Tenant in wheelchair faces tough choice after learning elevator repair will take five weeks

Some tenants living with disabilities are angry that they weren't told sooner about elevator repairs that will take five weeks.

The multi-storey building is equipped for people with disabilities and is subsidized by the city

Sean Collins has no way to leave his second-floor apartment building now that the elevator is down for five weeks. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Sean Collins had to take a vacation day from work, make a plan to move in with his sister and find strong people to lift him when he realized he was stranded inside his second-storey London apartment. 

The elevator in his building is undergoing repairs, a job that's expected to take five weeks, and Collins uses a wheelchair to get around.  

"It leaves me either stranded in here in my apartment or out there, for five weeks," Collins said from the Lawson Road complex that receives rent-adjustment subsidies from the city.

"I called and asked if there was a contingency plan for the tenants and [the property management] said no, we were given plenty of notice to find other accomodations." 

This notice tells residents the elevator is out of order as of Sept. 25 for five weeks. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

A representative from Tilley Holmes said tenants were told in June that the elevator would be getting fixed sometime in the future. 

At the beginning of September, tenants learned the start date would be Monday with repair work lasting until late October.

"As soon as we were given a specific date, we notified the tenants of that and in that notice we told them to please make necessary arrangement," said Darrin Tilley, who's the property manager. 

"It's like any other renovation, when you put in windows, doors, there's an inconvenience to it." 

Required to accommodate

The building on Lawson Road is geared-to-income and has several tenants who have mobility issues, including at least four people on Collins' floor.

It is run by Lutheran Independent Living London, which is an organization that could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. 

However, the city told CBC News it learned Sunday that some tenants had no where to go prompting an investigation. 

"We require all service providers to uphold the law and that means they have a duty to accommodate," said Dave Purdy, who's the manager of housing for the city.

No where to go

Collins spent Monday packing to move in with his sister until the renovations are completed because he can't risk any more days away from his job in a call centre.  

"If I stay here, then I'm not able to go to work," he said. "I wish they'd have arranged for alternate housing for us." 

MPP Peggy Sattler is concerned not everyone has family who can take them in and is questioning why alternate accommodations were not made.  

"There are people who will either be shut in or will have to move out and forgo the rent that they've paid for that month," Sattler said. 

"Some of the units have been specifically designated for people with disabilities," said Sattler, who has been working with Collins to figure out if the tenants — who could move out for five weeks, but still have to pay rent — have any recourse. 
Londoner Sean Collins lives at 610 Lawson Road, a geared to income apartment that has many disabled tenants. Collins uses a wheelchair to get around and couldn't go to work Monday morning because the elevator is out of service for up to five weeks. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

"Fundamentally, there is a backlog of funding for maintenance and renovation to social housing stock, and there are very, very limited options for people who are looking for affordable housing. It's created a situation like this, where somebody has no recourse." 

Tilley said he wishes tenants had contacted him sooner. 

"They've known this since June, and I've had no contact with any tenants except a very general question. I think they're talking to everyone else but us." 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.