Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve made a point to cover stories of public charging station providers who ask electric car owners to pay a massive markup on the cost of electricity when they plug-in in public. And while many electric car owners baulk at the prospect of paying many times more to charge their electric car in public than they would at home, the arguments made by charging providers — who say they need to charge extra to cover overheads, equipment, maintenance and staff costs — can be justified, at least in a business case.
But one Chevrolet Volt owner in Waterford, Detroit is in a battle with her local Homeowners Association after they demanded she pay a $200 electricity bill which the HOA says she has racked up after charging her Chevrolet Volt every night in her own garage, a mark up of 300 percent on the actual cost of the electricity she claims the local utility company billed the HOA. When she refused to pay the bill, the HOA cut off her power.
Enter Natalie Forte, a resident a condo owner on Elizabeth Lake Road in Waterford, Detroit. Keen to do her bit for the environment — and Detroit’s automotive industry — Forte purchased a Chevrolet Volt back in June, which she notified the Homeowners Association attached to her property she would be charging up every night in the detached garage included in the deeds to her home. Because the garage isn’t physically connected to her condo, the power supply to Forte’s garage is shared among all the other garages in the development and paid for jointly by the HOA from the monthly HOA fees charged to each and every resident.
As local news station WXYZ details, Forte has always been willing to pay any excess electricity charges to the HOA caused by her charging up her Volt every night from the 110-volt outlet in her garage. So far, those costs are estimated to be less than $50 at current electricity prices. But when the HOA told her that the costs associated with charging her car were too much — and presented her with a bill for $200 and demanded she pay it — Forte was shocked.
“I love my car,” she told WXYZ. “And I’m a Detroiter.”
Forte says she’s “happy to pay for the electricity I’ve used,” and has even written a cheque for $50 payable to the HOA to cover the electricity she’s used in the last five months, an amount that she says is in line with the bill given to the HOA by the local utility company for her garage. But with the cheque uncashed and the HOA refusing to accept less than the $200 it says she owes, Forte discovered last week that the HOA has cut off the electricity to her garage.
“[It’s] gouging. Definitely gouging,” she told local reporters. “Up to four times as much money. I feel harassed.”
With no power in her garage and her cheque still to be cashed, Forte — an investigator for a local law firm — says she has no other option to charge her Volt but run a 100 foot extension cord every night from her condo, a cable run which includes draping the cable down a flight of stairs and across paths.
After hanging up on local reporters twice, the president of Forte’s HOA refused to comment on the bill it has tried to levy against Forte. Instead, he would only confirm that the HOA voted 4:1 to cut power to her garage, a vote which was actioned last week. But with Forte’s case now getting local — and international coverage — we suspect this won’t be the end of her battle.
Are you a condo owner? Do you pay homeowners fees? Have you been asked to unplug and massive markups on the electricity you’ve used?
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