We want to install a lift in the building, what do we need to know?

In Spain, two out of three people live in flats. Only in South Korea is the percentage of people living in buildings and other collective dwellings higher than here. Therefore, it is not surprising that ours is the country with more elevators per inhabitant in the world: 19.8 per thousand people, according to a study a few years ago.

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However, despite this figure, there is still a need for many more lifts. Many people still have problems getting out of their homes due to the lack of this service, especially the elderly and people with reduced mobility. It is estimated that, because of this, some 100,000 people never leave their homes.

Of course, although a lift in the building is very useful or essential for the elderly or people with disabilities, in general it is very useful for everyone. And it also increases the value of the property, as it increases the market value of the homes.

All buildings built in recent times have lifts, but until 25 or 30 years ago most of them did not include them in their original planning. That is why in so many communities of neighbors (and even in some people who live in private homes) there is concern about installing it. What do you need to know? Here are some keys.

Where to put the elevator?

The first thing to determine is the place where the lift could be installed. There are several possibilities. The most appropriate, whenever possible, is the stairwell: it is usually easier (and therefore cheaper) to place it there.

If the stairwell is not big enough, the stairs could be renovated to fit the lift, provided that – for example – the lift is installed in the stairwell. of course – the stairs maintain the minimum measurements established by the regulations.

Another alternative is to put it in the courtyard, a space that almost all old buildings have (i.e., those that generally lack elevator). It could occupy all or part of that courtyard.

This option can present some complications, such as the fact that those who live on the ground floor often have the right to use the courtyard. This may lead them to oppose such a decision. And, in the event that the elevator is installed on that site, it may be necessary to amend the deeds of those ground floors and even compensate their owners.

A third possibility is to install the elevator in an external part of the building, on the façade or even at the back. Of course, for this to be possible there must be sufficient space and the lift must not “invade” the pavement or hinder pedestrian traffic.

The advantage of installing the lift outside is that there are fewer architectural barriers, and therefore costs are reduced. The downside – apart from the fact that in many cases it is impossible due to the characteristics of the building – is that municipal permits are often subject to longer delays.

There is a fourth possibility: the one that the neighbors give a fragment of their houses so that the elevator goes through there. It is usually the least convenient option, due to the loss of living space and also because of the many works involved, which make it more expensive than the other alternatives.

Economic cost of installing an elevator

The other vital factor, apart from the site and the material possibilities of installing the lift, is the price. Estimates indicate that, on average, installing a lift costs between 70,000 and 80,000 euros.

But this, of course, depends on many factors: the number of floors in the building, the type of lift chosen, the architectural reforms that may be necessary, the possible compensation for some neighbours, the type of materials and finishes for the works, etc.

Because of this, the installation of an elevator in some cases can cost around 40,000 euros and in others can exceed 120,000 euros. In any case, each residents’ association that wishes to carry out this reform in its building will have to ask for quotes from specialized companies in search of the one they consider most convenient.

However, it is often difficult to reach an agreement between neighbours to make this decision. Many times the neighbors of the ground floor and also of the first floor are opposed, since it is an important investment of money for a service that they will use very little.

In numerous cases, in addition, the ground floors are occupied by flats (or commercial premises) that occupy larger surfaces than other flats on the upper floors. As they have a higher participation quota, the legislation also establishes that they should pay more for the installation of the lift.

From the website of Plan Reforma, a network of construction professionals, they propose a possible solution for cases where it is difficult to reach an agreement: not only take into account the participation quota but also a coefficient linked to the height at which each floor is located.

In other words, the owners of the higher floors (who will benefit the most from the elevator) should pay more than those on lower floors. In this way, it is assumed that the distribution of costs would be fairer. This does not mean, of course, that the agreement is guaranteed. But it can be a bargaining tool.

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that, in addition to the cost of installation, the elevator also generates some fixed costs: the maintenance contract (between 1,500 and 2,000 euros per year), the emergency telephone line (about 500 euros per year) and electricity, more than 1,000 euros per year and, as we know, constantly increasing.

What is needed to approve the installation of the lift?

The requirement for the lift installation to be approved is that the proposal obtains “the favourable vote of the majority of the owners, who, in turn, represent the majority of the participation quotas”. This is established in article 17.2 of Law 49/1960, of 21 July, known as the Horizontal Property Law.

When in this case the law speaks of “majority”, it means half plus one of the neighbours, which in turn represent more than half of the participation quotas.

The legislation also contemplates a particular situation in which the installation of an elevator becomes mandatory: when the person requesting it is a homeowner over 70 years of age or with a disability, or when a person with any of these characteristics lives, works or performs community service in his or her home.

In that case, the work must be carried out even if that neighbor is the only one who wants it and the rest of the community is opposed, “provided that the amount charged annually” (i.e., the cost involved for each owner) “does not exceed twelve ordinary monthly payments of common expenses.

This is specified in article 10.1 of the above-mentioned Horizontal Property Law. If this last requirement is not met – that is to say, if the total cost of the work means that the amount charged is greater than twelve ordinary monthly payments – the owner requesting the work can assume the cost of the difference.

For example, if the installation of the elevator costs 70,000 euros and it is established to be paid in one year, but the annual budget of the community is 50,000 euros, the owner who has requested it will have to assume the 20,000 of difference. Thus, installing the elevator will also be mandatory.

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