One of our most requested set of works for licences to alter at the moment is to permit electric vehicles to be charged at the workplace. So what are the relevant factors for tenants and their advisors to consider?
Considerations when installing charging points into existing buildings
New buildings and existing buildings which are undergoing major renovation work are required, through Part S of the Building Regulations 2010, to include a certain proportion of electric vehicle charging points in any parking spaces, and to allow for cable routes to other spaces. However the demand for EV charging is not restricted to new buildings – this article looks at relevant factors for retrofitting existing buildings.
The first point is a technical one: is there enough power in the electricity grid for the proposed works? Three west London boroughs are reported to be refusing applications for large scale housing development at the moment because of lack of power supply. If there is power capacity, it should be “booked” with the relevant provider as soon as possible, though be aware that deposits may not be refundable if other necessary consents cannot be obtained or the works do not proceed for any reason. As a rule of thumb, the faster the desired charge time, the greater the power needed.
Second, not all vehicles are cars. Electric bikes are quietly enjoying a surge in popularity, extending the cycling demographic beyond the stereotypical middle-aged man in Lycra. Is this a viable commuting option for staff working at the relevant building?
Having considered technical practicalities and employee demand, legal questions arise next. If the works are being carried out by a tenant with a lease of the whole building, the tenant may find that the lease does not contain all the rights required. Typically, a lease will forbid external works, so unless the car park is all underground, the landlord may be within their rights to be unreasonable. EV charging points undoubtedly help to future-proof the building, but what impact will they have on the building’s energy performance certificate? The tenant might have a more compelling business case if the building is within an environmental rating system such as BREEAM or NABERS: in these cases EV charge points might reinforce or even advance the property’s classification.
Tenants of part of a building face more challenges. The car park would normally be outside the tenant’s demise. Furthermore, leases often forbid changes to mechanical and electrical installations. The obligation not to unreasonably withhold or delay consent only kicks in where the application relates to works in the premises (as defined) and the alterations are of the type permitted by the lease. This means that in many cases the landlord has complete discretion whether or not to permit the installation of EV charging points– though works of this nature might suggest the tenant is committed to remaining in the building for some time to come. In addition, where the car park is shared with other occupiers, how will the tenant ensure that only its staff are able to use the charging points?
Licences to alter tend to require reinstatement of works at the end of the term, unless the landlord otherwise elects. But do the charge points belong to the tenant, or are they owned by a third-party supplier? Does the contract with the third-party supplier last for the same period as the unexpired lease term? The tenant might need the right to reinstate the works well before the end of the lease term if the third party supplier changes.
Companies face challenges luring staff back to the workplace on a regular basis. Providing EV charge points may be part of the solution but there are a number of factors to consider first.
- Lease terms requiring reasonable consent may not apply outside the office space.
- Lack of power capacity in the national grid can be a problem.