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West Kootenay tenants stranded by broken elevator going on 3 months

Moving elsewhere is simply not an option.
John Blizard has lived in Waneta Manor for five years. He was in the elevator on Feb. 18 when it stopped working. Photo: Sheri Regnier

Living with a broken elevator in a three-story building going on three months has - without question - adversely impacted the quality of life for residents of Waneta Manor in Trail.

Many of them are seniors, and most are long term dependable renters.

Moving elsewhere is simply not an option.

For one, this is their home. Secondly, rental stock in the city is sparse, and what’s currently available is much more pricey than what they’re now paying.

When John Blizard moved into the Laburnum Drive apartment complex five years ago, the rent was tight for his limited income, but do-able. The deciding factor, however, was that his new digs had an elevator.

John has diabetes, a chronic lung disease, and physical mobility impairments, so an elevator is an absolute must to safely access his second floor home. He just happened to be in the lift on Feb. 18 when it conked out on the bottom floor, the parking lot level.

John barely made it up three flights of stairs to his apartment that day. Since then, the retiree has largely remained a shut-in because the steep staircases are too difficult to navigate, especially with groceries in hand.

When John called and talked to management he recalls being told “many apartment buildings in Canada don’t have elevators.” He also recalls being told in no uncertain terms, “we’d be glad to take your 30-day notice if the building doesn’t fit you anymore.”

Many other tenants are on record, along with John, describing everyday hardships. They’ve collectively sent concise correspondence to the Okanagan management company, Gateway Property Management, and the property owner Montana Development Ltd.

Since the elevator failed, one lady on the third floor had a medical emergency and had to be packed downstairs by first responders. When she was released from hospital later that day, she and her family members had a grueling and painful time carrying her up the stairs to her suite. Since then, with no elevator, she’s been forced to stay put.

Another lady living on the second floor had a hip joint replaced. She had to pay out of pocket to have an ambulance and two attendants place her on a gurney and carry her up the stairs to her home.

Their concerns, they reveal, have fallen on deaf ears of management.

Then there’s a 92-year-old lady who lived on the third floor for years. She asked to move to the first floor because her sons, in their seventies and physically impaired, couldn’t help her up the three flights when the elevator broke.

Gateway required the senior to break her lease before she moved into a first floor suite which now costs her an additional $125 a month.

These are just a few examples of what tenants at Waneta Manor have had to endure since mid-February. Several of them told the Trail Times that the cold response from Gateway has been frustrating and distressing. The reply that management would “accept their 30-day notice to vacate their suite if they so desired,” is an affront to these reliable tenants.

“I personally find the responses to these concerns from the Gateway office in Kelowna as being totally inappropriate and bordering on ignorance,” says Ken Hill, a 16-year tenant of Waneta Manor. “To tell residents who have lived here and paid rent faithfully for many years that the elevator is a luxury and not a necessity, is simply wrong.”

Hill says that Gateway has stated they cannot repair the elevator in a timely fashion due to COVID-19 concerns.

“A great excuse … it might slow delivery of parts somewhat, but everything else can be done in a timely fashion, safely, and devoid of COVID concerns,” he said. “Gateway has also indicated that the elevator might never be re-commissioned, this approach … is intolerable.”

The Times contacted Gateway directly via the company’s website on Monday but did not hear back by press time.

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Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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