Johannesburg - Resources such as electricity are in higher demand than ever over the festive period and South Africans have come to expect outages. But what does this mean for the thousands of people living in sectionalised blocks of high-rise flats?
David Schaefer, director of the Trafalgar Property Management Group, warns that the consequences may be dire unless a body corporate has adequately catered for the possibility of lift failure.
Lifts are very expensive electronic installations, which must be constantly maintained in order to function efficiently, even if electricity supply is not an issue, says Schaefer.
“The question often raised by sectional title owners is whether they have any recourse in the event of lift failure be it for maintenance or due to electricity outages,” he says.
An elderly person on the 22nd floor of a building may be stranded for days in the event of lift failure. This becomes even more serious in the event of a heart attack or other medical emergency where medics will have great difficulty in transporting a person in need of critical care, with no lift.
“Every building should have a lift maintenance plan in place, including contracts with established companies and a special reserve to cater for this expense. Anyone moving into a block with lifts should ensure this is in place before considering signing any offers to purchase.”
The installation of generators in blocks over 10 storeys high is another important precaution given the state of electricity supply in the country.
“Sectional title owners need to ensure that the necessary provisions are made, as trying to make a plan or take the body corporate to task after the fact is very difficult although not impossible.”
Schaefer highlights a landmark case involving lifts where the court filed in favour of an occupant in the late 1980s. The case involved an elderly lady living in a building in Johannesburg who stepped into the building’s lift. Due to the lift floor not being level with the landing, she tripped and in the process injured herself fairly badly.
To cover her substantial medical expenses she issued a summons against the body corporate claiming damages as a result of their failure to ensure that the lift was properly managed and did not stop flush with the floor of the building.
The body corporate paid dearly for this mistake.
One of the results of this case was the appearance of large signs both inside and outside buildings warning of the possible dangers of lift usage, and indemnifying the body corporate against injury or loss.
“Lifts are an important issue as there are virtually no buildings higher than three storeys that don’t have one,” says Schaefer. “New and existing owners must do their home-work and ensure that this matter is in hand, before resting easy in a unit on the upper levels of any building.”