Garages in single-family homes are relatively easy to wire for electric-car charging; shared garages in multifamily residences often aren't.

Therein lies much frustration, not only for plug-in car drivers but also their landlords.

The latest episode hit the airwaves last Wednesday, when KGO-TV in San Francisco aired a clip about Richard Wiesner, whose landlord was forbidding him to plug his Chevrolet Volt into a 110-Volt outlet in the multi-car garage underneath his high-rise apartment building.

Wiesner wasn't asking Trinity Management for any alterations; he just wanted to use the plug 3 feet from the end of his assigned parking space.

He offered to pay for all power he used, which in the case of the Volt would have been at most 12 kilowatt-hours per day--or less than $2 at California's average electricity rate of 14.4 cents/kWh.

The landlord e-mailed Wiesner a note saying, "Trinity Management Services does not approve such requests."

Frustrated, Wiesner contacted both the ABC station's "7 On Your Side" and the San Francisco Tenants Union for help. The building owner, management company, and building manager all declined to speak to the media.

Wiesner's challenges are eerily reminiscent of Ottawa Volt owner Mike Nemat's situation in January, when his landlord refused to allow him to plug in his car in the parking structure attached to his condo.

These kinds of confrontations are likely to spread as plug-in car sales rise. But here are the challenges:

  • Standard 110-Volt plugs in garages may be of widely varying qualities and not sufficiently robust for the power draw of continuous plug-in car charging;
  • In California and elsewhere, landlords must install a sub-meter if they are legally to charge tenants for electricity used--which costs money;
  • If one tenant is allowed to charge a plug-in car, that same privilege may have to be extended to all tenants;
  • Depending on the building's rate plan, additional use could kick it into a higher-cost rate bracket; and
  • Landlords do not provide fuel for gasoline vehicles, so why should they provide it for electric cars?

At the moment, it appears that Wiesner in San Francisco and Hemat in Ottawa are out of luck--as others in multiple dwellings may be as well.

What do you think? Are landlords within their rights to ban electric-car charging in their garages? Should tenants have unlimited rights to plug into any power outlet in their buildings' garages?

Or can there be a happy compromise somewhere in the middle?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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