A Florida woman filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services after her landlord required she get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus before renewing her lease.
Jasmine Irby, 28, of Lauderhill, Florida was shocked to find a notice from her landlord saying that new tenants would have to show proof of vaccination upon moving in and current tenants would have to show proof before renewing their lease. The policy began August 15. Irby had been planning on renewing her lease later that month, but was unable to negotiate with the landlord, Santiago A. Alvarez, 80, or the management company. As a result, she moved out after living there for two years. She also decided to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made it clear that he opposes mask and vaccine mandates by making them illegal. Around 65% of Floridians have been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, but Florida did take a hit from the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus. Because of this, some businesses have tried to push back against DeSantis’ order by creating mask or vaccine mandates within their own business. This is what happened with Irby’s apartment complex.
After she filed a complaint, she began working with an attorney. Her attorney drafted a letter to Alvarez showcasing how he wasn’t complying with the governor’s executive order. This letter meant nothing to the landlord, although he did offer an extension to those who were planning on getting vaccinated.
However, he was unwilling to budge long-term. Alvarez explained how he had friends, family members, and tenants pass away from Covid-related causes and because of that, he did not want people unwilling to be vaccinated, employees or tenants, to put others at risk.
“It very much upsets me that my employees are exposed to [covid-19] all days of the week because there is someone who does not want to get vaccinated. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I have the obligation and the duty to protect my workers and tenants” (Washington Post).
Alvarez also moved forward with an attorney, who said he had violated no laws because “tenants are not customers or patrons and Alvarez is not providing a service to them.” In addition, Alvarez is willing to make exceptions for people who don’t get the vaccine for religious or medical reasons and thus, will not be in violation of state laws or county ordinances.
The governor’s office said otherwise: “The law is very clear,” one person wrote, before saying the the Florida Department of Health would be authorized to issues a $5000 fine to businesses, government entities and educational institutions that require proof of vaccination beginning September 16. Additionally, no one ‘[can] require vaccine passports as a condition of entry or service.”
Nevertheless, Alvarez is requiring proof of vaccination for his tenants and employees. “You don’t want to get vaccinated? You have to move. And if you don’t move, one must move forward with eviction. It’s a lack of consideration for your neighbor, it’s a lack of consideration to their own families, to their children.” He claimed many of his employees and tenants wholeheartedly approved of the requirement.