Can My Building Ask Residents for Proof of Vaccination?

by Msnbctv news staff

Q: Almost immediately after Gov. Cuomo lifted coronavirus restrictions, my Manhattan co-op ended its mask requirement in common areas and fully reopened the gym. The new rules say that people who are not fully vaccinated must still wear a mask, but how could anyone possibly know who is vaccinated and who isn’t? Should the co-op require residents to show their vaccination status? Should the board ask buyers at the board interview if they’ve been vaccinated before they approve them to live in the building?

A: Now that most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, many buildings are relaxing their mask rules and fully reopening their gyms. While people who are not fully vaccinated must still wear masks, a building is not in a good position to police its residents. “This is all based on the honor system,” said Dan Wurtzel, the president of FirstService Residential New York, a property manager. “We’re not in the business of keeping medical records.”

Let’s say the building decided to have the doorman ask for proof of vaccination. Those residents, as shareholders of the co-op, are actually his employers. What if they refuse to answer the question? Or lie? The doorman can’t stop them from going to their apartment. “I don’t think people want to put the doorman in that position,” said Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the Manhattan office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. “They’re not bouncers at the bar.”

Theoretically the board could ask buyers at a board interview if they’ve been vaccinated, but the candidates could avoid answering the question or say that they’re following the guidance of a physician.

Instead, you will have to make your own decisions about how safe you feel stepping into the lobby or the gym without a mask on. It’s not unlike whether you feel safe enough going to Equinox again or getting on the subway. You can’t be certain if the person next to you is vaccinated. If you don’t feel confident in your surroundings, wear your mask.

Some co-ops may be slower to loosen their rules, or continue to require visitors and vendors (like nannies and housekeepers) to wear masks in common areas. One space that may remain closed for the foreseeable future, though, is the children’s playroom. Children under 12 are still not eligible for any vaccine, so those spaces are unlikely to reopen in the near future.

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