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Apt. managers want to know if tenants have COVID-19, but legal experts say renters don't have to tell

2020-03-10-coronavirus.png
Posted at 4:15 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 19:35:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — So what if you have Coronavirus or are quarantined for it, are you required to tell anyone?

Some apartment and property managers, we've found, are now telling their tenants that if they're sick, they must report it immediately to the rental office. But is that legal? And what if you don't? Can you be evicted over it.? We went looking for answers.

With Covid 19 quickly spreading, so are fears and efforts to contain the potentially deadly virus which might explain why renters across the country are getting letters from their landlords outlining what steps property managers are taking to keep everyone safe and healthy but also informing tenants that if anyone in their "household tests positive for Covid 19, is under a mandated quarantine or has reason to believe they have been exposed to the virus, they must notify the management office immediately.

We showed one of these letters to Kerry Dietz, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. Her specialty is housing.

"The first thing that I thought was, 'Whoa, we are in uncharted territory here,'" Dietz said.

But after researching the question and even consulting with the State of Tennessee's Coronavirus Hotline, Dietz said she believes renters should not feel obligated to notify their landlord of their Covid-19 status.

"They're not required to by any law or regulation at this moment," Dietz explained.

She told us renters have a reasonable expectation of privacy and they should think carefully about whether they want to volunteer that information. Apartment and property managers cannot throw you out for not reporting, she said. And if you're sick, under the Fair Housing Act, you should be protected.

"Testing positive for Covid or having symptoms, being on quarantine, that in and of itself is not a reason that someone could be evicted," Dietz said.

She said she understands why letters like this are going out.

"I believe the landlords and property managers who are requesting this information are worried about protecting the health of their tenants," she said.

And keeping everyone healthy is important. So, she suggested listening to the CDC and keeping your distance from everyone as if you're Covid 19 positive and so is everyone else.

"And I think everyone following that guideline will help both protect everyone's health but it will also help protect tenants' privacy," Dietz explained.

If you feel you have been discriminated against by your landlord or property manager because of Coronavirus concerns, you can contact the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands at 615-244-6610 or by going to their website at www.las.org.

MORE TENNESSEE COVID-19 COVERAGE

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.