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  • #36898

      We live in a 3 storey walk-up apartment building (three units per floor) in Sydney’s Inner West. One resident who owns a unit on the 2nd floor has recently had a stroke and has asked for approval to install a chairlift on the only staircase providing access to all units. Installing an internal lift is out of the question.

      While we have sympathy for this resident’s situation, we have serious concerns about the impact of the installation of a chairlift. These concerns include:

      •   impeding emergency exit for residents and entry for emergency services
      •   reduced width of stairs for movement of large furniture items
      •   the effect on the resale value of all the apartments

      Has anyone had experience with this situation?



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    • #36900

        Am not sure from your post whether the owner has lodged a fully scoped proposal to install the chairlift. Until they do, you don’t have to do anything.

        Any such scope would include detailed specifications regarding the type of chairlift, how that fits with the type of stairs you have, all health and safety considerations etc. This would include matters such as fire and emergency issues – if there is only one staircase this would be a key factor and it is possible that would prevent the installation anyway. Council approval may be required.

        The owner would also have to accept responsibility for the installation, i.e. the cost and ongoing maintenance, and removal. In those circumstances the OC would be reasonable to ask for some form of financial compensation.

        Essentially the OC would be granting an owner a form of licence to use the common property for their benefit, which on any analysis would disadvantage other owners.

        Once the Committee is provided with the proposal it is then up to them to consider it, and either recommend it or not recommend it to a general meeting. Personally, I think it is a big ask and if that proposal were put to me I would say no. It is a very difficult situation when someone loses their mobility and can no longer live in their home, but it is not uncommon. I live at the top of four flights of stairs and recently broke my leg very badly – I have been able to leave my apartment three times in 7 weeks. I have always recognised that if my mobility were affected permanently then I would have to move.

        If the OC refused consent for the installation the owner could take action on the basis that the refusal was unreasonable, but they would have to prove that in the circumstances it is unreasonable.

        There has been a case on this issue, where the owner did succeed but each case is different, and that was a very different type of building, and the lift was a permanent installation that did not impede the stairs etc. (sorry can’t find the case)

        Lady Penelope

          I haven’t had experience with this issue, however I would like to offer a suggestion.

          Your strata scheme would probably have an annual fire safety check and an annual workplace health and safety check. I suggest you contact the people who undertake these checks and obtain their written assessment of the issue and any problems that it may cause for your building. These reports may help guide your next actions.

          Lady Penelope

            The following legislation may be useful:



              The legislation doesn’t apply to an existing building Lady Penelope.

              Lady Penelope

                Here is an ‘old’ case which may have some relevance.


                The defence to a complaint raised under the DDA is that providing access would cause an ‘unjustifiable hardship’ to the organisation or business. “These include cost, technical difficulties, use of the building and the effect the proposed changes might have on particular heritage features”.

                These questions “can only be determined by the Federal Court or the Federal Magistrates Court”.

                Is is therefore probably something that NCAT would not consider.

                See more here:



                  Thank you scotlandx and Lady Penelope. That was really helpful.

                  The owner wanting to have the chairlift installed on our common property stairs has not put in a fully scoped proposal at this stage. The SC has sent off a response  to the owner based on all the issues you have raised.

                  While doing our research for enabling disabled access, stair climbing wheel chairs came up. Any experience of these?


                    No I haven’t. As a starting point, I suggest that it is not up to the Committee or the OC to come up with proposals or solutions for this particular issue. It is the role of the Committee and ultimately the OC to consider and make a decision on proposals of this kind that are put to them.

                    This might sound hard-hearted, but I suggest that you not do any research or any other work at this stage, until a properly scoped proposal is lodged with the Committee. You can then take it from there. This has nothing to do with disability discrimination or human rights.


                      Found the case I was thinking of, it is a very interesting one. This can be distinguished in a number of ways, not least of all this was a very expensive heritage building, and the applicant wanted to install a complete elevator in the stairwell.

                      The key issue is reasonableness, i.e. if approval is not given, was the refusal to give approval unreasonable (the converse of that being that if there are reasonable grounds for refusing approval, then it is much more likely that the refusal would not be reversed)



                        I’d like to know how this case evolved. We are in the same position in our Strata Plan, but in a different part of Sydney.

                        Could you provide an update?




                          Dear Actyve,

                          The OC is going to approve the Acorn Stairlift. Main rationale:

                          We understand the OC has an ‘legal’ obligation under elements of the Anti-discrimination Act (Disabled persons) (not the exact name of the Act!!), to do what may be necessary to permit an existing owner from continuing to enjoy their property.

                          We deemed the access, width of the staircase, after construction of the stairlift to be ‘reasonable’ because the available access width was just 15mm less than the width of the common front access door to the lobby. ie: we are talking 850mm v 865. The By-Law will transfer all financial obligations to the unit owner now and for the future. It includes an Indemnity for Insurance for negligence. The Stairlift can be used by all residents who use the actual stairs.

                          Hope this helps. Please ask for anything else specific.


                            I work in a two story building that has a chairlift. I cannot tell you how may times it has had to have the battery replaced and ‘reset’, usually costing about $500 a time. There are teenagers downstairs, and even when you educate them about leaving it alone, new ones come in the next school year and fool around with it. A couple of years ago I read a news article about a block, perhaps in the Eastern suburbs, that had a small lift put on the outside of the building to benefit an owner.

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