The BC Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a Deep Cove strata to pay $35,000 to a local senior for refusing his request to build a tram so he could access his hillside home.
The strata have also been ordered to make ‘all reasonable efforts’ to approve and build the tram that the senior has proposed to access his home within six months of the order.
The tribunal issued the order in favour of Gerald Testar, a 84-year-old man who needs to climb 102 steps on stairs to access his hillside home. Testar’s declining health has made it difficult for him to go up and down the stairs, and it has now declined to the point where he hasn’t left his home in two years.
Testar tried to seek approval for the tram from the three strata lot owners about two years ago and presented a $131, 639 quote from Silverspan Trams Inc, a company that has built trams in the area. He presented evidence from his doctor about his multiple health issues that include congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease, osteoarthritis, general debility, and severe sleep apnea.
However, the strata council didn’t agree with him and instead proposed an outdoor vertical lift/elevator combined with walkways or ramps to reduce the number of steps almost by half. They also suggested a powered outdoor starlit or a chairlift fitted onto the existing stair.
However, all the options were considered unviable, a lawyer for Testar told the strata council. The ramps, walkways and added stair landings would still require the senior to walk “for significant distances, potentially at an incline, and chairlift would require him to squat to get on and off the chair. The lawyer again asked the strata to approve the tram, and notify him of how much the strata owners could contribute before they ran into financial hardship.
But the strata council continued to take the position that a tram was not a viable option and that Testar needed to consider one of the alternatives they proposed. Testar filed a human rights complaint later.
Tribunal member, Amber Prince, sided with Testrar in the ruling and rejected the arguments put forward by the strata council regarding the proposed tram.
“Every day that goes by, Mr. Testar is unable to leave his home and experience the outside world. He has lost the opportunity to visit his wife in the hospital, to visit friends, go shopping, participate in other community events, and live as independently as he can. His lack of access to the outside world makes him feel isolated and depressed. He is afraid of dying because of delays in receiving medical care related to the 102 stair‐only access to his home,” Prince noted.
“No one should have to spend their golden years fighting with their Strata to have their accommodation needs met.”