Should You Expect Your Landlord to Inform You of COVID Cases in Your Complex?

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If you live in an apartment building, you might be nervous about your exposure to coronavirus with so many people living under one roof. These buildings often house hundreds of tenants that share common spaces like laundry and mail rooms, fitness centers and swimming pools. 

But can you rely on your landlord to alert you of coronavirus cases and to enforce social distancing rules? 

Emma Alexander was rattled when she received an email from her landlord. 

"It said someone at the complex had tested positive for coronavirus … it was definitely nerveracking. 

This raises the question for many tenants: Is your landlord obligated to tell you if a resident tests positive? 

The answer in short is no, according to the California Apartment Association, a landlord trade group. The CAA encourages a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. 

"From a legal standpoint, fair housing laws prohibit landlords from asking questions about a tenant’s disability. Which having the coronavirus very likely would fall under the very broad definition of disability," Heidi Palutki of the CAA said. "And of course they shouldn't be sharing that tenant's private information because that also would be a fair housing violation." 


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CAA says landlords should only share information about a positive coronavirus case if the health department says to. 

"That health department may recommend they inform other tenants that there’s been a potential exposure on site. Of course without disclosing any personal information about that tenant," Palutki said. 

CAA says the landlord also can't ask the sick tenant to quarantine or disinfect their apartment. 

A landlord also can't really enforce social distancing protocols either, according to CAA. Landlords can't crack down on tenants for having parties or not wearing masks. 

"Certainly our members can encourage their tenants to use social distancing, but there’s no hammer," Palutki said.

As for Alexander, she says her landlord is keeping the property squeaky clean -- which brings her a lot of comfort. 

"I don’t think I'm any less safe in my apartment than I would be in someone else’s home or out in public at the grocery store," she said. 

Landlords can keep common areas clean and disinfected and close fitness centers and swimming pools, according to CAA.

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