Toronto

An $875 charge for hopping in an elevator? Family questions condo company charging them for breakdown

A Toronto family is accusing their condo building's property management company of bullying them into paying for an elevator service call they don't think they should be on the hook for. 

Carl Song says he was trapped after a shuffle move he did in an elevator — and then charged for it

Carl Song says he was slapped with an invoice for $875 after becoming trapped with his daughter Olivia in an elevator at his CityPlace condo this past February. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

A Toronto family is accusing their condo's property management company of bullying them into paying for an elevator service call they don't think they should be on the hook for. 

Carl Song says he was slapped with an invoice for $875 after becoming trapped with his daughter Olivia in an elevator at his CityPlace condo building this past February.

Song says he'd gotten into a service elevator with his daughter and was hopping lightly on one foot to try to keep her occupied when it suddenly it came to a stop. They were trapped there for over an hour. 

Elevators are designed so that any hop will halt a machine for safety reasons, technician Daniel Scott with Quality Allied Elevator told CBC News. 

"Even that little bit, because ... if our car goes even a foot per second faster than we want it to, it will cut out."

Company won't provide footage

The day after he got stuck, Song says he went to the front desk to tell them about the incident and was told he could expect a charge-back from the condo board and that these kinds of incidents happen on about a weekly basis.

About a month later, he says, he received an email with the charge-back that suggested his hopping damaged the elevator. The service technician wrote in the invoice that because they were "jumping", the malfunction was caused by "user misuse." 
Song says surveillance video shows what really happened, but that he wasn't allowed to keep a copy of the video for his records. The condo management company also declined to share the video with CBC News.
When CBC News visited the building Thursday, at least one elevator happened to be out of service. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Song responded to the notice, saying he didn't believe his actions were "abusive" to the elevator, and the frequency of the breakdowns, he didn't feel he was at fault. When CBC News visited the building Thursday, at least one elevator happened to be out of service.

"Look at the root cause and fix the elevator for all of us," he told them. There was no response.

About a month later, he says he received a second notice. Again, he says, there was no response to his reply.

'We feel bullied'

About a month ago, he received a final notice — this time, the property management company told him the fine had been reduced with no explanation by about $125.

Song and his wife, Tina Yu, didn't meet the payment deadline, instead looking for answers from the company. When the deadline passed, they say the company responded with a notice of lien.

At that point, the pair said they had no choice but to pay. 

"They had the choice of registering that lien with courts against our condo," Song said. 

Having paid off the fine, Song says he wonders if charging residents for elevator breakdowns isn't just a way of offsetting the costs. 

"As long as they can get someone to pay for the repairs, it doesn't cost them anything," Song said.

In a statement, the property management company Harbour View Estates 3 said upon reviewing the surveillance footage, the company along with the board of directors and the elevator service contractor determined the breakdown was "a direct result of the resident jumping up and down."

"Any damage caused by residents or their guests, or any interference with the general operation of the elevator, is not covered by the corporation's maintenance contract, as it is not a maintenance issue or a failure of a part," the statement said.

"It is completely unfair to make other owners who abide by the corporation's rules share in the payment of these costs. "

Song says if the elevators are that sensitive to movement, there should be signs posted in the building saying so.

"We feel bullied," his wife, Yu, told CBC News.

"We are just individual people ... it's very hard to fight a corporate company."

With files from Chris Glover