    I don’t think so. Section 110 of the Act specifies the installation of  electrical cabling and power points as a minor renovation only requiring approval which must not unreasonably be refused.

    Section 132B of the Act actually specifies installation of EV charging as a sustainability measure, not requiring a by-law, per se, but a Sustainability Special Resolution which only requires a simple majority vote.

    On the question of multiple use, that’s something that can be estimated as single users increase in numbers to a limit established by an electrical engineer. As the take-up is increased, more sophisticated systems can be introduced before the building is browned out.

    We shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by .
    #62545
    Level_one
    Flatchatter

    It would appear I need to clarify my previous post as I have been actively involved with looking at a wide range of solutions to assist Strata install EV charging across our entire Community of some 55 Strata and unmanaged use of common property power as in this example we would consider one of the least desirable routes to go and not to be encouraged. Certainly for one user it might appear as a simple solution but is not a long term solution and when proposed here has not even had enough support to be passed under Section 132B. It would appear I need to note that I am a Lot Owner as part of a team looking to develop guidelines to assist Strata in providing EV charging facilities within our Community and have been dealing with many of these issues at the “Coal Face”.

    Generally the design load and usage factor on an individual common property supply can be very limited. In our case the power available in the garage circuit is designed primarily to operate the garage door openers and it is assumed all will not be operating at the same time. This circuit has to power 32 door openers which is fine if only a small percentage are being used at any one time.  To use such a circuit for multiple EV chargers is not likely to be sustainable.

    I would also suggest that expecting that all users with unmanaged access to the common property supply will confine there charging to off peak times is optimistic. Bear in mind that any power usage that impacts on the capacity charge for your common property supply takes 12 months to work itself out of the billing cycle so even if you had 3 chargers working  simultaneously for only 5 minutes in peak period it can impact on the billing for the next 12 months.  If the peak capacity charge is impacted by even one EV charger this reports to the Owners Corporation irrespective of whether the user pays for the specific kW used for charging. Refer to Ausgrid for the calculation of the Peak Capacity charge.

    There are a wide range of solutions from relatively simple to more complex that ensure that EV charging can be retrofitted without any negative impact on the existing power supply to the overall complex and also ensure that user pays for power which is in the best interest of all Lot Owners. Buildings have already experienced brownouts with the installation of induction cooktops and so the emphasis of being able to install chargers without any increase to the design load is a key factor in getting approval.  Connecting chargers without load management into the common property supply is not seen as a way to help allay the fears of the uniformed.

    In my particular case we have both air conditioning compressors and Lot Owners meters located in the basement garage and with the appropriate interlocks the Lot Owner can use his own metered power within the design capacity of his supply to charge his EV. An excellent solution where available as 100% Lot Owner funded and 100% paid for on his own electricity bill and no impact on the OC peak capacity charge.

    This may require a bylaw to run cabling through common property from the meter/compressor to his garage but this option can be a totally user pays model and relatively inexpensive to implement considering the benefits to both the Lot Owner and the Owners Corporation. In many cases within our Community it is not possible to even get a 50% vote at a meeting because of concerns raised by non-informed owners about the risks associated with EV charging. These can be financial risks associated with the use of common property power but more commonly the impact on insurance premiums of which I am unaware of any facts to support this concern.

    Certainly in other cases where access to the Lot Owners metered power is not available a more sophisticated common property system might be required but even in this situation for a relatively small expenditure by the Owners Corporation there are options to install EV charging without any negative impact on the overall building supply.

    For the currently available information relating to NSW refer

    Refer https://www.energysaver.nsw.gov.au/reducing-emissions-nsw/electric-vehicles/electric-vehicle-ready-buildings

    If you reference this link you will find an extensive source of information to assist all those looking forward to be able to provide EV charging facilities to the majority of their residents.

    #62551
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    You have me at a disadvantage. I thought you were the boss of the strata management firm that blocked the installation.  Apologies for that.  My previous response will be toned down accordingly. And good on you for trying to solve a tricky but ultimately resolvable problem.

    #62552
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    I was thrown by the idea of 30-plus gate openers.  I thought it was one gate opener for 30-odd drivers. Even so, there are systems that will direct the power where it’s needed, at any given time, so that even if half a dozen vehicles emerge from their garages at the same time, like a scene from Thunderbirds, the system will temporarily divert the power from the charging vehicles to the gate openers.

