This 94-year-old says elevator repairs would be like 'house arrest' in her building

A 94-year-old woman with a disability says she’s planning on going to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after the company that manages her apartment building refused to accommodate her while the building’s elevators are being repaired.

Mary Taylor plans to go to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal over disability accommodation conflict

Mary Taylor relies on a walker and says that she can't stay at her apartment while the elevator is being repaired. She's asking the company that manages her building to accommodate her by paying her rent while she stays elsewhere. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A 94-year-old woman with a disability says she's planning on going to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after the company that manages her apartment building refused to accommodate her while the building's elevators are being repaired.

"I have spinal stenosis," explained Mary Taylor, who's lived in her building near the intersection of Eglinton Avenue East and Bayview Avenue for more than 40 years. "I'm unable to walk without a walker… stairs are out."

Taylor says that beginning on Monday, she can't stay in her apartment unit on the 12th floor because repairs to the elevators over the next four weeks will make them available for just a few hours a day — between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, and slightly longer on weekends.  

"To get [down] the elevator at 9 o'clock I'd have to stay outside until the afternoon to get back up again," she said.

Unable to come and go when she wants to, Taylor says living in the unit will be "like having house arrest."

With the help of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), Taylor sent a letter of accommodation to the Colonia Treuhand Group (CTL Group,) the property management team of her building, asking for them to pay her rent while she moved out for the duration of the repairs.  

Taylor said she's always gotten along with building management in the past, but in this instance, she says they were unwilling to listen or negotiate. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"I was quite prepared that they would… go with me. If they would have gone 50/50 or something like that, they could have cut me some arrangement and I would have been quite happy. But they wouldn't even listen," said Taylor.

Letters that came back from the CTL Group's legal team called Taylor's request a "cash grab" and argued that all residents will face comparable challenges in scheduling their lives around the hours the elevator is operational.

CERA surprised by 'flat out' refusal of building management

Annie Hodgins, the project manager at CERA who has been working with Taylor, said she and her team were surprised by the response they got after sending the accommodation letter.

"In our view, this is a very routine accommodation request for a very elderly tenant, with a clear physical disability. She lives on the 12th floor, she was only going to be able to access her unit for three-four hours per day. And this landlord flat-out refused," she said.

Hodgins said not many people realize the Ontario human rights code covers housing, giving landlords the "duty to accommodate" in the case of disability.

Mary Taylor and the building management disagree over whether she needs to leave her unit for the duration of the repairs. During repairs, the elevators will run for a few hours a day. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"In order for them to refuse an accommodation, they really have to demonstrate something called undue hardship, which is basically they can't afford it because it's so expensive they would basically go out of business, or it would impact health and safety of other tenants," she said.

She's encouraging Taylor to take the issue to the Ontario human rights tribunal — and Taylor says she will.

"Now I'm getting mad," Taylor told CBC Toronto. 

Alex Bosorogan, property manager with Colonia Treuhand Ltd., told CBC Toronto that his company has declined to comment on the issue.

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