Can My Landlord Require Me to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Woman receiving vaccination from a healthcare professional.

Image source: Getty Images

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, many businesses are hoping to protect employees and limit the spread of the virus by imposing vaccine mandates. To be clear, this is something that employers are legally allowed to do, though they generally have to make exceptions and/or accommodations for those who cannot get vaccinated due to religious or health-related reasons.

But it's not just employers that are imposing vaccine rules. Landlords are beginning to go a similar route.

In September, a Florida landlord caused an uproar by requiring tenants to show proof of a vaccine or otherwise have a lease renewal denied. The question is: Can your landlord require you to get a vaccine? And what happens if that's not a step you want to take?

Local rules apply

Whether your landlord can require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine depends on your state of residence. In most states, landlords do have the right to demand proof of vaccination before signing or renewing a lease. But that doesn't necessarily mean landlords can demand such proof mid-lease or evict tenants on the basis of not being vaccinated.

When you sign a lease to rent a home, you're entering into a contract. You're required to abide by that contract's terms. If that contract states you must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, that's a condition you'll need to meet to sign or renew a lease. But if you're renting under an existing lease without that specification, you may not have to take action until that lease comes up for renewal.

Of course, just as companies are required to offer exemptions or accommodations for religious or health-related constraints, so too are landlords generally required to do the same. But here, the laws get tricky, because in some cases, it can be difficult to determine what constitutes a valid constraint.

What to do if you're not vaccinated and your landlord requires it

Generally speaking, the reason landlords want proof of vaccinations is to protect their tenants. If your lack of a vaccine is causing a concern but you don't want to get a jab and don't qualify for an exemption, then you may want to talk to your landlord if your lease is up for renewal. Your landlord may, for example, agree to waive that requirement if you're willing to mask up in all common areas of your building or undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

Of course, as a tenant, you shouldn't hesitate to consult with an attorney if you feel your rights are being violated, or if you want to better understand what they are. Landlord-tenant laws can vary from state to state, so it's not a bad idea to arm yourself with information.

Furthermore, while more landlords may now be requiring COVID-19 vaccines, many aren't. If you don't want to get a shot, there's a good chance you'll be able to find a lease elsewhere without that mandate.

Granted, that could mean having to move to a more expensive home. And it could mean having to dip into your savings to facilitate a move. But either way, for the most part, tenants who don't want to follow their landlords' vaccine mandates do have some options.

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