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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  • This topic has 34 replies, 14 voices, and was last updated 3 months ago by .
Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 32 total)
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  • #62630
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    Setting up agreements like those suggested requires ongoing management. Who will do this and at what cost?

    Strata living is constantly evolving.  Circumstances change, people adjust accordingly and not everything needs to have a simple dollar value attached.

    Are complaints against noisy neighbours and barking dogs worth the money spent pursuing them?

    The recent comparisons of how many years it would take to pay off the purchase of an electric car  did not take into account the sense of well-being of the owners and their incremental contributions to the battle with climate change.

    The (possibly overly) simple answer to the cost question is that all the owners pay through their levies and benefit in the improvement in values of properties when their block is seen to be EV-friendly while others aren’t.

    And there is no better advertisement for EVs than seeing one in your neighbour’s parking spot (apart, possibly, from them being used by driving schools and rental car companies).

    Go back far enough and you’ll find commentary that having a toilet inside your home was a disgusting concept and a waste of money. EVs are coming, just like steam trains once did. Owners corporations have to decide whether they get on board or stand on the platform predicting disaster but wondering where everyone has gone.

    The question of fairness is another issue.  Is it fair for people who don’t have and don’t want EVs to pay a share of installing the infrastructure? But then, is it fair for non-swimmers to pay towards the pool and non-trainers to pay for the upkeep of a gym?

    #62641
    Mailbox
    Flatchatter

    I am waiting to move into an apartment in the Shark Park development at Woolooware next year.

    I was thinking of purchasing an EV so I asked the developer if he would install a power point so I could charge my EV, but the answer was no sorry.

    I was very disappointed so I wrote to all the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties and asked if they could help so far I have only had a we will get back to letter from all parties I am still waiting for a year now and no proper answers.

    I think it should be legislated that all new apartment blocks should have a power point in each car spaces to charge an EV its the only way to force developers to do this otherwise for them its a waste of money.

    So I have reached a brick wall. Maybe you can put more pressure on the Political parties.

    Unfortunately I will not purchases an EV if I can’t charge overnight at this stage. So I can’t save the planet.

    #62643
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    … I think it should be legislated that all new apartment blocks should have a power point in each car spaces to charge an EV its the only way to force developers to do this…

    You might be interested in the Australian Electric Vehicle Association’s submission on recent draft amendments to the National Construction Code. https://aeva.asn.au/news/national-building-code/

    The draft suggested 20% of apartment block spaces be ‘EV ready’. AEVA pointed to many problems that could arise and proposed 100%.

    #62648
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    Another useful resource is here. I tried posting it with just a brief comment but ‘computer says no’ (it was rejected by this site as potential spam). So, now I am typing a longer comment in the hope that the computer will think this message has more useful content.

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

    #62649
    Strata Answers
    Flatchatter

    The story about the doctor who was told that he could not install EV charging in his car space raises important issues, and the podcast helps us understand them, but our sympathies for the doctor, and tugs at the heart strings, must be tempered by the legal realties of strata living…

    “It says in strata law, that if you want to make a change to common property that is environmentally sustainable, it’s a minor renovation. It does not require a bylaw.”

    Hmmm…

    It is great that strata law is moving to make EV charging ( & solar pv) easier to get going in a strata building. s132B  of the SSMA provides for these sorts of changes to common property  to be the subject of a Sustainability Infrastructure Resolution that only requires a simple majority to get passed – no longer 75%. And the same applies to any by-law associated with the measure.

    (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.

    However…

    There is nothing here to say that Sustainable Infrastructure Resolutions can somehow by-pass the usual s108 requirements.

    The usual processes of s108 to authorise changes to common property still  need to be followed  and sustainability by-laws need the Consent of affected lot owners. s108 even references sustainability infrastructure resolutions.

     

    So where does it say you don’t require a by-law and a general meeting resolution ?

    s110 which deals with the approval of Minor Renovations is typically delegated to the Strata Committee and includes at s110 (3) (d)

    “installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points”

    You would really have to doubt whether this was intended by the legislators to cover anything more than putting in an extra powerpoint or two in an apartment kitchen.

    Any view that it somehow includes  EV charging  conflicts with the NSW government recently released Guide to Making your Residential Strata EV Ready which  does not envisage strata committees  providing consent without both by-laws and sustainability infrastructure motions passed at a general meeting of owners

    https://www.energysaver.nsw.gov.au/reducing-emissions-nsw/electric-vehicles/electric-vehicle-ready-buildings/making-your-residential-strata-building-ev-ready

    If EV charging is approached in a piecemeal fashion, without any strategic planning, the owners corporation’s buildings are going to end up with legacy arrangements that could well conflict with a whole of building approach – that gives full consideration to electrical loads etc.

    Enlightened buildings will take the whole of building approach in their planning and in the approvals they give …..from day one.

    Back to our doctor….connecting a charger to common property power is very different to extending kitchen power points on your own supply.

