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Jesse investigates after broken elevator traps woman who uses wheelchair

A West Seattle woman was stuck in her apartment for weeks, unable to get out because the elevator in her building broke. When she couldn’t get her landlord to help, she called me.

Cell phone pictures taken by friends are Marcia Jensen’s window to the outside world.

“I miss the mountains, I miss the water, I miss the boats,” exclaimed Jensen.

Jensen depends on pictures of her Alki neighborhood because she’s can’t leave her apartment.  She’s wheel chair dependent, lives on the third floor and for four weeks the elevator has been broken.

“To get groceries, to get mail, to take out the trash, just the simplest things you don’t even think about,” explained Jensen.

Property managers told Jensen they were working on a solution but days turned into weeks. She filed a complaint with the Department of Planning of Development. It issued a violation but nothing changed.

State and federal law requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations for residents with disabilities. For example, Jensen either needed a way to get in and out of her building or temporary housing. Managers weren’t offering either so Marcia contacted me.

“I needed help! I had to find somebody to help me,” exclaimed Jensen.

I called the property management company and within 24-hours Jensen was relocated to a hotel room.
But when she returned home the elevator continued to break down. Managers still weren’t hoping so I decided to go looking for the property manager, Alfred Anderson. I called him, stopped by his office twice and finally tracked him down leaving Jensen’s apartment. He promised things were being taken care of but wasn’t forthcoming with details.

I knew the fair housing act requires landlords to handle issues like this so I sat down with Patricia Lally, the director of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights for more information.

“There’s really no excuse to not know what is required of land owners,” said Lally.

Lally can’t say much about Jensen’s case because it’s under investigation but does point back to the law.

“The law is fairly clear. The people with accommodations, their needs must be accommodated if they’re reasonable,” explained Lally.

I called the building owner who blamed the elevator company for repair delays. In the meantime, the elevator in Marcia’s building is back up and running – for now.

“Everybody is paying rent for a working elevator when they move in. This is what they contract for and they’re not getting it,” said Jensen.

The attorney for the building owner told me he’s glad the elevator is working. He said along with putting Marcia in a hotel, the property management company also made a trip to the grocery store and helped with a load of wash. Marcia agreed that happened but it was only for one of the times the elevator broke down.

The city said it could take two to four months for its investigation. If it decides the owner was in the wrong, it will work with both parties to agree on a settlement.

Do you have a story you want me to check out? Call 1-844-77-JESSE (53773) or send me a message here. I’ll be part of KIRO 7 Eyewitness News most weekdays at 5:15 p.m. You can also check out my Facebook page and click here to follow me on Twitter.

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