12 Tactics to Avoid Unexpected Elevator Service Fees

Elevator Fees

Elevator service calls cost up to $400/hr on straight time and $800/hr on over time.  These 12 tips help eliminate elevator invoices.

Your elevator failed and you need to place a call for service, but unexpected bills can quickly add up. Unfortunately, elevator service fees are an obstacle that you will eventually face. Many types of service calls are excluded from your monthly elevator maintenance. The terms “elevator service fee” and “time and material invoice” are used to describe the elevator bills you get for work that is excluded from your elevator service contract. The high costs may surprise you.

While some elevator service fees are inevitable, some fees can be avoided if you take the right steps.

Let’s review the steps you can take.

1. Include more detail in your elevator service contract

If your elevator service contracts don’t include details such as exclusions, hours of service, or hourly rates, etc. – an elevator service call might turn into an invoice. 

You can avoid elevator service fees by signing a more complete elevator service contract, and you can always add an amendment to an existing service agreement. More detail in the elevator service contract means that there’s a much smaller chance of bills after the contract starts. Using an online service like ElevatorLab will help you make sure you’re covering all the details upfront or with a new contract amendment.

2. Check your independent switches and stop switches

Most elevators are equipped with switches to remove elevators from regular service.  The switches can remove the elevator from a bank and change the way it operates. Building staff, movers, or other contractors may switch an elevator to inspection or independent mode, and forget to turn it back off.  Before you place a call for elevator service, you should double check that all switches are in the “run” or “normal” position. ​

3. Check your key fobs and key cards

It’s typical to add building access systems to elevators. It improves building security and limits access to specific floors. Card readers or key fobs may become demagnetized or damage. Before you place a call for elevator service, double check if other key fobs or key cards have the same issue. The issue might be with your fob and not the elevator

Elevator Invoices

4. Check your elevator door sills for debris

A door sill has grooves to guide the door in a straight line while it opens and closes.  The groove naturally collects trash, lint, and debris as traffic passes on and off the elevator.  Over time the debris may build up enough to stop the door from opening. Double check each floor to make sure debris is not causing the elevator to shut down. ​

5. Check your elevator door safety edge

The safety edge, or photo eye, which re-opens the door when something is in the way, may have dust or debris on it.  The safety edge is usually equipped with roughly 200 beams that detect passengers in the doorway. If mud, gum, or enough of some other construction debris sticks to the safety edge, the door will not close. The item may prevent the elevator from operating.  Check to make sure they are cleaned before placing a call.

6. Confirm if passenger complaints are legitimate

Many times, passengers only think there’s an issue. Forgetting to press a button or getting on an elevator going in a different direction are surprisingly common reasons passengers believe there’s an issue.  Double check if the error exists before you place a call for service.

stack effect

7. Check if your exterior building doors are propped open (check for stack effect):

Stack effect occurs when there’s a pressure difference between inside air and outside air.  The pressure difference happens with significant variations in temperature from inside and outside.  This usually happens in colder weather. Stack effect causes the wind to rush through the hoistway which props the doors open.  If the doors cant close, the elevator may seem to be out of service. Closing an outside (exterior building) door may eliminate the stack effect and return the elevator to service

8. Check your fire alarm systems

Check if there was a fire alarm issue.  There are also regularly scheduled fire alarm tests in a building which could recall the elevator.  Check if a test was being performed and make sure the system was restored to normal mode. ​

9. Review your elevator cleaning practices

Water and elevator equipment do not work together.  Double check if your elevator cleaning practices use excessive water.  Using too much water can cause damage.

10. Check machine room temperature

The elevator controller functions best in specific temperatures. Most elevator controllers require machine room temperatures between 32 F and 104 F.   Machine rooms with broken air conditioning systems may reach temperatures outside of the controller specification.  The controller, or other elevator equipment, may overheat and cause the elevator failure. Double check the optimal elevator machine room temperature and make sure your air conditioner is working. ​

11. Check elevator pit sump pump

Check with your contractor to see if the pump is still working.  Buildings in specific locations require elevator pit sump pumps per code –  ASME If the sump stops working, the water level could rise high enough to make contact with the safety switches and pit equipment.  Having a working sump could eliminate costly invoices from water damage. ​

12. During a flood, park the elevator at a higher floor

Park the elevator high enough in the hoistway to avoid flooding on the bottom floors.


Having the right elevator service agreement, and awareness of these tactics, should significantly reduce your unexpected elevator service invoices.  

​What type of elevator invoice did you get?  Comment below. 

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