When faced with such demand, commercial landlords and their tenants should be looking at the role they will play in the electric car evolution.
A suitable location for an EVCP is somewhere with ample parking spaces, where large numbers of vehicles are routinely parked and left for sufficient time to allow them to be charged, causing as little inconvenience to their owners as possible.
Industrial estates and retails parks are ideal as they usually comprise multiple units, each subject to individual lets, with common areas such as car parks being used by all of the tenants. The landlord will look after these common areas, passing the associated costs on to the tenants as a service charge that is payable under their leases.
Commercial landlords and tenants can therefore play a significant role in helping the UK meet demand for EVCPs. In the short term there is an opportunity for early adopters to increase footfall and, in the long term, customers will likely come to expect ample provision of EVCPs.
There are, however, potential challenges to be considered.
Before installing EVCPs, landlords must first ensure that they have the necessary access rights to do so. This may require the cooperation of neighbouring landowners as well as tenants, depending on the nature of the interference and the extent of the rights reserved to the landlord under the lease. Title deeds will have to be checked to confirm there are no title restrictions that might prevent installation. While the necessary rights are potentially capable of being purchased, and title restrictions can usually be varied or discharged, time and expense may be incurred addressing these issues.
Then there is the installation costs. Although subsidies may help to reduce these, they will not cancel them out entirely. The terms of leases will need to be considered – but most landlords are unlikely to be able to pass initial installation costs to their tenants.
As with anything installed on the common parts of an industrial estate or retail park, EVCPs will need to be maintained and serviced. There will almost certainly be costs associated with upgrades as the technology develops. Landlords may reasonably expect that these can be passed to their tenants (given that it is the latter who primarily benefit from the availability of EVCPs). Again, whether costs can be passed on will depend on the terms of leases, and landlords should not assume that they will, in every case, be able to recover these from their tenants.
Controlling access to EVCPs is another factor to consider. Landlords often agree to provide a certain number of parking spaces for an individual tenant (usually for their customers) and will need to think about how this issue is addressed. This is particularly the case for multi-tenanted car parks, where there is more likelihood of disputes arising between tenants, about who benefits more from the EVCPs.
There is then the question of public access. The ready availability of charging points for all electric vehicle users ought to be encouraged, but a balance must be struck. When tenants are likely to be expected to pay for the electricity to power EVCPs, determining who is liable to pay what becomes a more complicated question. Landlords may look to recoup some of their costs from a paying public, potentially further complicating the tenants' liabilities.
While commercial landlords and their tenants have an opportunity to lead the way on EVCPs, the terms of leases and titles should be checked before any installations happen. If these are carefully considered at the outset, the roll-out of the electric car evolution should enjoy a smoother ride.
Gareth Hale is a partner and David Ford is a senior solicitor in litigation at Brodies LLP.