This question is from Phil (paraphrased to suit this format):
Knowing that landlords should not be asking tenants for their vaccination status (for the purpose of property maintenance/repair), how do you suggest we deal with situations where the maintenance company we engage require that information?
Our view is, as things stand, facilitating property maintenance/repairs by third party contractors do not entitle landlords to ask for a tenants’ vaccination status. However, we are aware that a small number of property maintenance companies are meeting their PCBU obligations to protect their employees by requiring this information of tenants from their landlords. It is a private company’s prerogative to expand/limit its economic opportunities based on its position on the COVID vaccine. But it is not a landlord’s right to withhold maintenance/repair on that same basis.
In terms of our best practice suggestion should a landlord be faced with this exact situation:
- With your tenant’s permission, give the contractor the appropriate contact information so that it can uplift the necessary information from the tenant directly without any involvement from you. Be clear with your tenant how you will maintain that Chinese wall so that you will not become privy to his/her vaccination status;
- Understand from the contractor whether, absent of the information requested, alternative protocols could be implemented in order for the work to be carried out (e.g. as asking the tenant to leave the property for the duration of the work, wear masks, observe distancing rules etc); and
- Compare and weigh up the contractor’s services against that of others to meet your obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act (so that you can honestly say that you are not withholding maintenance/repair because the tenant is either unvaccinated or has chosen not to disclose his/her vaccination status to you).
Our understanding from our network is that most property maintenance/repair businesses are applying COVID protocols to their employees and contractors and not their customers. Those who are are still very much in the minority. For the time being, we expect this to be a non-issue for landlords.
Should there be any government mandate/public order restricting the way customers interact with trade professionals then we will provide updated guidance for landlords.
Note that the view shared here are general in nature. Given the current environment and the inherently sensitive nature of vaccination, we encourage landlords to act on a case-by-case basis within the parameters of the Residential Tenancies Act, privacy laws and government COVID guidance.