November 23, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccinations – What Landlords Can And Can’t Do

It’s been almost two years since Australia’s first recorded case of coronavirus, and we’re moving into the ‘living with the virus’ phase of the pandemic.

The issue of vaccination – and vaccine mandates – is making headlines both here and overseas, and it’s bringing up a lot of questions around vaccination and residential tenancies. One example is the question of whether or not a landlord can ask their tenants to be vaccinated?

Landlords and body corporates mandating vaccination

The issue of landlords and body corporates attempting to mandate vaccination is raising its head at home and abroad without any clear-cut outcomes.

For example, it’s been reported in the media that a landlord in the US is insisting that his tenants receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine if they want to renew their leases. Santiago Alvarez owns eight apartment blocks in Florida and has said that if his tenants don’t want to get vaccinated, they will have to move. At least one of his tenants has pushed back, lodging a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stating that she should be able to renew her lease without disclosing personal health information. Unlike Queensland, Florida has outlawed businesses from requiring a vaccine as a condition of entry, but Alvarez says that as his tenants are not ‘customers or patrons’, he is not in violation of the rule.

There have also been reports of at least one apartment complex in NSW requiring all people entering the building, including residents, visitors and tradespeople, to be vaccinated. Vaccination status has also become a hot topic in share house living, with listings increasingly including housemates’ vaccination status and one Australian poll showing 82% of house sharers saying they wouldn’t live with an unvaccinated housemate. But preferring vaccination, and mandating it are two very different things. So, can a landlord legally mandate vaccinations for tenants here in Queensland?

Can vaccines be mandated in Queensland?

Here in Australia, vaccines are generally voluntary. However, state governments across the country, including here in Queensland, are increasingly issuing public health directions requiring people to have received one or more COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain places, such as hospitality venues. While the government is yet to release their new restrictions roadmap, the Deputy Premier has indicated that once our borders are opened, certain venues won’t allow entry to unvaccinated people.

In addition to this, some workplaces and industries are mandating vaccines, including health and aged care workers, quarantine workers, and essential workers coming into Queensland from interstate. Businesses like Woolworths, Aldi, Qantas, Westpac and the CBA are also mandating vaccines for their staff across the country.

What are the issues with landlords insisting upon vaccines in residential tenancies?

From a legal perspective, there are several issues to consider when it comes to residential landlords requiring that their tenants get vaccinated.

These include:

  • A tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. This means that a tenant has the right to use and occupy the property without too much interference from the landlord. A landlord’s insistence on a COVID-19 vaccination may be considered by a court to breach that right.
  • A tenant’s right not to be discriminated against. Whether or not it is discriminatory to exclude a tenant on the grounds of vaccination is, from a legal perspective, unchartered territory. There are exemptions under discrimination law for doing things reasonably necessary to protect public health, but in the case of COVID-19 vaccinations and residential tenancies in Queensland, this hasn’t been tested in court. It is, however, discriminatory to exclude someone on the basis of vaccination if they are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.
  • A tenant’s right to privacy. Asking a tenant (or prospective tenant) for their vaccination status is another legally untested area, and it may be difficult for a landlord to successfully navigate privacy laws to collect this information from their tenants.
  • A tenant’s human rights. Mandated vaccinations are considered to be a limitation on human rights, but Queensland’s Human Rights Act allows for this as long as the limitations are reasonable. Because the situation with COVID-19 vaccination mandates is still evolving, determining whether a mandated vaccine is a reasonable limitation of human rights may have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Can Queensland landlords demand their tenants get a COVID-19 vaccine?

So, can landlords insist their residential tenants are vaccinated here in Queensland? It’s a complex question without a simple answer and one that will eventually need to be answered by the government and the court system.

Our property management team makes it a priority to stay up to date with the latest in Queensland tenancy legislation and regulations, and we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue as it evolves in the coming months.

If you’re looking for more information about Queensland tenancy rules and regulations, professional property management services for your investment property or a new rental home here in Toowoomba, get in touch today.

Article by Daniel Burrett

A born and bred local, Daniel has been excelling in the art of real estate since 2009. In October 2013, he became the General Manager of RE/MAX Success complimenting his work as a Sales Professional. In conjunction with his work in residential sal… View profile

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