    Similarly, if half a dozen cars are being charged and one of them is finished, the system will divert the freed-up power to the other chargers.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by .
    #62554
    Level_one
    Flatchatter

    Thanks for the follow up. We should all be on the same page trying to ensure all Lot Owners have access to EV charging facilities as in the years to come they will all need it.

    We had a situation very similar to the Dr’s in our building where a Lot Owner placed an order for a Tesla with the intention of using the door opener power circuit to charge without seeking any approval. He did then indicate he would be happy to re-imburse an estimate of the power usage but got very little support from the vast majority of Lot Owners to do this.

    I did raise at an OCN webinar whether we could use the A/C compressor power existing in the basement garages for EV Charging and Ross De Rango who was then at NHP picked up on this and developed an EV readiness box that can be used to monitor the load on the relevant circuit and use the power for either the Air Conditioner or EV charging but not both. This box can also be configured for use where the Lot Owners Meter is in the basement garage which may be a more common application. Not sure whether the installation of cable trays though the entire basement might be considered a minor modification to enable these options but some buildings might require the addition of cable trays to comply with AS3000. We now have bylaws in place in our building that enable all Lot Owners to source their own metered power for EV changing providing they have an appropriate interlock/load management module. (approx $1000)

    So the message really is rather than provide a band aid solution that will benefit perhaps a couple of privileged users look at a whole of building solution. It may mean you have to make an annual provision in a capital works program to get there down the track.

    We have had another building in our Community that has made the case that providing EV charging facilities in their building will enhance the value of individual apartments and they have implemented a whole of building solution for an approx cost of $1200 per lot across 30 Apartments where there is currently only one EV user.

    As indicated in other Strata even where an EV charger installation using Lot Owners power has been proposed with all costs  totally paid for by the Lot Owner it has not been able to achieve 50% support at a meeting so education of the uniformed is perhaps the first priority rather than an easy fix.

    Perhaps the new NSW Strata Hub needs to have an indication of whether the Strata is “EV Ready” or not. If this could come in from the 1st of July it might provide an incentive for Strata to be proactive. 

    #62560
    Gerry03
    Flatchatter

    Our strata committee received a request to use a common property power socket to charge a battery for an electric bicycle.

    We were directed to section 117 in the SSMA which allows an owners corporation to enter into an agreement with an occupier for the provision of services.  No special resolution or bylaw is required although we were recommended to carefully document the agreement, including the charges.

    The occupier agreed to install an in-line meter for billing purposes and the strata committee was able to approve the minor works.

    #62562
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    Perhaps the new NSW Strata Hub needs to have an indication of whether the Strata is “EV Ready” or not. If this could come in from the 1st of July it might provide an incentive for Strata to be proactive.

    It will be interesting to see what information the strata hub has and doesn’t have (like strata managers’ and committee chairs’ contact details, for instance).

    #62616
    brentclark
    Flatchatter

    An Owners Corporation can enter into an agreement with an Owner or an Occupier of a lot to provide amenity or service to the Owner or Occupier of the lot. This doesn’t require a motion or a by-law. This can include supply of electricity from a general power outlet connected to the common area/houselights meter.

    In the case of a general power outlet on common property (which is not located in a private carparking space/cage or garage), which is not to be changed physically in any way, an end user agreement could be used for cost-recovery by the Owners Corporation where:

    1. the Owner or Occupier supplies at their own cost a temporary $25 plug-in/unplug electricity meter
    2. the Owner commits in the agreement to plugging in the temporary electricity meter for each charging session and then plugging the EV charging cable into the plug-in electricity meter and then unplugging the temporary electricity meter after each charging session
    3. the Owner commits to re-imbursing the Owners Corporation for the kWh consumed in each charging session on a periodic basis e.g. quarterly

    This approach has been used with electric vehicles such as Hyundai Kona’s charging in strata apartment buildings in NSW.

    If the EV in question is a Tesla, then a free third party smartphone application can be used to record the kWh of each charging session to assist with cost-recovery purposes, without the need to even spend $25 on a temporary plug-in power meter.

    #62626
    sleepless in strata
    Flatchatter

    At the outset it is important to consider what most owners would want for EV charging both now & into the future & aim to set up accordingly. The committees responsible for navigating this future planning must consider alternatives that are fair &  in the best interests for their building situation.

    A thoughtful approach up front will hopefully prevent pain further down the road.

    Setting up agreements like those suggested requires ongoing management. Who will do this and at what cost?
    Certainly would recommend any agreements made have timeframes written in.

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