Should Associations Permit Gas Generators in Units?

Feb 14, 2014

In the wake of severe power outages that struck southeastern Pennsylvania after the great ice storm of 2014, CAI received the following information on a very timely topic - the use of gas generators in condominium units. 

Unit owners are asking about purchasing gas generators for their units. What information do you have to help boards make a wise decision regarding the use of these units in community associations? Can you provide information about the use of gas generators by unit above the first floor?


This has been a popular topic in recent years. In-fact, I addressed the issue in my association a of couple years ago. 

Essentially, the board cannot restrict an owner from taking reasonable measures to safeguard their property that comply with the association’s rules and regulations and local ordinances.

You can regulate permanent installations from an aesthetics perspective unless the installation is on a common area. This is a whole different topic.

In my association, we followed our landscaping guidelines for concealing satellite dishes and added the following guidance:

  • Must be installed on the side or rear of the house
  • Ambient noise levels must conform to Township Noise Ordinance
  • Concealed with landscaping as much as possible without obstructing required ventilation spaces for generator
  • Professionally installed with all applicable Township permits 

Portable generators are no different than a lawn mower or snow blower except they typically operate longer. Fire codes do not permit the use of a gasoline powered generator on a balcony – this is a significant fire hazard especially in a frame building. The association must prohibit this because of the fire and life safety risk to all units in the building. Fire codes also limit the amount of gasoline a resident may store to 10 gallons. Gasoline cannot be stored inside the living area, basement or on a balcony however they may store up to 10 gallons in their garage..

So I would recommend that you advise your associations to restrict portable generators to grade level and far enough away from openings to prevent CO Poisoning.

You also have the potential for CO Poisoning if exhaust fumes accumulate in the attic (above the balcony) and penetrate the living space.

Michael J. McLaughlin, CSP, ARM, CIRMS
AVP, Sr.  Loss Control Manager
Community Association Underwriters of America, Inc.



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