WSVN — If you live or work in a building with an elevator, the fear of getting stuck in it is real. Now, what if you lived in a building where the elevators have failed inspections for six straight years — and nothing is getting done? Can the building keep operating elevators that fail inspections year after year? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Victoria Starr doesn’t ask a lot from her condo association. Take care of the place and keep it safe. It’s why she moved to Pine Island Ridge.
Victoria Starr: "I enjoy living here. It’s a beautiful community, and they take care of it somewhat."
Notice that wry smile as she says "somewhat." These machines are why.
Victoria Starr: "Having problems with the elevators…"
Victoria lives on the top floor of a four-story building. A building with two elevators that have not passed inspection since 2010. That’s right: Two elevators have failed for six straight years.
Victoria Starr: "Six months I can deal with. Six years, something’s not right."
Each year, the Broward County elevator inspector lists the reasons for failure along with his written notice.
Victoria Starr: "’This is in violation of the Elevator Safety Act, and owners may be fined up to $1,000 a day. Corrections must be made immediately or a citation may be issued.’"
But the corrections are not all made, the fines are not issued against the association, and the residents, like Victoria, get on an elevator and cross their fingers.
Victoria Starr: "I got stuck in one for about seven minutes, and it doesn’t sound like a long time, but when it’s the nighttime and it’s the dark and you can’t see anything, yeah, it’s scary."
Got stuck on one — and holds her breath when she gets on the other one.
Victoria Starr: "The elevator shakes when you are in it."
To spur the association to correct the problems, an inspector slapped a warning sticker on the elevator to let riders know the elevators have failed inspections.
Victoria Starr: "Big orange warning stickers, and people are not happy."
Victoria is young and can climb the four flights of stairs, but many of the residents are elderly.
Victoria Starr: "God forbid somebody gets hurt. They are going to have more of a problem than they do with a certificate."
Victoria has complained to everyone from the county to the condo association, but nothing gets done. Howard, legally, is she out of luck?
Howard Finkelstein: "Probably, yes. If the inspector concludes the problems are minor and the elevator is safe, he can allow them to keep using it if they are attempting to correct the issues — even if it takes years. It sounds strange, but that’s the law."
I then spoke to the Broward County elevator inspector who failed this machine.
William Redmond told me the association was working with an elevator company to determine whether the system could be redone or if they need new elevators.
He told me he would shut the elevators down if it was unsafe, but the problems with the machines were not major, and neither he nor the elevator repair company considered the machines unsafe.
When I mentioned Victoria got stuck in the elevator, he said it was a cold day and it took awhile for the machine to warm up.
Howard Finkelstein: "The inspector’s decision not to fine the association is probably the right thing because, if they can’t afford to fix the elevator, the resident certainly can’t afford to pay the fines. However, if a mechanical failure on the elevator hurts someone, the condo association could face an enormous lawsuit."
Maybe the association can resolve their elevator problems, but after six years of failing to do so, Victoria is convinced the building’s stairs will be in everyone’s future.
Victoria Starr: "That’s gonna be fun carrying up those groceries four flights of stairs, when I am paying to live in a building that has an elevator."
If you live or work in a building with an elevator and you notice the inspection certificate has expired, don’t assume they forgot to inspect it or the problems are minor. Contact the elevator inspector in your county to check it. It may have slipped through the cracks, or it may be dangerous to ride on.
The links to the county elevator departments are at the end of this Help Me Howard. Stuck with a problem and feel you are going down? Need a lift? Contact us. Hopefully we can punch the right buttons and things will be looking up for you. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Broward County elevator problems
Miami-Dade County Office of Elevator Safety
201 West Flagler Street
Miami, FL 33130-1510