A few years ago, clients started asking me if they could purchase only in buildings that had banned smoking. On the flip side, some landlords wanted to only have tenants in their units that didn’t smoke. This seemed like a really, really hard thing to enforce. Now, a few years later, not only is smoking banned in every bar and restaurant, but I am not sure I can recall smelling smoke in a building in quite some time. Smoking has become far less culturally pervasive. At least in the US.
Now, we have an altogether different hot button topic that has shot, its way to the top of our cultural conversation list: The vaccine. I loved this recent question brought up by REBNY, the real estate board of new york- The question is this:
Can landlords ask to show proof of vaccination before they let someone rent in their building?
REBNY’s answer was this:
“Yes, we believe a landlord may request proof of vaccination before offering a lease to an applicant. To our knowledge, there are no current laws preventing a landlord from requiring applicants to show proof of vaccination before offering them a lease. Furthermore, vaccination status is not currently a protected class under fair housing law. An applicant may choose not to answer the question or refuse to provide proof of vaccination. However, if a tenant refuses to reply, then the landlord may consider the applicant unvaccinated and not offer the applicant a lease.”
I have not done any official polling, but it would seem that given any building that didn’t require proof of vaccination might ultimately be less attractive. It strikes me that as a public health policy, this is a no brainer. Surely, your neighbors might be annoying, and you say you want to kill them, but not literally. Right? You certainly don’t want them to kill you accidentally!
Let’s Put It The Other Way: Would you rent in a building where proof of vaccination for new tenants was not explicitly required?
Could it be a requirement for a lease to be renewed? Where can the line be drawn where it becomes a violation of fair housing? Even if kids under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, what if a landlord decided not to allow any tenants with unvaccinated kids to be in the building? I don’t think landlord would consider such a thing, but it is interesting to consider how far a landlord might take it. Certainly, we live far too close together in New York City to think that our actions don’t have impacts on others. Could landlords violate other fair housing rules around religions, given that there are religious exceptions to getting the vaccine?
I have seen some people decide to pack up and leave New York because they didn’t like the position that the city, or its residents were taking on being pro-vaccine. Please share any stories you are hearing like this! In a situation where people on both sides see vaccination (or avoiding it) as a life or death proposition, I have no doubt that the emotions are running very high and am as frustrated as anyone to see this become politicized.
May we get to a place where even more people get vaccinated soon and this virus spread can slow down. I want to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving with my whole family, no questions asked! -Scott