Malfunctioning elevators are a major source of frustration for the residents and tenants of high-rise properties, which can in turn cause serious headaches for their owners and managers.

This is particularly the case for tenants or occupants that are either elderly or disabled, and are only capable of accessing their places of residence with the assistance elevators.

The able-bodied are also bound to find elevator outages frustrating, given the additional time and effort incurred when climbing staircases, or the frequent need to convey shopping goods, groceries or luggage to their own premises.

Even the temporary breakdown of just a single elevator amongst a set of multiples can be a source of major vexation – particularly in a packed, high-rise residential building, as it can significantly narrow traffic volumes, increase the amount of time it takes for residents to reach their own doorways, and make for more cramped and uncomfortable rides.

Municipal governments in some parts of the world are considering the imposition of time restrictions on elevator repairs to deal with this issue in order to ensure that all residents and tenants enjoy full access to their own homes.

The Toronto City Council voted in June for a review of the feasibility of making a time limit for elevator maintenance and repairs a part of local property standards.

Toronto Centre-Rosedale councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said she was prompted to make the proposal after receiving multiple complaints from residents in her ward about the frequency and length of elevator outages in their buildings.

“Some buildings only have on elevator or two elevators, so if that one elevator is down, if you’re pushing a stroller, or you’re trying to push a walker, or you happen to rely on your wheelchair, I don’t know how you’re going to get home,” she said.

Wong-Tam is calling specifically for an enforceable bylaw that sets clear requirements for property owners and managers when it comes to elevator repairs in buildings – particularly those that serve as home to the vulnerable or disabled.

 According to the councillor, elevators should not be out of service for periods in excess of 48 hours, with allowances where replacement parts are difficult to source.

The recent Otis elevator strike in Melbourne indicates that the problem of antiquated, malfunctioning elevators is just as much an issue in Australia as it is up north.

While the strike ostensibly focused on insufficient wage hikes, unions discovered a raft of safety and technical problems with lift cars in the lead-up to the campaign that could seriously impede maintenance efforts or even imperil workers.

These included the absence of hand rails on the top of lift cars, and lift car roofs that lacked certification for weight.

Strata managers of aging buildings are advised to pay service providers for more than just repair and maintenance on only those occasions when malfunctions arise, in order to avoid problems with elevators from worsening or becoming ongoing issues.

They should request that qualified service providers assemble comprehensive risk and hazard assessments in line with the Australian Elevator Association guidelines, in order to obtain an outline of both the risks associated with the elevators and potential solutions that are available.

They should also request a comprehensive life cycle report on the full set of equipment and its condition, accompanied by a timeline and budget for potential replacement costs.

Given the importance of elevator equipment to high-rise residential properties, these two reports should be considered critical to the management of any strata scheme, as well as performed and updated on a regular basis to ensure sound functioning.