     

    John Hutchinson
    m: 0418 797470  e: john.hutchinson@strataanswers.com.au

    S T R A T A   A N S W E R S  PTY  LTD      practical solutions for strata living
    abn 11 600 590 083
    http://www.strataanswers.com.au

     

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by .
    #62654
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    There is nothing here to say that Sustainable Infrastructure Resolutions can somehow by-pass the usual s108 requirements.

    In the legal section of the guide to installing EV charging, which you quote, it says:

    You need to read this along with the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Sustainability Infrastructure) Bill 2020– external site. This categorises the installation of EV charging infrastructure as a sustainability infrastructure upgrade and replaces the special resolution previously required under section 108 of the SSMA 2015. 

    Isn’t that clearly and specifically by-passing the Section 108 requirements.

    Enlightened buildings will take the whole of building approach in their planning and in the approvals they give …..from day one.

    And unenlightened buildings will use the confusion around all this and the scale of a “whole building” approach to avoid doing anything.  The guide that you quoted proposes a structured approach based on a mixture of current and anticipated demand.

    Back to our doctor….connecting a charger to common property power is very different to extending kitchen power points on your own supply.

    And wanting to attach a meter to an existing power point so that he could charge his car overnight is very different from installing a three-phase dedicated fast-charging point.

    Perhaps my points were a little broad.  But if every strata scheme requires a “whole building” plan before any owner can plug their car into the mains and pay for the “charge-up” by meter or guesstimate, then only the residents of blocks with progressive and far-sighted committees, plus healthy capital works funds,  will be able to have EVs.

    The laws are confusing and apparently contradictory and that is being used to stymie progress.

    Moving to EV charging  can be done in increments until demand approaches capacity and forces the owners corporation to consider its next step.  But we are a long way off that, with only 21,000 EVs and 600,000 strata blocks.

    In the case of the doctor, he was denied the opportunity to have an electric vehicle because the strata manager and committee came up with erroneous reasons and dubious interpretations of strata law to stop him.  And right now, ignorance of what can be done is dumping EVs into too many too-hard baskets.

    Section 132B instructs the strata scheme to consider who will pay for the ongoing repairs and maintenance of the altered common property. If you have an agreement on that as a condition of approval under a Special Sustainability Resolution, then surely you don’t really need a by-law.

     

    #62669
    Strata Answers
    Flatchatter

    I think we all want to remove the roadblocks to EV charging and the reality is that EV charging in buildings has to happen in an incremental way, but there has to be some discipline around the way it is done. Not harsh discipline but the sort of discipline that typically is applied to other changes an owner wants to make….

    That discipline  comes from having suitable by-laws and those by-laws may  come about from the initiative of the strata committee, a champion or from an individual owner who is a first mover. …Open options.

    You can’t bypass obstinacy and ignorance, but there is no  impediment getting EV charging going in a building unless one believes that approval of a by-law by a mere 50% of those attending a meeting is an impediment. Is it really ?

    Looking at s108 it is clear that the section applies to Sustainability Infrastructure as much as to other changes to common property, it’s just the size  of majority required that is reduced to make it easier  – the legislators even put a note in there

    (1) Procedure for authorising changes to common property ……

    (2) Any such action may be taken by the owners corporation or owner only if a special resolution has first been passed by …….

    Note : If the special resolution is a sustainability infrastructure resolution fewer votes may be needed to pass it. See section 5(1)(b).

     

    John Hutchinson
    m: 0418 797470  e: john.hutchinson@strataanswers.com.au

    S T R A T A   A N S W E R S  PTY  LTD      practical solutions for strata living
    abn 11 600 590 083
    http://www.strataanswers.com.au

     

    #62672
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    You can’t bypass obstinacy and ignorance, but there is no  impediment getting EV charging going in a building unless one believes that approval of a by-law by a mere 50% of those attending a meeting is an impediment. Is it really ?

    I don’t think we disagree on this, except in the terminology.  Section 132B does not contain the word “by-law”.  It refers to Special Sustainability Resolutions.  And we are comparing ducks and apples if we set the same standards  for attaching a meter to a single power point as we do to the cabling of a building.

    If we are seriously expecting owners to pay for a lawyer to draw up a by-law (as many strata schemes demand) so that their tenant can plug their car into an electrical socket, then we are effectively deterring and excluding half the population of strata schemes from going electric (and many owner-residents too).

    All I’m arguing for is a graduated response and I strongly believe the law was intended to allow this to occur.  What is lacking in this is clear direction from government about what is permissible in real world terms.  But I agree there has to be a disciplined approach.  Every scheme that has had a request for EV charging should be required to at least decide on a plan for the future.

    My concern is that, as we’ve already seen, where the majority of owners in some schemes have no interest in EV charging, that quickly becomes a decision not to allow it for anyone.  And that has to be a retrograde step.

    #62679
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    So, now I am typing a longer comment in the hope that the computer will think this message has more useful content.

