Determining Who Will Do Elevator Maintenance

June 21, 2018
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Q: The maintenance staff for the community I manage handles nearly every aspect of taking care of the property including landscaping, ensuring there’s tight security, and even cleaning the pool. Recently, one of the elevators has been working improperly. Should I allow staff members to work on such a technical piece of equipment?

A: No. Maintenance staff shouldn’t handle elevator issues. It’s smart for associations to have a continuing maintenance and repair contract with an elevator contractor. Elevator issues can turn deadly, so experts in that field are invaluable, and can help you avoid liability for you and your staff. But don’t let your staff do any work on your community’s elevators, except for routine cleaning and light bulb replacement.

At most, when your staff members learn of an elevator problem, they should shut it down and call the contractor immediately. If an elevator malfunctions because of something the contractor did or didn’t do, you’ll probably be protected by your standard elevator contractor’s indemnification clause. This clause lets you shift the financial responsibility for an accident to the elevator contractor, obligating it to defend you against any lawsuits resulting from the elevator malfunction and pay any court-ordered damages. But if your maintenance staff did any work on the elevator that malfunctioned, it might create doubt as to who caused the malfunction. And that could mean that you—and not the contractor—would have to pay damages to the victim.