SINGAPORE - They had just started moving into their new Choa Chu Kang flat around the middle of 2016, but it did not take long for the two lifts at Block 805D, Keat Hong Close, to start misbehaving.
Since Nov 27, one of the lifts has been shut down and residents have now been told that they would have to wait till January at the earliest for it to be fixed.
The reason for the delay is that the lift's manufacturer Sigma Elevator does not have the spare parts in stock and, because of their size and weight, need to ship them instead of flying them in by air.
What has also surprised some residents is how relatively new lifts could malfunction so often.
Mr Alan Peng, a 46-year-old technical manager in the chemical industry who lives on the 18th floor, said there have been multiple problems with the lifts since he moved into the 19-storey block in May 2016.
"There were smaller issues like doors not being able to close, which took one or two days to repair, to breakdowns like the latest one, which is the worst so far," he said.
Facility manager Mohamed Hassan, 38, who moved into the block in August 2016, said he found himself trapped in Lift A last month after it jerked while descending, before the lift stopped between the second and third floors. Rescue workers arrived within 20 minutes.
He added: "The regular breakdowns might be caused by misuse by contractors if they, for example, jam the doors or leave items in the lifts."
The Chua Chu Kang Town Council said that Lift A has been "experiencing multiple breakdowns" since Nov 20. Despite numerous checks and repairs, it continued to malfunction and was shut down on Nov 27 for Sigma to conduct further investigations.
"Sigma Elevator has had to extend the maintenance downtime of Lift A due to the complexity of the faults. Town council officers conducted door-to-door visits on Dec 22 to explain the situation to our residents and to address any concerns that they may have," it added.
In response to media queries on Wednesday (Dec 27), the town council said it has been working with Sigma to hasten the process of shipping the required lift parts to Singapore.
Sigma had initially informed the town council on Dec 15 that it needed till February to restore services to Lift A. But repairs are now expected to be completed by January.
Since October 2015, Sigma - a subsidiary of American company Otis Elevator Company belonging to the United Technologies group - has been banned by the Housing Board from tendering for its new projects as the firm's lift performance has not been up to mark.
Last year, HDB noticed a higher-than-usual breakdown rate in lifts installed by Sigma in their first year of operation.
An investigation found that the doors and sensors were more prone to misalignment, possibly due to knocks from rough usage because of renovation activities.
In November, ST reported that four blocks of Boon Keng Build-To-Order flats have experienced erratic lift behaviour and at least 20 breakdowns since August 2016.
Sigma lifts at other public estates, such as Punggol Arcadia, Edgefield Walk and Waterway Cascadia, also broke down repeatedly and are out of service for long periods.
The town council said that it has instructed Sigma to place a standby team on site 24 hours a day until Lift A resumes operation, with the frequency of their checks and maintenance of Lift B stepped up to cater for the increased load.
The move has not appeased lift users.
A retired hawker, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, 70, visits the block every day to take care of his grandchildren. He said: "It is no use providing a 24-hour hotline (to report breakdowns), what we want is 24-hour safety and lift service."