A Florida landlord requires vaccines for tenants. Is it legal?


The landlord operates approximately 1,200 rental units, but will require vaccines for anyone who wants to move in or renew a lease.

A Florida landlord who controls about 1,200 rental units in two counties is demanding that new and existing tenants be vaccinated against COVID-19 – opening a new chapter in the increasingly tense safety debate during the pandemic.

Owner Santiago A. Alvarez operates several large apartment complexes in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida, according to the South Florida Sunshine Sentinel, who first reported the story. As of August 15, all new tenants in the complexes were required to show proof of vaccination before moving in. In addition, existing tenants will now need vaccines to renew their leases.

The new policy was announced to tenants via taped letters in the complexes. The letters are surmounted by the words “zero tolerance” in underlined bold type.

Speaking to Sentinel of the SunAlvarez explained the policy saying “we have to care about our tenants and our employees”. It also said that between 12 and 15 of its tenants have died from COVID-19.

“All of these properties are privately owned,” Alvarez continued. “We’re just trying to keep people safe and healthy. It will cost us money, but we are very firm on this.

Inman contacted Alvarez apartment complexes on Wednesday but did not immediately receive a response. His lawyer also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, talk to Washington post, he reiterated that he was upset that “his employees are exposed to [COVID-19] every day of the week because there is someone who does not want to be vaccinated.

“If you do not want to be vaccinated, I have the obligation and the duty to protect my workers and tenants”, he added to the To post.

Despite concerns, the policy has apparently not been well accepted by all tenants at Alvarez resorts. A man, who did not give his name, told the Sentinel of the Sun that requiring tenants to get vaccinated “should be illegal”.

Likewise, Jasmine Irby, a tenant who also lived in one of Alvarez’s complexes, told the To post she filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Irby also reportedly retained the services of a lawyer, who sent Alvarez a letter claiming the vaccination policy violated an order from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that banned “vaccine passports” – or proof of vaccination for business customers – in the state.

Either way, the situation serves as a test case in the emerging legal and cultural war on COVID-19 vaccination. Although vaccines for the virus first became available in the United States at the end of 2020, the pace of administration of the new vaccines has slowed in recent months. At the same time, the delta variant of the virus kept the number of infections and deaths on the rise – long after many believed the crisis was over.

President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus pandemic on September 9 in Washington, DC. Credit: Kevin Dietsch and Getty Images

The result is a patchwork of rules and policies that aim, on the one hand, to increase vaccination rates and, on the other hand, to favor individual freedom. Probably the most publicized of these policies is that of President Joe Biden, who announced earlier this month that he would require employers with 100 or more employees to have their employees vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.

In real estate, a number of companies, including related companies and the Durst Organization, have said they will force their employees to get vaccinated. NAR chairman Charlie Oppler also urged real estate agents to socially distance themselves and wear masks, while Gary Keller sparked debate in the industry when he strongly urged Keller Williams’ members to step aside. get vaccinated.

It remains to be seen how this issue will play out in the rental industry, although it is almost certain that the issue will eventually end up in court.

For his part, however, Alvarez believes he is on solid legal ground. His lawyer Juan C. Zorrilla told the Sentinel of the Sun that he thinks the rule at Alvarez resorts is legal because tenants are not customers or customers of a restaurant business.

“We believe that there is a clear distinction between someone who is an occupant of a dwelling and physically on the premises for an extended period of time versus someone who is a client or client and simply visiting for a short-lived, “Zorrilla wrote to Sentinel of the Sun. “By identifying only two categories of transients, we do not think the order would be interpreted by a court to include tenants or residents of a business or property.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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