Red Deer apartment building owners Betty and Terry Welty want tenants to get their shots to keep their building healthy.
Betty, 72, who has medical issues that put her at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, sees it as a reasonable measure to protect her and her 75-year-old husband’s health and that of their tenants, whose ages range from 20 to a 79-year-old.
“We’re a non-smoking, adult building and Terry thinks that because we own the building we can set our own rules,” said Betty.
“I have an auto immune deficiency and we’re just trying to be careful.”
The couple sent a notice to the tenants in the tidy 16-unit building near 40th Avenue and Ross Street earlier this month asking them to voluntarily provide records showing they have been vaccinated.
They acknowledge the legality of requiring tenants to be vaccinated is a grey area.
“Of course, at this time we have questionable authority to make this request and are acting as other governments and businesses are doing throughout the world, in essence limiting access to our suites to only those that have been vaccinated,” says the notice written by Terry.
However, they intend to add a vaccination requirement to future leases to “assist the landlord to operate a safer living environment.”
Betty said at the start of the pandemic they provided two masks to each tenant for their safety and a hand sanitizer is available at the entrance.
The couple has been vaccinated and they know through conversations with tenants that at least some are vaccinated. They don’t know who is not though and she acknowledges there is not much way of finding out.
They don’t intend to take a heavy-handed approach. No one is going to be unceremoniously booted out.
But for tenants coming in, part of the rental agreement will require that they offer proof of vaccination as a requirement – just as tenants have always had to agree to be non-smokers. To enforce that any tenants found smoking face paying 25 per cent more for their suite — an approach they will take with tenants who say they will not get vaccinated.
“We will ask (new tenants) are you vaccinated … and then we will tell them the reasons why we feel strongly about people being vaccinated because we have elderly people in this building.
“You can’t come out and discriminate against people, but they can’t discriminate against us either. They are putting our health at risk.”
Existing tenants, most of whom are on six-month leases, will see the vaccination clause when it is time to renew.
Betty points out that the U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered that all federal employees must be vaccinated. Others are calling for teacher and health worker vaccinations be mandatory in jurisdictions across North America.
However, not all tenants are comfortable with sharing vaccination information with their landlord.
One long-time tenant, who has been fully vaccinated, feels it’s an invasion of privacy to be required to provide proof.
“That’s private medical information. I mean only a doctor can know that. A landlord doesn’t have the right to know that,” said the tenant, who asked not to be named.
He wonders what happens if a plumber of an electrician comes by to do work.
“Do you have the right to ask them? Under our privacy laws, I don’t think so.”
The issue is cropping up across the country. A Burnaby renter went public in June, saying he felt violated that his landlord asked for proof of vaccination. In Ottawa, a similar situation occurred in which a new renter was asked for vaccination proof in a building where the owner and his family lived.
Numerous online forums have addressed the question of whether apartment owners can require tenants, or businesses can require employees, to be vaccinated. The answer largely seems to be that it is unclear under existing laws.