Shutting down elevator service – whether temporarily or permanently – can be more than an inconvenience for people with disabilities. An elevator shut down can cause serious disruptions in their lives. It can even be life threatening. Learn what you can do in case of a temporary or permanent elevator shut down in your residence.
Temporary Elevator Shut Down Guidance
In 2007 it was mandated that elevators with outdated safety equipment had 60 months to be brought into compliance with new elevator safety requirements. During the 2011 legislative session, that deadline was extended for an additional three years. Although this upgrade will greatly enhance elevator safety, the process can take an elevator out of service for several weeks and be very costly.
In many instances there is only one elevator in a building. In addition, in apartment buildings and condominiums, there are many residents who rely on elevators due to a mobility disability. If you have learned that your elevator is being shut-down because of this mandated upgrade, you first need to determine if the lack of access to and from your unit is just an inconvenience or if it is life threatening. Once that determination has been made, you and other affected residents should meet with building management, or your tenant council, or association board to discuss what options might be available to you.
Popular Options During a Temporary Elevator Shut Down
- Volunteer groups have been organized to assist individuals with mobility issues get groceries, help with laundry and run errands.
- In many instances, building management has increased their time onsite and have been available to assist residents with specific errands and assistance.
- In one building, management arranged to have the elevator in supervised service for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon for several weeks while the elevator was being upgraded.
- In a couple of instances, building managers and association boards have arranged to pay for an accessible hotel room for individuals with ongoing medical issues.
If you have no immediate medical issues and decide to stay in your unit for the duration of the elevator upgrade, consider the following reasonable accommodations:
- Talk to your grocery store, pharmacy and any other retailers you rely on about home delivery services.
- Talk to building management and find out if they would be responsible for organizing a volunteer group to help with errands and delivery, or if someone could be temporarily hired who could run errands and provide deliveries not otherwise covered by retailers.
- Talk to building management/association board about the possibility of having the elevator activated for supervised operation during certain periods of the upgrade. There may be instances, depending on the stage of the upgrade under repair, where the elevator repair staff can operate the elevator. If this is possible, it could relieve much of the stress and isolation of being stuck in one’s unit for such an extended period of time.
- Discuss the possibility of the building management or association board paying extra to have the repairs expedited.
If you have medical issues or work and cannot stay in your unit for the duration of the elevator upgrade, and you are unable to stay with friends and family outside the building, consider the following reasonable accommodations:
- Talk to management about being temporarily relocated to a vacant unit on ground floor in your building or another building under their management.
- If work commitments or medical issues are such that you have to leave your unit frequently for scheduled shifts or medical appointments/therapy and there is no available vacant unit, talk to management or your association board about authorizing payment for a hotel room.
- If your building management or association board appears reluctant to provide a reasonable accommodation, put your request in writing and be sure to mention that the Minnesota Human Rights Act contains protection against disability discrimination in housing. Be sure to use the language below and reference the Minnesota Human Rights Act, 363A.10:
Real Property; Disability Discrimination
Subdivision 1. Reasonable modification/accommodations. For purposes of section 363A.09, discrimination includes: (2) a refusal to make reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices, or services, when accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
If your request is denied and you have exhausted negotiations, you may decide to file a complaint with the Minnesota Human Rights Department, contact them at 651-296-5663 (TTY 651-296-1283) or Toll Free at 1-800-657-3704. You can also file a complaint of discrimination online.
Please contact MCD staff for additional information or assistance.
Permanent Elevator Shut Down Guidance
HUD Clarifies Stance on Removing Elevator Service in Occupied Apartment Buildings
The required safety upgrades for elevators are causing some building owners to declare that they are taking their elevators permanently out of service in occupied apartment buildings. If you are aware of such a situation, please review the attached information. If the buildings and/or tenants fall into any of the described categories, please contact HUD at firstname.lastname@example.org
“It is not permissible to take elevators out of service in federally subsidized housing, in multi-family buildings first occupied after March 13, 1991, or in non-subsidized buildings built and occupied before then which have disabled residents.”
— John Meade, Enforcement Branch Chief, U.S. Department of Housing &
Urban Development, Chicago FHEO Center in an email dated February 15, 2013
“I would not assume that federal regulations trump state law and building code unless there are circumstances as described below. At the very least, they would be in non-compliance with HUD regulations and accessibility standards. As for the reference numbers: try UFAS 4.1.2(5) which states that at least one passenger elevator shall serve each level in all multistory buildings and facilities (Section 504 refers to UFAS). There is no similar passage in the Fair Housing Act. However, Section 804(f)(7) defines “covered multifamily dwellings” (in pertinent part) as buildings consisting of 4 or more units if such buildings have one or more elevators. And Section 804(f)(3)(c) requires all covered units designed and built for fist occupancy after March 13, 1991 to be accessible to persons in wheelchairs. So, you could argue that covered dwellings cannot be made “non-covered” in buildings first occupied after March 1991 by taking elevators out of service – it would defeat the purpose of the Act’s accessibility requirements.”
— Ms. Erika Finkler, Acting Director, Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity Division,
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Minneapolis Field Office in an email dated February 20, 2013