By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk
The Florida Legislature has a history of volunteering (i.e., forcing) condominium associations to join the Green Movement. A couple of years ago, lawmakers were focused on electric vehicles. This year it was natural gas vehicles. As a result, unit owners now have the right to install not just electric vehicle charging stations, but natural gas fuel stations as well. This right, however, is not absolute. The new law contains various conditions and requirements that must be observed when installing a natural gas fuel station.
The new provisions governing the installation of natural gas fuel stations were added to the previously enacted statute governing the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Consequently, the conditions and requirements that must be observed are nearly identical for both types of installations. Let’s take a closer look.
As of July 1, 2021, unit owners have an implied easement across the common elements to install natural gas fuel stations for their vehicles within the boundaries of their limited common element or exclusively designated parking area. The association board may not prohibit any such installation regardless of any restrictive covenant or provision to the contrary in the declaration of condominium, as long as:
- the installation does not cause irreparable damage to condominium property;
- the electricity powering the natural gas fuel station is metered separately (or by an embedded meter) and is paid for by the unit owner or their successor;
- the cost to supply and store natural gas fuel is paid by the unit owner or their successor;
- the unit owner pays the costs of installation, operation, maintenance and repair; and
- the unit owner maintains and pays for hazard and liability insurance to cover the charging station.
The unit owner is also responsible for complying with all federal, state or local laws and regulations applicable to the installation, maintenance or removal of a natural gas fuel station. Moreover, associations can also require unit owners to:
- comply with bona fide safety requirements and applicable building codes;
- comply with reasonable architectural standards adopted by the association (dimensions, placement, external appearance);
- hire licensed, registered and experienced firms;
- provide a certificate of insurance naming the association as an additional insured on the owner’s insurance policy for any claim related to the installation, maintenance or use of the natural gas fuel station within 14 days; and
- reimburse the association for the actual cost of any increased insurance premium amount attributable to the natural gas fuel station within 14 days.
To ensure compliance under the amended statute, condominium associations should consult with licensed professionals prior to taking any action involving natural gas fuel stations. Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk is available to discuss ways to identify, manage and insure the new risks created by the installation, maintenance and use of natural gas fuel stations. Contact us to discuss the benefits of our Condominium Insurance Program.