Florida landlord requires new and current tenants to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine

Florida landlord requires new and current tenants to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine
Capt. Jessica Oesch, a perioperative nurse in the Weed Army Community Hospital operating room, receives the first COVID-19 vaccine on Fort Irwin, Calif. on December 23. The hospital received a limited supply of vaccines and will vaccinate personnel in accordance with the Department of Defense's population schema. (U.S. Army photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ Weed ACH Public Affairs) (Kimberly Hackbarth)

When it comes to Florida making headlines in recent months, it's more often than not because Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow GOP lackeys in the state are leading residents into disarray because of poor pandemic management. COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged in the state on more than one occasion, and we've covered instances of people absolutely losing it over mask requirements. We've also seen how huge theme parks like Disney and Universal have reacted to the pandemic, with varying risk levels and responsibility to patrons and workers.

With all of this said, Santiago Alvarez, a landlord who oversees more than 1,000 apartments in South Florida, has people talking about the state for a different reason, as reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As of August, Alvarez requires his tenants over 18 to be vaccinated against the virus to live on his property. The policy applies to renters who are renewing their leases, as well as any new tenants. The vaccine requirement also extends to his employees. Important context? 80-year-old Alvarez told The Washington Post that twelve of his tenants have already died from the virus, and he has already caught and survived the virus.

One tenant, 28-year-old Jasmine Irby, complained to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to protest Alvarez's new policy, arguing she should be able to renew her lease "without having to disclose my personal health information," The Post reported. Irby, a security guard who does not plan on getting vaccinated, ultimately moved out of her two-bedroom apartment when her lease ended in late August. Irby, who moved in with her brother, told the outlet that "no one wants to live where they are not wanted."

Of Alvarez's 70 employees, he says only two refused to get vaccinated and decided instead to walk away from the job. Alvarez, who owns eight apartment buildings, has said he's willing to make exemptions for people who have medical and religious barriers to getting the vaccine.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, argued that this policy violates the state's ban on requiring "vaccine passports." Pushaw said business owners—including landlords—can't require "vaccine passports" as a requirement of entry and that each violation of the law can result in a $5,000 fine. She argued that vaccine passports are "unscientific" and won't result in a drop in cases.

Juan C. Zorrilla, an attorney representing Alvarez, told The Post that his client is, technically, not violating the governor's order because tenants are not "customers or patrons," as Alvarez isn't providing a service. His attorney also argues that Alvarez isn't violating any other county or state laws or ordinances.

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