A property owner with 1,200 units in South Florida is mandating that any new tenant over the age of 18 or any tenant wishing to renew their lease must provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine. But even as the property owner faces fines from the city, he says he refuses to change his rule.
Santiago Alvarez, who owns the 1,200 units, says he put the requirement in place because he has had at least 12 tenants die from COVID-19. He’s also requiring all employees to get vaccinated.
“I think my decision was right, and I will defend it any way I can,” Alvarez told CNN. “If I get fined, I will go to court with it.” So far, two tenants and two employees have left due to his vaccine policies, he says. Alvarez owns eight apartment buildings in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The new policy could create a standoff with state officials. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, announced a Florida Department of Health rule that bans vaccine passports, which means people will not be required to show vaccine passports as a condition of entry or service. There is a $5,000 fine for each violation.
At least one tenant has filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Customer Services about Alvarez’s new policy. “I should not have to disclose my personal health information,” said Jasmine Irby, who filed the complaint, as reported by The Washington Post.
Alvarez says he would make exceptions for tenants or employees with medical or religious exemptions. Also, he will work with tenants who can’t provide proof of vaccination but don’t have anywhere else to go, possibly offering a month-by-month lease extension.
“I don’t want to put them on the streets, but I don’t want them to be a danger to my tenants or to my employees,” he says.
Read more from the National Association of REALTORS®: COVID-19 Guidance for Workplace Vaccination Policies.