Your Guide to EV Charging at a Rental Property

What apartment dwellers and other renters should know before bringing home an electric car.

Red Chevrolet Bolt EV being plugged in to chargeChevrolet

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So, you want to take the EV plunge, but don’t own your home. Or perhaps you already have an electric vehicle and are looking for a place to rent. Maybe an electric car driving friend is coming to visit. Sooner or later (likely sooner), you’re going to need somewhere to charge. The good news is you may have some options. The less-good news is you have little to no control over what those options are. Below are some guidelines for charging while renting.

Safety First

Let’s be clear: A household extension cord strung out the window from your apartment balcony to the parking lot is not going to cut it. Level 1 charge cables—the kind you can plug into a normal 120V electrical outlet—pull a lot of current, and current creates heat. Most charge cables have built-in safety protection that senses overheating or too much current draw, but these mechanisms don’t work when there’s an extension cord between the device and the outlet. Even if it would work, hanging cords in multi-tenant housing is likely a safety concern and could be a violation of lease agreement terms. If your equipment won’t reach from outlet to car, look into J1772 extension cables, which safely add length between the charge cable and the vehicle.

Any outdoor outlet you use should be well shielded from the elements, either by an overhang or a plug cover built into the outlet or electrical box. You needn’t worry about the J1772 connector interface at the car, as those components and their connections are designed to keep water out.

Ask and Ye Might Receive

If your current or future rental doesn’t offer public charging options, it never hurts to ask for them to be added. This could mean the landlord of a single-family home footing all or part of the bill for the electrical infrastructure, while you buy and plug in a Level 2 charging unit (which you can take with you when you move). Or you could request public charging stations at an apartment building or condo development. ChargePoint even has a form letter you can share with others in your complex to put pressure on the landlord to add equipment.

Otherwise, you’ll need to inquire with the property managers or consult your lease agreement, about where and whether it’s ok to plug in charging equipment. They may look at you funny, flat out say “no,” or be willing to work with you to find a solution. It’s best to have these conversations before signing the property lease and purchasing the electric car.

How to Share Charging Access and Avoid Premature Unplugging

If you’re using a shared charging station, it pays to be a good neighbor and unplug when your charge is complete. You may see others leave their car’s charge door open to signal that they’re waiting for some juice; the polite thing is to transfer the cable to one such vehicle when you’re done.

Most EVs lock the charge cable to the car when the doors lock. There’s little you can do to guard the outlet end of a charging unit, however. If possible, pick a spot in a corner of the lot or parking garage away from others where you can plug in with minimal risk of disruption.

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David Gluckman
David Gluckman has over a decade of experience as a writer and editor for print and digital automotive publications. He can parallel park a school bus, has a spreadsheet listing every vehicle he’s ever tested, and once drove a Lincoln Town Car 63 mph in reverse. When David’s not searching for the perfect used car, you can find him sampling the latest gimmicky foodstuffs that America has to offer.