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Board may need to decide ‘hybrid’ issue

February 11, 2011

Q: My husband and I live in a gated community that is governed by our condominium association. We have a parking space near the clubhouse designated for car washing and there is an electric outlet nearby that people use to vacuum their cars.

My neighbor has been parking his new hybrid automobile in the space next to this spot and recharging his car overnight using that outlet. If I ask, I know he'll say there is no rule against this because the outlet is in the common area for everyone's use. I'm not even sure I know what a hybrid is, never mind what our association's board thinks of this. It doesn't seem right.

A: A hybrid car is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources. The term most commonly refers to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) which combine an internal combination engine and one or more electric motors. I am sure we will see an increasing number of these.

Your question is a good example of why condominium governing documents must be kept abreast of the newer technologies. In recent years, we have seen updates for the use of the Internet, how we receive television and how our guests are screened and admitted to our communities. It looks like dealing with electric cars is the next new technology that boards should address.

You and your neighbors are apparently sharing the cost of one person's "fuel" as the common area outlet is used for recharging because in most condominiums, electricity provided in the common area is a common expense. In some older structures, all the electricity is "common" because units do not have individual meters.

According to Florida Statute, "common expenses include the expenses of the operation, maintenance, repair, replacement, or protection of the common elements and association property costs of carrying out the powers and duties of the association and any other expense, whether or not included in the foregoing, designated as common expense by this chapter, the declaration, the documents creating the association or the bylaws." I do not believe that the drafters of this legislation had the recharging of electric cars in mind.

There are several ways that the existing problem can be addressed, First, bring it to the attention of the appropriate person. This may be your property manager, a board member or someone else you believe to be in charge. The board will decide whether this situation can be addressed by amending the governing documents. They might choose to adopt an amendment to your declaration of condominium to prohibit the charging of electric vehicles on condominium property unless board approval is obtained. This would require a membership vote. They may decide that vehicles can be charged if the individual doing the charging has his or her own meter.

I'd suggest that they act quickly because these vehicles are going to become more popular, especially in today's economy. The board will want to discuss this with their attorney.

Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a Certified Specialist in Real Estate Law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St. in Cape Coral.

This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.



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