Tenants in apartment blocks routinely rely on the lift to get in and out of their homes, especially if they are older or use a wheelchair. If the lift breaks down, your tenants face inconvenience, and you could face an expensive repair bill, so it's important to keep up a regular maintenance schedule. However, there are also certain signs you should act on immediately, as they can suggest you may soon have a serious problem with your lift. Here are three of them.

Stopping mid-level

The lift car should stay completely level with every floor in the building when it comes to a halt. If people in the car had to climb in and out of the lift at any floor, you'd know something was wrong, but you shouldn't overlook any mismatch, even if it seems relatively minor.

This problem indicates that you may have a problem with the brakes or cables. Over time, these parts can accumulate dust or oil, and the cables may start to wear. When this happens, the brakes cannot squeeze as tightly and robustly as they should, which means the car will often not come to a stop in exactly the right position.

In this instance, an engineer may need to clean, tighten or replace the brakes or cables, but this is likely to cause far less disruption than a broken cable or failed brake system. You may also have a problem with the sensors on certain floors that an engineer can normally easily fix without major disruption.

Sounds coming from the lift shaft

A well-maintained lift shouldn't normally make too many noises. Older equipment is often a bit noisier, but you should never ignore unusual sounds from the main lift shaft. Listen for grinding, squeaking or banging noises that may point to a potential problem.

These sounds are often another early warning sign that you have a problem with the brakes and cables. Squeaking sounds may suggest that cables are sliding through the brakes because the brakes cannot grip the cables properly. A grinding sound may occur when the brakes grip the cables too tightly, which, over time, can cause the cables to wear and fray.

Lift cables rarely snap. In fact, records show only one recorded incident where a lift car free fell into the shaft. This occurred in 1945 in New York's Empire State Building, when an aircraft sliced through the cables of two lifts. That aside, while this type of accident is extremely rare, you shouldn't ignore unusual noises. Lifts can easily break down, which isn't a good experience for anybody trapped inside.

Performance complaints

Your tenants can often spot a growing problem because they use the lift every day. As parts start to wear or develop faults, problems may occur with the lift. Common performance problems include:

  • Slow floor-to-floor time
  • Time taken for the lift doors to close on one floor and open fully on the next
  • Start time (the time it takes the car to start moving when the door closes)
  • Door open time (the time it takes the doors to fully open)

Lift engineers will often check these measurements as part of their routine visits, but it's important to regularly spot check the lift performance, so you can look for early signs of more serious issues. For example, slow floor-to-floor times and long wait times can indicate that there is an issue with the lift's control system.

Complaints from tenants are a useful way to get early sight of possible problems. Put signs up in your lift(s) that encourage people to report problems to you directly, so you can act promptly.

The lift in an apartment building is a lifeline for your tenants, so you must make sure the system runs efficiently. Talk to a building maintenance company, such as Austral Property Maintenance Pty Ltd, for more information and advice about how to keep your lifts running.