(WSVN) - As their condo complex reaches 40 years old, the elevators need to be be replaced, but the board doesn’t want to spend the money. After watching people climb stairs or get trapped in the broken elevators, one condo owner called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to see what can be done.

When you travel, memories are stored in your mind, and for the Mittlers, also in magnets on their walls.

Mr. Mittler: “We’ve been to just about every national park. One wall here is all the national parks.”

Walls of memories from vacations all over the world.

Marcia Mittler: “I love when we go to a small town and you meet the coolest people, and everybody’s just happy and friendly and respectful and kind.”

Patrick Fraser: “So you can travel the world. You just can’t get up and down an elevator.”

Mr. Mittler: “That’s a problem.”

Ah, the elevators.

Marcia Mittler: “There are other people who had to sit in the elevator — and they were claustrophobic — for hours.”

Whitehall contains 16 nice buildings. Each has one elevator.

Each elevator is also 38 years old.

Marcia Mittler: “The elevator room that’s across from the entrance to our buildings, everything in there is old and antiquated. Half of it cannot be fixed or replaced because they don’t make the parts anymore.”

We were there one day when repairmen fixed one broken elevator. A few minutes later, we were told the unit in another building had broken down.

Repairman: “It was failing because the cover’s off. Now it’s got to be totally replaced. Oh, boy.”

Marcia Mittler: “It’s not a luxury — an elevator — it’s a necessity when you have elderly people.”

It’s estimated to cost $100,000 to restore each elevator, or about $4,000 per resident.

For years, some owners who are tired of punching the button only to find out the elevator is broken again have said, “Let’s do it.”

For years, the board has said, “Nope.”

Marcia Mittler: “Three of the members, for sure, will not agree to any kind of assessments to fix the elevators or anything else, because they can’t afford it. They live on a budget.”

As the buildings approach their 40-year recertification, the elevator troubles continue.

Marcia Mittler: “They have been told that they need to upgrade and do something with these elevators for at least 10 to 15 years now, and they just keep putting it off and throwing it on the back burner.”

And so, the residents who can’t climb the stairs hit the button, the doors close, and they hold their breath.

Marcia Mittler: “It’s like, how much can I take? So I reached out to you guys, and I am forever grateful for you listening.”

We are happy to listen, but Howard, what can residents do if the board says, “Repair the elevators,” instead of restoring or replacing them?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “This is the tip of the iceberg as many South Florida condos get old. In every one of them, the board has the legal obligation to maintain the building, including the elevators, and the law doesn’t care that the board doesn’t want to spend the money to do it. Residents have a right to get in and out of their home. In a case like this, a resident will have to ask a judge to issue an injunction requiring the board to replace or restore the elevator, and the judge will also order the association to pay the person who sues’ legal fees when they win.”

I contacted the 94-year-old board president. Marcia had predicted he would not return my call. She was right.

I asked the office manager to have him call me about their plans for the elevators. He hasn’t called yet.

Marcia Mittler: “And unfortunately, if things are not run properly, like with anything else, it’s going to disintegrate.”

To avoid the elevators getting worse, Marcia may go to court and ask a judge to order the board to take care of them before her worst fears come true.

Marcia Mittler: “I am very frightened of being stuck in the elevator and having a panic attack.”

Now, at least Marcia’s association repairs the elevators when they break. If your property management does not, or you think the elevators are unsafe, each county has a department to inspect them and make sure the elevators are working properly. The links to contact the agencies are under this Help Me Howard story.

Floored by a problem? Ready to rise up and fix it? Take the stairway to us and see if we can elevate it to resolved status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Report Unsafe Elevators — Miami Dade

Report Unsafe Elevators — Broward

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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