Congratulations that your condominium has 17 year old elevators that have been “well maintained”. I assume that you have a service contract that has kept your elevators in this condition. Without more information, I hesitate to disagree with your Community Manager’s recommendation to you remove the elevators from your Capital Reserves. However, there are two points that need serious consideration.
First, elevator components don’t last forever. And elevator replacement is an expensive proposition! So at some point, your condominium is going to have to fund that replacement. Even if you have a service contract on the elevators, that typically covers routine maintenance and service calls, but not replacement of the major components that make up the elevator system.
Second, according to your question, your elevators are at least 17 years old. The typical elevator system has a Normal Useful Life of between 30 and 35 years. So approximately 50% of your elevators’ Useful Life has been used. So there is approximately 15 to 20 years to accumulate money in your Reserve Fund for that replacement. The sooner you start accumulating those funds, the less chance you have of experiencing a special assessment, or alternately, having your elevators fail.
Based on the above, I recommend that the Board consider very carefully before you remove any of the elevator components from the Capital Reserves. Consult with your elevator service company. Since they are familiar with your elevator systems, they are in a unique position to be able give you a better idea of the Remaining Useful Life and the projected Replacement cost of those components. Based on this information, you can then adjust your Reserve Study accordingly.
While many buildings with elevators have active and fairly extensive maintenance contracts for their elevators, the equipment involved in elevator systems is elaborate and very expensive. The electronics and controls as well as motor, cables, etc. can be maintained for some time but they all have a life cycle typically within 25 to 30 years and further, oftentimes, the electronics/controls become outdated and may no longer be able to be sourced so we’ve found that modernization projects may occur due to difficulties in finding replacement parts rather than functionality overall. These modernizations projects can typically cost around $100k for hydraulic elevators (typically up to 6 or so floors) and $200k+ for traction elevators (typically for buildings taller than 6 floors). In addition to these components, there is also the interior of the elevator cabs which oftentimes, at least in upscale buildings, have high end finishes that can run anywhere between $15k to $25k in refurbishment costs to update flooring, wall coverings, lighting, ventilation, etc.
These costs result in substantial financial burdens if not budgeted for, especially in buildings with multiple elevator installations. It is much more effective to fund for an expense this large over a long period of time and be pro-actively ready for its replacement without burdening the membership, than be surprisingly stuck with a large expense that would need to be assessed or financed.