Whether apartment owners can require tenants be vaccinated or business owners insist employees get their shots wanders into murky legal territory.
“Mandatory vaccination as a general provision in any environment is obviously controversial and is also a very grey area,” said Jamie Smith, a staff lawyer with the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic and president of the Central Alberta Bar Society.
“The primary reason behind that, of course, is that what we’re talking about is essentially requiring a compromise on an individual’s bodily autonomy when we talk about should a person be required to get an injection that changes the way our body adapts to other things.
In Red Deer, Ambassador Apartments owners Betty and Terry Welty want their tenants to get vaccinated to ensure the safety of all of the residents in the 16-unit building.
It’s questionable that the Weltys have the right to require vaccinations, even if the motivation is well meaning, said Smith.
“Any time where you yourself are in a situation where you’re forcing an individual to do something that is more than a temporary and minor inconvenience we are really talking about an individual’s human rights.
“There are very few situations under law where we are permitted to interfere with the constitutional rights of others.”
There are exceptions. For instance, requiring health workers or members of the military to be vaccinated could be seen as a reasonable response to ensure the safety of others.
But whether that applies to a restaurant server or an apartment resident is a much different scenario.
“The question is whether the public interest of health or well-being is a great enough reason to infringe upon the bodily autonomy rights that we do have constitutionally protected.”
Requiring an apartment tenant to be vaccinated may not meet that test. Should it go before a judge, they would look at whether mandatory vaccination is the least intrusive way to ensure the safety of others, or whether requiring masking or other safety measures are more reasonable responses that would have much less impact on an individual’s rights.
For instance, an apartment owner might say tenants must wear masks in the halls. “That’s a far less intrusive thing than saying I need you to have vaccinations and I need you to show me proof of this.”
He said further complicating the issue, is the fact that not all can be vaccinated because of underlying conditions. Is it fair that they are discriminated against?
Smith said in rental settings there are also a number of other issues that arise under landlord and tenant law, especially with lease renewals. Should a tenant’s lease come up for renewal, requiring vaccination could be seen as a substantial change in the conditions of renting that falls outside what is allowed.
Likewise, a business owner who requires staff to get vaccinated would likely be seen as substantially changing the employees’ working conditions.
Smith said his advice to someone who is considering requiring employees or tenants to vaccinate would be: Consider whether there is a much less intrusive way to achieve the same health goal.