Micromobility Devices: An Easy Way to Get Around Town, A Headache for Housing Providers

Posted By: Tiffany Van Buren Rental Housing Topics,

Micromobility refers to a range of small, lightweight personal vehicles - primarily bicycles, scooters, and skateboards - usually traveling at speeds no faster than 25 MPH that, when powered by electricity, are called micromobility devices. Super popular in college towns, e-bikes and e-scooters offer a relatively low-cost, environmentally friendly way of getting around. But there is a dark side to these seemingly innocuous methods of zipping hither and yon - lithium-ion batteries!

Lithium-ion batteries can be hazardous while charging. Fires may occur if a battery has:

  • Suffered impact damage.
  • Aged and deteriorated in quality.
  • A manufacturing flaw.
  • Been charged or stored in extreme temperatures.
  • Been overcharged.

Thermal runaway is another risk; when this occurs, high temperatures produce exothermic decomposition of the battery cell, causing the battery to rupture and a thermal explosion. Lithium-ion battery fires burn hot and emit toxic gasses. They can be unpredictable, spread quickly, and are not easily extinguished.

SB 712, which the governor signed into law last October, modified CA Civil Code 1940.1. As of January 1, 2024, it gives certain tenants the right to own, store, and charge “personal micromobility devices,” defined as powered by the physical exertion of the rider or an electric motor and designed to transport one individual or an adult accompanied by up to three minors, within their rental units. Each occupant can store a device.

There are conditions the device must meet:

  • For e-bikes, they must comply with the UL 2849 Standard for Electrical Systems, as recognized by the US CPSC, or EN 15194, the European Standard for electrically powered assisted cycles (EPAC Bicycles)
  • For e-scooters, UL 2272, the Standard for Electrical Systems for Personal Mobility Devices, as recognized by the US CPSC, or EN 17128, the European Standard for personal light vehicles (PLEV).

Furthermore, if the tenant's device does not meet the above certifications:

  • The device must be insured under an insurance policy covering only the storage (no charging) of the device within the tenant’s dwelling unit. 

Per this new law, an owner would be allowed to prohibit in-unit storage only if 1) the tenant failed to obtain proper insurance 2) the device did not meet UL or EN standards, or 3) the owner provided “secure, long-term storage,” which must meet all of the following conditions:

  • Access is limited to residents of the same housing complex.
  • It is located on the premises.
  • It is reasonably protected against precipitation.
  • It has a minimum of one standard electrical connection for each personal micromobility. device that will be stored and recharged in that location.
  • Tenants are not charged for its use.

What would a long-term storage solution look like? An uncovered bike rack doesn’t meet the “reasonably protected against precipitation” condition, even where there’s access to electricity. Preferably, you’d designate a section of a garage since they are more fire safe in general, but a bike room is a reasonable alternative. If the room you choose is already wired with electricity, it can be fortified with an extra layer of sheetrock to make the walls one-hour fire retardant. Install a smoke alarm (or a heat detector if there are laundry machines in the space). Adjust the number of electrical outlets to ensure there are enough outlets for each tenant to have a dedicated plug. If you don’t provide sufficient outlets, your tenants will resort to unsafe charging methods, such as extension cords and power strips. While you’ll have to absorb the cost of electricity, you won’t have to worry about explosions and fires inside your rental units, and the danger is real. Here are some recent news headlines: Electric Bikes Start Record Number of Fires in NY; E-Bike Battery Fires: A Deadly Problem; Despite Condo & Co-Op Rules, Deadly E-Bike Fires Rise. Scary.

If you cannot provide a storage alternative, provide education. Use our Micromobility Device Addendum and accompanying E-bike and E-Scooter Safety Sheet. These are the minimum safety guidelines all lithium-ion charging consumers should be aware of:

  • Use only a charger manufactured for your device or equipment.
  • NO POWER STRIPS OR EXTENSION CORDS - always plug your charger directly into a wall outlet.
  • Do not leave batteries unattended while charging, and do not charge overnight.
  • Do not charge near heat sources.
  • Do not charge near anything flammable.
  • Do not charge batteries near exit ways.
  • Never charge a damaged battery.
  • Do not keep charging the battery once it is fully charged.

If you have questions about how to use the Micromobility Addendum, don’t hesitate to contact staff at BPOA@BPOA.org.