Top court pledges to help solve residential elevator disputes

China Daily, November 09, 2023
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The elderly and people with disabilities have been given an assurance by China's top court that it will work with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to solve disputes caused by installation of elevators in old low-rise apartment buildings.

The Supreme People's Court, along with the ministry, made the pledge when jointly outlining 11 influential cases related to the issue on Wednesday.

"Considering some seniors and the disabled face difficulty using the stairs in old low-rise buildings, the ministry has stepped up efforts to deal with the problem by installing elevators since 2018," said Liu Lifeng, deputy head of the ministry's construction department.

In China, apartments built in the 1990s or earlier usually have six or seven floors, but no elevators.

Liu revealed that as of October, about 100,000 elevators have been installed in such buildings nationwide, adding that the number has grown rapidly in recent years.

In 2022 alone, the country installed some 30,000 elevators. Before 2018, the nationwide figure was just 5,000, he said.

Liu said that a big choice for residents on installing an elevator is that people on lower floors want more light and a quiet living environment, while those on higher floors require easier access.

Chen Yifang, chief judge of the top court's No 1 Civil Adjudication Tribunal, said that a large number of disputes over elevator installations came from such disagreements between residents.

Disputes related to the safety and the use of elevators are also on the rise, she added.

"A better way to tackle such disputes is through the Civil Code, which requires judges to keep harmony between neighbors," she said. "There is also a law on a barrier-free living environment, which took effective on Sept 1 and clarifies that the country supports old low-rise buildings installing elevators to serve the disabled and the elderly."

Wu Jingli, deputy chief judge of the tribunal, said that mediation bodies, community committees and associations have played a big role in dealing with such disputes. Mediation, compared with litigation, is low-cost and efficient and doesn't s affect the neighborhood.

If residents disagree with the mediation, they can initiate lawsuits, she added.

Chen said that the top court will continue collaborating with the ministry to help solve disputes at an early stage.

"We'll also issue more influential cases and pay more attention to interpreting laws and regulations, providing stronger legal support to maintain social stability," she added.