All you need to know about lift usage, rules governing elevators in Mumbai's housing societies

The deceptively inoccuous lift or elevator, used to transport residents to different floors in a housing society, often becomes a bone of contention between resident and managing committee members. From how it must be used, to who must use it, residents refuse to see eye to eye when it comes to matters of gravity (pun intended). Housing expert and lawyer, advocate Ameet Mehta, defines what we call elevator etiquette and clears the air about lift usage and rules governing elevators.

No rift lift: Ameet Mehta’s expertise    

Though it does lead to friction at times, Mehta says, “The elevator is one such place that even if you don’t like a person, or have had altercations with that person, you have to be with that person for few minutes. It is a place where you can even chat for few minutes with friends whom you do not meet often and greet everyone with a warm handshake, since there is hardly any interaction between society members in their busy lives.”

Illustration/Amit Bandre

An Interview:
Is there any rule stating the number of elevators/lifts a housing society must have? For eg. A particular number of flats in a building should have a specific number of lifts...

New age mobility: A building in Lokhandwala Complex, which has private elevators opening into the living rooms of flats

The lift in residential, commercial and industrial buildings needs to be installed as per the requirements laid down in the Development Control Regulation rules prevailing at the time of execution of a project. The composition and need of the number of elevators shall depend on the number of flats and number of floors in a building. The composition would also vary depending on commercial or residential premises.

Section 4 of the Bombay Lifts Act 1939 states that:

Every owner of a place intending to install a lift in such a place after the lift commencement of this Act, shall make an application to “such officer as the State Government may authorise in this behalf for permission 'to erect such lift. Such application shall be in writing and in such form as may be prescribed.”
Such application shall specify:

a) the type of lift,
b) the rated maximum speed of the lift,
c) the maker’s or designer’s rated capacity in weight,'
d) the maximum minimum number of passengers in addition to the lift operator which shall state:
e) the total weight of the lift car carrying the maximum load,
f) the weight of the counterweight, the number, description, weight and size of the supporting cable,
g) the depth of the pit from the lowest part of the [car] when at the lowest floor,
h) Such details of the construction of the overhead arrangement with the weight and sizes of the beams as may be prescribed, and,
i) such other particulars as may be prescribed.
The Lift Inspections, No Objection Certificate is granted by Inspector of Lifts, Public Works Department.

Many older buildings in the city do not have lifts. Prices for flats in such buildings may be a little lesser than the going rate. Does it make sense to buy in such buildings?
All purchasers of flats shall always prefer buildings which have all facilities including lifts. The prices of such buildings shall be much more than of buildings without lifts. The trend in redevelopment of old buildings or Societies is to have new, redeveloped buildings with lifts. Since many senior citizens require lifts, redevelopers go for lifts in their buildings, though the maintenance is higher.

Some housing societies have rules like: one cannot bring a pet into a lift. Others disallow luggage and furniture in lifts. In some cases, there are notices stating that servants cannot use lifts. Are managing committees allowed to make rules with reference to lift use?
The Managing Committee is an elected representative of the Society to act in favour and to make decisions on behalf of Society. By passing a Resolution in the General body, the Society decides various acts to perform / to be performed by the Society. Many Society’s make rules that, “one cannot bring pets into lifts” since it may make a lift unhygienic or can cause hurt to a co-passenger. The Managing Committee has to think about the safety of members. In many Societies, there is more than one lift, wherein the first lift is used for the Society members and their guests and the other one is used as a service lift where pets, materials etc. are allowed to travel. Servants are also allowed in the service elevator. However there are no provisions related to pets in bye-laws. Whatever the General Body decides is final and binding on members as long as it does not ‘ultra vire’ the laws of the land.

There has been a judgement that has set a precedent for housing societies on how to treat pets. “The Central Mumbai Consumer Redressal Forum had rapped a Mahim Society for charging one of its members Rs 500 for each of his two dogs using the elevator. Noting that pets are members of a modern, urban family unit, the forum ruled there is no reason why pets can’t use elevators when outsiders, including service providers such as milkmen and vendors, have access to the facility without any charges. The bench of Nalin Majithia and Bhavna Pisaal observed, “We don't find the Society’s view correct of restricting dogs to move up and down via staircase and be cruel to them. The charges to be paid by complainant i.e. charge them an extra Rs 500 towards each dog is illegal, and is an instance of unfair trade practice. In Indian culture, dogs are common pets and usually treated as lovingly as other members of the family.”

