EV Charging for Renters and Rental Property Owners

May 2, 2023 2:59 PM
by Elias Platte-Bermeo

Sustainability and housing issues intersect in many ways. How our homes are built and where we live particularly impacts how we get around, and in recent years, a new topic in transportation has gained attention from both sustainability and housing advocates: electric vehicles (EVs).

EVs are gaining momentum across California, including here in Santa Monica. By 2035 all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in California will be zero emissions. This is a key component of meeting the state’s climate goals and our own climate goals here in Santa Monica. The City’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan includes goals to increase electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and expand the use of EVs across Santa Monica, and the City’s EV Action Plan lays out pathways to support this transition for all residents.

The price of gasoline has become particularly volatile in recent years, with prices reaching record highs in 2022. At the same time, investment and incentives for purchasing EVs and installing EV charging stations has expanded. Federal, state and local programs offer funding to switch to EVs, and the City’s Electrify Santa Monica rebate offers up to $1,500 to install an EV charging station at multi-family buildings and small businesses and up to $3,000 for income-qualified residents.

However, the transition to zero-emission electric vehicles can be challenging for renters in multi-family buildings. While residents of single-family homes can more easily install a home EV charger, tenants in apartment buildings often face barriers due to limited electrical capacity, installation costs, and landlord opposition. Apartment owners often express concerns regarding electricity costs and the liability associated with providing EV charging stations in renter-occupied buildings. Roughly 70% of Santa Monica residents are renters, so it will be important to facilitate their transition to electric vehicles and other forms of sustainable transportation.

California state law (Civil Code section 1947.6) requires landlords to approve tenant requests to install EV charging stations in their dedicated parking spaces so long as the tenant is willing to pay for the charging station and associated costs, including installation and utility costs. However, there are several exceptions to this law, including properties where:

  1. Landlords have installed EV charging stations in at least 10% of the designated parking spaces;
  2. Tenants are not provided parking in their lease agreement; 
  3. There are fewer than five parking spaces; and 
  4. The unit is covered by a local rent control ordinance and a local EV charging station ordinance that was adopted on or before January 1, 2018.

Previously, state law required tenants to obtain a $1 million insurance policy, which often prevented them from being able to take advantage of EV charging. Senate Bill 638 removed this insurance requirement, making it one step easier for renters to install charging stations at their homes.

Tenants in rent-controlled units with leases executed, extended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2019 are also subject to California’s EV charging station law and are able to install EV charging stations at their building, so long as they meet the other requirements of the law.

If a landlord refuses to comply with California’s EV charging law, Tenants may want to explore their legal rights and remedies under the law. The Santa Monica Bar Association provides a lawyer referral service for lawyers who practice in Santa Monica.

For more information and to see answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit the City’s EV Resources for Rental Properties web page.

Authored By

Elias Platte-Bermeo
Sustainability Analyst


Programs, Sustainability and the Environment