Residents of a West End apartment building say they are frustrated that both elevators in their building have broken down and that there seems to be no quick fix.
According to tenants and owners in the 21-story building, the first elevator stopped working earlier this year and has never been repaired, while the second has stopped working in recent days.
“We have seniors here, older people with dogs that they can’t walk up 18 flights of stairs,” tenant Derek MacDonald said Wednesday. “It was definitely a major inconvenience for me, but I’d say it’s life-changing for others in the building.”
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The Smithe Street tower is operated by FirstService Residential, who had no one available for an interview Wednesday. Instead, it sent a written statement from the building’s strata council.
“The board of BCS1180 takes this situation very seriously and understands the impact on owners,” the statement read.
“The Council has spent countless hours actively involved in initiating actions to solve the elevator problem. The municipality has communicated with the owners/residents and will provide additional communication regularly and immediately as new information becomes available.”
A recently posted notice labeled the elevators “out of service,” but said, “Richmond Elevator Tech won’t be back until Monday, Aug. 8 at the earliest.”
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However, communications residents shared with Global News provide insight into the repair process and the alternatives offered so far.
A Monday message sent to residents entitled “Elevator Update” informed them that an elevator maintenance company continued to fix the problem with the second elevator, but “there is currently no diagnosis or ETA for the elevator service to be repaired.”
It then advised residents who are unable to use the stairs to “contact the fire service for assistance.”
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In a clarifying statement sent Tuesday, the building’s management and strata council said the Vancouver Fire Department “should be called ONLY in an emergency.”
“Both the municipality and FirstService Residential respect the dedication and work these first responders perform on a daily basis and want to ensure their services are used properly,” it reads.
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The municipality and FirstService Residential said they would update residents on any progress on the broken elevators when additional information is obtained.
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According to the minutes of a July 26 strata council meeting, the strata company has contracted with Gunn Consulting to write the specification of a request for proposal to replace both elevators. That process was expected to be completed by the end of July.
“Owners should not expect a quick solution,” the minutes read. “In the best case, work on the first elevator will start in about 6 months. Upon completion, the second elevator would be replaced.”
According to the notes, the “high temperature” in the elevator room is the cause of the outages and the strata council has approved the purchase of an air conditioning system and the rental of a commercial fan.
An undated notice currently posted in the building suggests that a tender for the repairs is currently underway, to be completed in August and updates will be provided.
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Meanwhile, the Vancouver Fire Department has made it clear that they should only be called out in the event of a real emergency. The inspectors visited the building on Wednesday morning, because two faulty elevators pose a serious safety risk.
Fire inspectors usually train first, according to spokesman Capt. Matthew Trudeau, but can announce and prosecute violations and fines if necessary.
“For this particular case, the start is collecting information and then trying to resolve it as quickly as possible,” he said. “(Elevators) are complicated and very expensive to repair…if they’re waiting for a part, it can take weeks.”
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Since the second elevator went down, MacDonald said he couldn’t use his bike or do any big errands.
“I’ve already talked to my landlord about rent reduction,” he said. “I’m on the 10th floor. I’m in good shape, but I can’t cycle anymore.”
Jose Bustillo, who recently moved into the building, said the situation is “frustrating”.
“I live on the third floor so I can take the stairs, but for the people who live on the 12th floor or (higher) it is of course frustrating.”
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According to the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, elevator maintenance presents a particular challenge amid ongoing labor shortages and supply chain problems.
“If there was only one elevator down, it probably wouldn’t be considered an emergency under the Strata Property Act because you have one that works,” said President Wendy Wall.
“But if you have two that don’t work, it can be considered an emergency under the law, meaning layers can issue without the voice of the owners.”
Elevator companies are doing their best, she added, but skilled labor is scarce and “parts are always a problem.”
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