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Halifax wheelchair user ‘trapped’ in apartment due to 15-day-long elevator repair

Adam Denney is seen inside his apartment building where the elevator has been out of order for more than two weeks. Submitted by Tracy Denney

A Halifax mom is advocating for her son with disabilities, who hasn’t been able to leave his apartment for more than two weeks, due to an out-of-order elevator.

Tracy Denney and her 30-year-old son Adam live on the third floor at 16 Caxton Close, with four flights of stairs standing between their apartment and the exit.

“I’m fed up,” Denney tells Global News.

Adam has spina bifida and has been a wheelchair user since he was two years old.

The only elevator in their building broke down Feb 24. For more than two weeks, Adam has not been able to leave his apartment.

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Now, his mother says it’s having an impact on his physical and mental health.

“I understand that probably in the last year with COVID, a lot of people have been stuck in their house. But there’s a difference between being stuck in your house and being trapped,” Denney said.

“He’s actually physically not able to get out of the apartment.

“It’s mental health and panic attacks; he’s just overwhelmed by what’s going on.”

Denney also said Adam is now going onto week three of having to miss work because he cannot leave. She is a single mother, so this is having a financial impact on the family as well.

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She said this is not the first time the elevator has broken. She and her son moved into the building in 2005, but issues with the elevator arose in the last two years.

“It’s gone down many times, sometimes that’s days at a time,” said Denney.

She said the elevator broke on New Year’s Day in 2020 and stayed broken for nine days. Adam missed holiday dinners and a hockey games he sometimes coaches.

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Submitted by Tracy Denney. Submitted by Tracy Denney

“We have been actively looking for a wheelchair-accessible apartment, and the problem is in the HRM, there’s no affordable, accessible housing. So we’re pretty well stuck.”

In the last 15 days, Denney said she’s made countless of phone calls to the owners of the building, operated by Doric Management, as well as the company in charge of fixing the elevator.

“I’m sort of just getting the run around because the elevator place doesn’t really tell me what’s going on.”

Having already unsuccessfully contacted medical services and the fire department in hopes of getting help, Denney said she’s exhausted her options.

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On Tuesday, Denney filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Program, also known as the tenancy board.

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“We’re just at our wit’s end. We don’t know what to do,” she said.

Doric Management declined an interview with Global News. In an email statement, the agency said the lengthy repair is out of their hands.

“Our repair company is working to complete the repairs on a timely basis. We regret the inconvenience that this is causing our tenants,” the statement read.

The company said it is aware of the issues an out-of-order elevator has caused tenants with mobility issues.

“The elevator is an amenity which helps many of our tenants on a daily basis. Any time it is out of commission for needed repairs it’s inconvenient and we recognize that,” the statement added.

“At the same time, repairs and maintenance are required for the continued safe operation of the elevator. We need to make sure the elevator is operating safely, and this sometimes means it is unavailable during repairs.”

An ‘out-of-order’ sign is seen at the 16 Caxton Close apartment building in Halifax. Submitted by Tracy Denney

In response to a safety concern, Doric Management said: “Absolutely safety is a concern. This is why we need to maintain and repair the elevator to ensure it in safe working order.”

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Read more: Nova Scotia tenant advocacy group calls for landlord licensing bylaw

As of Wednesday evening, the elevator was still out of order.

Denney said able-bodied people are just not aware of how difficult this is for her son.

“It would be like me removing the stairs and telling everybody ‘you have to stay in your apartment.’ I know that’s not something that would happen, but to him, that’s what’s happening,” Denney said.

Denney says she knows she may be annoying to the property managers, but she is Adam’s only advocate.

“I’ll do anything to make sure he’s able to get in and out,” Denney said.

The Department of Service Nova Scotia stold Global News in an email that it “(does) not comment on complaints due to privacy of the individuals involved.”

“The Human Rights Commission may be able to provide information on the rights of persons with a disability,” the email read.

As for the complaint, the department said “a residential tenancies officer can offer to mediate the dispute or a hearing will be held and a decision made within 14 days.”

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Tracy and Adam Denney are scheduled to attend a Residential Tenancy hearing by phone on April 7.

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