FL Landlord says tenants must get the covid vaccine


Jasmine Irby was leaving her two-bedroom apartment in South Florida last month when she noticed a letter from the management company taped to her door.

It read: “As of August 15th, all new tenants must show proof of vaccination before moving in. … Existing tenants must show proof of vaccination before leases are renewed.” The policy, the notice stated, also applied to building employees.

Irby, a security guard who had lived in the Lauderhill, Fla., building for the past two years, was appalled, she told The Washington Post. Irby, 28, had planned to renew her lease by the end of August, but she did not intend to get the coronavirus vaccine.

After unsuccessful negotiations with the management company and her landlord, Santiago A. Alvarez, Irby filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services demanding that she be allowed to renew her lease “without having to disclose my personal health information.”

The letter about the vaccine requirement was posted on Irby’s door as Florida began to grapple with a surge of coronavirus infections attributable to the highly transmissible delta variant. To date, more than 65 percent of Florida residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to The Post’s vaccine tracker.

Although Gov. Ron DeSantis was vaccinated in April, the Republican has said that getting immunized is a personal choice that should be left to individuals. DeSantis has pushed against mask and vaccination mandates in businesses and schools. He has also issued executive orders banning businesses and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination.

Alvarez’s policy, which was first reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, tests the boundaries of DeSantis’s orders as some businesses in the state attempt to enact their own coronavirus policies to combat the surge in cases. The Biden administration has urged officials in states with low vaccination rates to take a stricter stand on vaccine and mask mandates.

Irby’s attorney drafted a letter that was sent to Alvarez alleging he is violating the governor’s executive order forbidding businesses from requiring “patrons or customers” to provide proof of vaccination.

Tenants wishing to renew their leases must now show proof of vaccination, Alvarez said, though he added that he is willing to allow more time for some long-term residents to meet the requirement. Employees who decline to get the vaccine will be terminated, Alvarez said.

After recovering from covid-19 earlier this year, recently losing two friends from virus complications, and learning that at least a dozen of his tenants have died of the illness, Alvarez — who owns about 1,200 units in Broward and Miami Dade counties — said he is not willing to compromise the health of his vaccinated employees and tenants for those unwilling to get immunized.

“It very much upsets me that my employees are exposed to [covid-19] all days of the week because there is someone who does not want to get vaccinated,” Alvarez, 80, told The Post. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I have the obligation and the duty to protect my workers and tenants.”