The Reliable Elevator Act continues to make the news as various groups show their support for the goal of more reliable elevator service. The private members bill, introduced by MPP Han Dong on March 22, 2017, passed second reading unanimously on April 13, 2017. More recently there has even been talk of including this bill within Premier Kathleen Wynne’s much larger and comprehensive affordable housing measures (Wynne Unveils Plan to Protect Tenants and Homebuyers). With frequent negative elevator stories in the news in the past couple years it is not surprising that all three parties supported Dong’s initiative. As an industry participant who spends significant time and resources to provide quality elevator services, it often pains us to hear stories of elevator owners, managers or riders who are receiving horrific service. The questions we ask, however, are: “has there been ample thought into the possible negative implications of the proposed bill?”, and finally, and more importantly, “is a new law even needed to address the issue”?
The bill in its current form would require that most elevators be repaired within 14 days – seven days for those in long-term-care facilities and retirement homes. The immediate challenges that we see with this are:
- When there is extensive damage on elevators due to floor, fire, vandalism or malicious damage (as these situations often require the additional involvement of insurance companies, elevator consultants and the TSSA, as well as approvals and authorizations that can often take weeks or even months)
- Elevator modernization projects, which usually take 4 to 12 weeks to complete. The project scope is significant and can’t possibly be done within the timeframe of the bill.
- Repairs or upgrades to elevators that are often outside of the contract. Elevator contractors cannot proceed with work until the elevator owner approves the work, which often takes many days or weeks.
- If an account is not in good standing with a customer, the elevator contractor has every right to require payment before further work is done. Such payment delays can easily go on for weeks or months.
- Older elevators (older than 20 years) often have parts which are more difficult to source and this may cause delays to the repair that are outside of the control of the contractor.
- Some elevator OEMs have highly proprietary elevators and they refuse to sell parts to the maintaining contractor or make it very difficult to obtain parts which can significantly the delay of repairs.
Does the Problem Even Require a Legislated Solution?
There is some significant misinformation regarding the elevator industry in Ontario. While it is true that there are four very large multinational players in the market, it is not, as reported, “dominated by a handful of mega multinationals” (Ontario Elevator Bill). With only about 40% of Ontario’s elevator workforce working for the four multinational companies, this is far from a cartel.
About 60% of the 3600 licensed elevator technicians work for smaller independent companies (there are more than 60 such companies in Ontario, mostly non-union like Elevator One). So, to suggest that the problem is a OPEC-like elevator cartel controlling the industry would be a misnomer. Building owners and managers have a choice, and a very good one.
In contrast to the gloomy reports we read in the papers, for the Elevator One’s portfolio, for instance, 99% of the elevator breakdowns are repaired within 2 days and over 90% of the breakdowns are rectified within 1 day. While our stats are significantly better than the industry average, there are still plenty of elevator contractors in the industry who are always rectifying elevator issues significantly quicker than the times being proposed in the Reliable Elevator Act.
It’s a Market Issue
In our opinion this is a market issue, not a regulatory one. Several elevator contractors have decided to engage in a price war with the result being a race to the lowest possible service level. Not surprisingly the result is elevators not being properly maintained resulting in premature, frequent breakdowns for excessive periods of time. Everyone knows the adage “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”, but an incredibly large number of elevators owners seemed to have disregarded this. Elevator Technician wages continue to rise (they have more than doubled in the past 20 years), but some elevator companies are offering elevator maintenance at half the price they did 20 years ago. There is only one way for a company to finance that reduction, and that is through a drastic reduction in time on site, and office support.
If you are experiencing poor elevator service:
- Leave your current contractor – check your contract (especially the fine print which tells you when you can terminate) and cancel.
- If you are stuck in a long-term contract, and are receiving unacceptable service (i.e. technicians aren’t coming for their scheduled maintenance; elevators are down excessively or for excessive periods), your contractor is probably in breach of contract, so fire them. Bring in an elevator consultant and for a reasonable fee they can either make the contractor complete proper maintenance or they can free you from the contract
- Do your research and find a quality contractor – ask potential contractors for their TSSA statistics (we are always happy to share ours; just send us a request by clicking here). Get a long list of maintenance customer references. Excellent elevator contractors exist in Ontario. Do some research and find them.
So while we support any efforts which will improve the reliability of elevators in Ontario, and we will support useful legislation that does so, we strongly believe the issue can be easily solved by the free market. If customers begin to “vote with their feet”, leaving the services of poor elevator contractors, such contractors will either go out of business or they will improve their services.