    Well, that seemed to work.  Haven’t come across that glitch before.  I guess the Flat Chat Guardians suspect.anything that’s too short might be just a list of keywords churned out by a bot

    #62749
    nixjet
    Flatchatter

    I’m on the Executive/Strata Committee of two properties I own, one in ACT and one in NSW. I find this issue intriguing.

    My view is that an Owners Corporation should not withhold reasonable permission for a lot owner to install and be responsible for installation of EV charging equipment where it is practicable and technically feasible to do so. This extends to metering as well.

    However, for the same reasons an Owners Corporation wouldn’t allow an owner to store 44 gallon drums of diesel or petrol on their lot because it is cheaper for them to buy fuel this way I don’t think an Owners Corporation shouldn’t be falling over themselves to facilitate or retrofit elaborate systems for faster charging simply because an owner wants it, especially in older blocks. It just may not be safe or appropriate to do so.

    In newer complexes this may be less of an issue especially if there is existing infrastructure to support a/c and induction appliances.

    Installing EV equipment on Common Property I see being fraught with issues as they will inevitably become defacto carparks for EV owners. Having appropriate bylaws or rules in place to manage access to Common Property EV chargers, and even timed billing for each use of them, should be part of the mix.

    Finally, part of the discussion needs to be that although EVs are cheaper to run, electricity is not free – at the end of the day we live in a user-pays society.

    #62752
    Gram
    Flatchatter

    I agree with Jimmy’s points regarding charging points for EV’s.

    However his analogy to owners subsidising pools/gyms when they don’t use it is IMHO invalid as those owners presumably bought into the complex when those facilities were already there, so they need to pay levies for the facilities as does everyone else.

    #62756
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    Here’s my plan.  Schemes should find out how many EVs could be charged at any given time using exisitng supplies and  meters.  When they reach their limit (on a first come, first served basis), they should have a plan in place for phase 2, which could be establishing the infrastrucure so that users pay for the supply to their own parking spaces, or the owners corp installs fast charging points on common property.

    There … sorted!

     

    #62762
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    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…

    While that is a noble sentiment, most people might know what they want but don’t know what they really need for charging. They tend to err on the side of caution and think they need much faster charging that most people really do. They also tend to focus on the time it would take to charge from fully discharged to 100% charged, which is rarely ever relevant.

    I have been driving electric cars since 2009. I still don’t have a dedicated wall charging unit and doubt that I would bother to get one for a long time. For most of that time since 2009, I have used an ordinary 10A three pin wall socket for charging. An ordinary wall socket can add almost 200km of range overnight, which is far more than most people drive most days.

    As car battery capacities get larger, the need for faster charging goes down, not up. If my car is only charged to 50%, I still have well over 200km of local driving range. In fact I limit charging to 80% except when about to do a longer trip out of town. I also rarely discharge below 40% around town. Operating in the 40-80% range is good for the battery and ample for local driving.

    The supply capacity of a building is a resource of the owners corporation that should be shared equitably among residents. Therefore, it is important to resist expectations that fast charging rates are needed and understand that slow trickle charging is ample where people live and park their cars for many hours at a time.

    Fast charging is for long trips out of town charging en route.

    #62865
    Strata Answers
    Flatchatter

    Jimmy T wrote

    Here’s my plan.  Schemes should find out how many EVs could be charged at any given time using exisitng supplies and  meters.  When they reach their limit (on a first come, first served basis), they should have a plan in place for phase 2, which could be establishing the infrastructure so that users pay for the supply to their own parking spaces, or the owners corp installs fast charging points on common property.

    I think few OC’s would have reason to stand in the way of  the uptake of EV’s in buildings, but an owners corporation should provide a framework  to ensure that when the day comes and spare capacity in the building does become an issue, then the necessary sharing  that has to take place is a sharing by all, including those early adopters who got in first.

    The way you do this is to have a by-law regime that covers all installations (including those of early adopters) and allows the OC to ensure that (1) whatever is  installed will be compatible with any load sharing that has to be done in the future and (2) if common property electricity is being used, then an enduring obligation to pay for it is created.

    This helps avoid storing up problems for future strata committees. It  does not mean that everyone has to go off and pay a lawyer.  There can be a standard by-law that gets Consented to whenever a new installation comes up for approval. Once set up it is not complicated.

    John Hutchinson
    m: 0418 797470  e: john.hutchinson@strataanswers.com.au

    S T R A T A   A N S W E R S  PTY  LTD      practical solutions for strata living
    abn 11 600 590 083
    http://www.strataanswers.com.au

     

    #62885
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    Our strata committee received a request to use a common property power socket to charge a battery for an electric bicycle… The occupier agreed to install an in-line meter for billing purposes and the strata committee was able to approve the minor works.

    I bet the cost of installing the meter was more than cost of the electricity that an electric bicycle would consume in a very long time. For such a low level of consumption, I suggest it would have been more reasonable to calculate the likely consumption over a year (A generous calculation might be 10 cents per day x 365), round it up and request a payment that would be certain to more than cover the expense, say $50 for the year.

     

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