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MPs express concerns over possible hike in lift maintenance cost after new regulation kicks in

Members of Parliament have expressed their concerns on possible rise in lift maintenance expenses in relation to the announcement by Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to step up requirements for lift maintenance in light of numerous of accidents that had happened in Singapore's housing buildings.

The BCA will implement tighter maintenance standards for lifts from July 25. For instance, the brakes and lifts parts need to be checked to ensure they are not contaminated by oil or grease. Lift contractors that fail to comply with the new rules may be fined. New lifts will also require a permit to operate starting from next year.

"This will ensure that lift contractors exercise greater vigilance and care when carrying out lift maintenance to ensure that lift reliability and safety is not compromised," BCA said.

The new rules will require town councils to set aside funds specifically for lifts replacements. Also the frequency and the stringent of the maintenance of the lifts may cause raising costs.

This could affect the plans for other big ticket items, such as painting of blocks because the funds have to be diverted for lifts replacements.

Tampines Town Council chairman, Baey Yam Keng said that the new rules is reasonable because the lifts maintenance is the duty of the town councils. But the amount of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) a town council collects from the residents and the grants received from the government do not commensurate with the numbers of lifts it has to care for.

An estate of two or three-room flats will get more government grants for its operating expenses, while an estate with more five-room flats are not entitled to any grants. But all the lifts need to be replaced and maintained. "So if you cannot touch a sum of money for many years, it may affect the spending on other town council projects,'' he said.

At this moment, around one-third of the S&CC is put into the sinking fund and under the new rule announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament yesterday, a bigger proportion of S&CC collected need to be put to the sinking fund to pay for the estate's long-term maintenance needs and it has to be allocated only for the replacement of the new lifts.

Mr Wong indicates that his ministry may lend a hand to town councils. It is looking at the possibility of retrofitting lifts not due for replacement soon with safety enhancements. In general, lifts have a stipulated lifespan of 28 years. But any such move "will require significant government expenditure", he added.

Nee Soon Town Council's vice chairman, Mr Henry Kwek, said his town council needs to evaluate if it has adequate money in its sinking fund and also asks the Government to review the grants it gives for estate maintenance, considering the new rules to be obeyed.

Mr Zaky Mohamad, chairman of Chua Chu Kang Town Council, expressed his concerns about the raising prices the companies may charged as they would need more workers to do more frequent checks. "There is a shortage of skilled manpower now. This means costs may go up for town councils at a time when we also have to set aside a bigger amount that can be used only for lift replacement,''