One hears of lift-related accidents at times, from a lift crashing to the floor because of a cable snap, or doors closing on people. This can be an extremely tricky situation. Who is responsible for this? Can the chairman/committee be held liable/responsible -- or is it the lift company?
As far as accidents are concerned, the Managing Committee shall be responsible if lift servicing is not carried out at frequent intervals. Section 11 states that an officer who is authorized by the State Government shall inspect every lift at least once in six months. An annual fee at such rate as may be prescribed, shall be charged for such inspection and such fee shall include the charges for the inspection of the motors.
Observing the condition of lifts in view of safety is mandatory to;

a) The lift should be maintained by the approved lift erection company and maintained by the approved lift erection and maintenance agency.
b) Inspector of the lift should visit the lift twice in a year.
c) Inspector of the lift should give notice in writing to the owner/ Society of the lift in FORM ‘D’ as per the provision laid down in section 8 of Bombay Lift Act 1939.
d) If, on such inspection it is found the said lift is in an unsafe condition, he should serve an order to the owner of the lift, requiring such repairs to the lift within a specific time under section 8(2) in FORM ‘E’.
e) Where any accident occurs in the operation of the lift which may result in injury to a person, the owner of the lift should give a notice to with full details to inspector of lifts in FORM ‘F’, which is MANDATORY UNDER SECTION 9 of Bombay Lift Act 1939.

In certain housing societies, lifts are unavailable for the first, second floors and available for higher floors only...
The Society’s Managing Committee usually takes this decision, after passing a Resolution in the General Body. If the members of the first and second floors are paying the same maintenance as other floors, then such a resolution shall be considered as illegal as all members are paying equally for maintenance.

The management may want to upgrade lifts -- is the consent of members needed?
Yes, permission is needed of Society Members for the up-gradation of elevators. As per the Elevators Act and rules, permission for installation of lift or for making addition or alteration to lift installed states that;

a) Every Society/Owner of a place intending (i) to install a lift in such a place (ii) to make additions and alteration to a lift installed at such a place is required to apply in form ‘A’ to the inspector of lifts before any work in connection with the installation of the lift or addition or alteration is started. Any such addition or alteration should be accompanied with two sets of plans of the installation.
b) In receipt of an application, the inspector of lift inquires and forwards it with his remark to the public work department who may thereupon either grant or refuse the permission applied for. The total duration from stage of application till disposal of file including remarks, if any by inspector for installing/ altering and compliance of remarks is approx. 10 weeks in total.

Today, towers and complexes have multiple lifts -- maybe eight or 10 of them, some of them very state of the art. Is maintenance a challenge and does it contribute to high costs?
Yes. The maintenance of multiple lifts in towers and complexes does entail high costs. Buildings going under redevelopment should be cautious and should keep this in mind, that, adding amenities is only going to increase their maintenance in future. Hence, whether new buildings or redeveloped buildings, the cost of elevators is considered a major cost, both, capital and maintenance.

Are there any rules that state that lifts must not be too old or they must have fire extinguishers/alarms inside or anything like that?
The DCR RULES provide details and specification depending on the type and traffic expected within the building. Issues such as Minimum Car Area, Car Speed, Firemen Toggle switch at the entry of the lift on the ground floor, Air Vent, Car Capacity of the fire lift, Standby supply arrangement i.e. Generator etc. are considered in the rules.

Sometimes, when housing society members are renovating their homes, workers are often carrying material in buildings lifts. Are there any rules with reference to this?
No, there are no such rules in the bye laws. The only rule in bye law is under section 168 is one which states that, “The committee shall regulate the operation of lifts, taking into consideration the convenience of the majority of the members of the

People often do not use but abuse the facility. They overcrowd lifts (when weight allowed is clearly stated) leave fans on, dirty the lift itself, scrawl graffiti on lift walls and damage it. What are the rules governing this?
The Managing Committee should pass resolutions in the General Body to such effect that it becomes a deterrent to members committing breaches. Rules should be followed and if possible a security personnel be deployed in elevators, if affordable. This may reduce issues of friction between Managing Committee and erring members. Many Societies can also install CCTV cameras to get information and obtain footage to eliminate nuisance in lifts. 

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