Getting stuck in a lift is bad – but so is getting stuck with a $30,000 lift that doesn’t work.

Ulrika and Walter Haller purchased an enclosed outdoor lift from Auckland company Phoenix Elevators in 2021.

They made the decision to get the lift installed at their house when Walter’s health had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer get around on his own.

Ulrika hoped the lift would give him “the chance to get out because he could not go down the front door stairs, he was terrified of it”.

Phoenix Elevators installed the lift at their two-storey house in mid-2022. Ulrika told Fair Go there were problems from the get-go.

She and Walter had made a point of asking for folding doors in the paperwork, but Phoenix Elevators had put in swing doors. Eventually they were replaced, but then the lift started rusting.

“All the joints, all the panels, every bolt and screw.”

Phoenix Elevators sent someone to the Haller’s to de-rust and repaint the lift, but the rust came back with a vengeance.

All the while, Ulrika says the lift would operate haphazardly. Crucially, she says when she needed it for Walter, it didn’t work. Instead, spending hundreds of dollars on health services to help him out of the house and get him to appointments.

By this point, the couple had paid Phoenix Elevators just over $27,000. Ulrika estimates Walter only got to use the lift three times.

“He used to say to me, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this lift’.”

Walter died in June 2023. The lift problems have continued.

In September of that year, the lift started leaking. On another occasion when Ulrika tried to use the lift, she says it stopped halfway down while she was in it “and I was thinking, ‘woah, how am I going to get out of this thing, I can’t jump that high'”.

It eventually whirred back into life and she was able to escape.

Rust on Ulrika and Walter Haller's lift

Ulrika says she called Phoenix Elevators one more time at Christmas to report that the lift wasn’t working again.

She was told by a staff member that the business was closing over the holiday period, so she’d hear from them in the New Year, but that didn’t happen. So she decided to call on Fair Go for help.

“I don’t like even complaining, but I knew I had to do this for Walter.”

Not fit for purpose

Fair Go called on independent engineering consultancy Vertrans to carry out an inspection of Ulrika’s lift.

They deemed it not fit for purpose.

“It has serious issues with it as far as safety is concerned,” explains Murray Barr.

In his opinion, it’s also not designed for use in an outdoor environment in New Zealand.

The lift was manufactured by a company in China called MORN LIFTS.

Murray says while parts of the lift are aluminium, a large part of the cabin is mild steel and is rusting “significantly”.

He saw the same leaks Ulrika was worried about, with evidence of water seeping into the cabin.

He found the control box wasn’t weather proof and “all the moisture and components in there are suffering, so that’s not going to last very long at all”.

What really got his alarm bells ringing was how the lift door, which serves the bottom floor, is able to be opened when the lift is at the top floor, “creating a two and a half metre drop to the concrete below”.

“If it’s operational, and there was grandchildren or whatever that played in it, then there could be a fatality.”

Fair Go took the findings to the owner of Phoenix Elevators Clive Snell.

He told the programme he wasn’t aware there were still issues with the lift and didn’t believe Ulrika had called about it in December.

The Consumer Guarantees Act allows for a consumer to reject goods with major faults and request a refund. After years of problems, Ulrika says she just wants her money back and the lift gone. But Phoenix Elevators has put the blame back on MORN LIFTS for supplying a problematic lift.

‘You’re just complaining all the time’

MORN stands by its lifts as safe and certified, although it appears it’s not the only lift with issues, despite Ulrika saying she was told otherwise by Phoenix.

“I asked a few times, ‘am I the only one having these problems?’

“And they said ‘yeah, yeah, well, you’re just complaining all the time’.”

But an email Snell sent to MORN LIFTS on the same day Fair Go first contacted him revealed that he purchased “several” exterior lifts from the company and found them to be “substandard”.

Fair Go has been back and forth between Phoenix Elevators and MORN LIFTS to get compensation for Ulrika. In the latest correspondence, a MORN sales manager told Snell they would consider compensation, but that the probability of success is not very high.

That leaves Ulrika with a dodgy lift she hasn’t been able to use for the purpose it was bought for.

“I would have liked to have spent that time with Walter going somewhere nice. He used to look around [his room] and say, ‘I love this place, you’ve made it beautiful’, and that was the only thing that he had”.