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News 13 Investigates: Overdue elevator inspections

Most of the overdue inspections are within 30 days. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

It's something many people step inside each day - an elevator. In North Carolina, they are required to be checked every year.

But News 13 found out that in Buncombe County, nearly a third of the elevators are overdue for an inspection.

For months, our investigative team has been taking pictures of elevators in need of a check. Crews found several examples throughout the mountains, including some that apparently weren't inspected for nearly 2 years.

News 13 called the North Carolina Department of Labor to find out just how widespread the problem had become.

They tell us 289 of the 992 in Buncombe County are past due. They say most are within 30 days of the deadline.

Tommy Petty is the Deputy Bureau Chief for the state Department of Labor's elevator division. He says Buncombe County has two full time inspectors, and both retired recently, creating a backlog.

But Petty says two more have now been hired, and says he isn't worried about the nearly 300 elevators in need of a check.

"I don't like to see that, but it's not a problem because the elevator is still being serviced once a month," Petty said.

He says buildings contract with service companies that inspect elevators every month, so major issues would not just go unnoticed.

But, the state inspection is required every year.

In those checks, inspectors look at things like alarm bells, elevator phones, and doors.

Petty says most issues the inspectors find are minor, and some of the newer elevators even shut down automatically if there is a problem.

He says the public should not be concerned.

"If someone calls, if they see the elevator is past due, they call us, we will send somebody out. We want the public to be happy," Petty said.

But Duncan Reid is worried.

"For most people, an elevator is a convenience, but for someone with a disability, it may be their only way to access their job," Reid explained.

He works with ARC of North Carolina, an advocacy group for those with disabilities and says elevators should be checked on time.

"Inspections really help safeguard against any mechanical issues that may impact their ability to access their home, work or school," Reid said.

The state says they should be caught up in the next few months.

In Henderson County, the North Carolina Department of Labor says there are 235 elevators and while most have current inspections, 26 are overdue within 30 days.

The inspections do bring in money through fees. News 13 asked if missing inspections mean the department is collecting less money. Petty said their inspection fee revenue might be lower, but the elevator division is self sufficient, so there is no real impact to the budget.

The 35 inspectors in North Carolina also check amusement rides and ski lifts.

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