Photo: James Bombales

New insights recently published by Strata.ca detail how Ontario’s incoming proof of vaccination requirements could potentially affect condo buildings if boards decide to step into the fray.

In an effort to improve immunization rates and reduce risk as the province grapples with its fourth wave of COVID-19, Ontario will require that patrons provide proof of their fully-vaccinated status when entering certain businesses or public settings as of Sept. 22. This will include access to indoor dining in restaurants, night clubs, sporting events and other gathering spaces.

Although Premier Doug Ford has said that the measure would be temporary, Strata.ca points out that many sectors could implement vaccine mandates of their own, including the real estate industry. That could mean flashing your proof of vaccination before enjoying any of your building’s amenities.

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Whether it’s related to “personal human rights or medical secrecy laws,” Strata.ca agent Nathaniel Hartree-Hallifax stated in the report that he has yet come across any condo residents who are worried about vacation requirements potentially coming to their building. Fellow realtor Larry Medina also shared this experience.

“However, clients do ask if I know what percentage of residents are fully vaccinated in a building we’re viewing,” said Medina. “Obviously, I don’t have the answer to this.”

Strata.ca broker Cliff Liu said that none of his clients have ever voiced concerns about vaccine mandates, but they are still cautious about getting close to others.

“I’m in and out of buildings all the time, and I see that the stairwells get a lot more traffic than the elevators,” Liu said. “Residents seem respectful of each other’s space, even without a vaccine policy in place.”

Photo: mahdis mousavi / Unsplash

When it comes to the legal side of things, condo litigation lawyer Bradley Chaplick said that the absence of a provincial passport system has kept strata boards from enforcing vaccination mandates of their own. Authorities have reportedly been struggling with how to confirm a person’s vaccination status while “limiting incursions on privacy,” but Chaplick says the vaccine passport now makes these rules easier to implement.

“This could also open the door for local municipalities to enforce their own policies requiring condos to limit amenities to vaccinated people only,” he said.

Strata.ca explains that when it comes to restricting what condo residents and visitors can do, the law requires that rules be “reasonable” and for a proper purpose such as promoting safety.

“In the absence of a proper rule, the residents have a presumptive right to use these amenities,” said Chaplick.

With condo boards continuing to monitor resident safety, Strata.ca noted that some owners may question which common areas may be off limits to those who are unvaccinated. Chaplick explained that a vaccine policy could be applied to an area that is used by more than one household concurrently, but areas such as guest suites — which are used by one party at a time — may not as they do not pose the same potential danger.

Photo: garrett parker / Unsplash

“We’re talking about access to ‘non-essential’ common areas only, primarily the amenities, such as a swimming pool or gym,” said Chaplick “We’re not talking about common areas necessary to access individual suites, like lobbies and elevators.”

While there may be some “unhappy campers” with the decision to require proof of vaccination to access condo amenities, Liu said that, “[This] type of rule could improve the perception of a building that’s trying to show it really cares about resident safety.”

Should condo boards implement vaccination requirements or not, Hartree-Hallifax said this would have little impact on a building’s overall resale value.

“In my experience, those who are not vaccinated want their private space in a very literal sense,” he said. “So for those who can afford it, this compact condominium lifestyle and sharing of amenities is not their ideal situation anyways.”

Fellow Strata.ca agent Francisco Hiebert added that prices for condos are established by recent comparable units sold, not on whether people can use amenities.

However, Medina points out that whenever a building has rules on anything people may want or use, resale values are affected. For instance, a condo board that restricts pets may create a smaller buyer pool. The same principle may apply when making vaccines mandatory for the use of a pool or gym. Yet, if enough buildings were to adopt such a policy, it would “ultimately become a moot point,” said Medina.

Osman Omaid, also a Strata.ca agent, said that no matter what the outcome is with vaccine policies, realtors must remain sensitive to everyone’s personal choices.

“Some may only look for condos with this mandate, and some may turn away from a building only because of it,” said Omaid. “It’ll just be another point to go over when talking about a property…sort of like walk scores or nearest transit.”

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