Some N.S. apartment landlords institute no-visitor policies amid COVID-19
Other measures by landlords include enhanced cleaning protocols, changing how they interact with tenants
With around one-fifth of Nova Scotians living in apartments according to the most recent census data, this poses a challenge to maintaining physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic because large numbers of people are housed in them and the complexes contain many shared areas.
Some apartment owners in Nova Scotia have instituted no-visitor policies, while many apartment buildings have implemented extra cleaning in high-traffic areas and touch zones, such as door handles, elevator buttons, railings and entrance lobbies.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, many social spaces like gyms, pools and conference rooms have been closed.
Some have posted signs throughout buildings encouraging residents to wash their hands frequently and to maintain a distance of two metres between residents who don't live together, but one place that's particularly tricky to do that is inside of elevators.
Several apartments are posting guidelines, such as suggesting residents take the stairs and limiting the number of people in an elevator at once.
Southwest Properties, which owns more than a dozen apartment buildings in Halifax and several condominiums, has also put in tissues and garbage bins, giving residents the options to use the tissue to touch elevator buttons and then have residents toss it into garbage cans when finished.
MetCap Living, which owns apartments in Halifax, the Annapolis Valley and Cape Breton, has made their laundry rooms available 24 hours a day to help residents.
Many apartments have asked that residents use side entrances to reduce the number of people in the main entrance, as well as limiting delivery personnel to the front entrance. In some buildings, that means they must wait for residents to pick up their items from the front door.
Showing apartments and maintenance
Most apartments have limited in-unit maintenance to emergency fixes for the foreseeable future.
They're also limiting interaction between residents and employees. Instead, they're asking for people to use phone and email when possible.
Some places have also suspended unit showings. Southwest Properties has said all vacant unit showings have been suspended and rentals will take place online.
Killam Properties, which owns buildings across Halifax Regional Municipality and in Sydney, N.S., has suspended showings of occupied units and in-person condition visits by management.
Some landlords have instituted no-visitor policies for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those policies may be in formality only, as the province and police both say such rules can't be enforced.
Last week, Southwest Properties put out a statement that said visitors weren't permitted in their buildings, with the exception of people providing an essential service or those dropping off items to high-risk, isolating and vulnerable residents.
"If people are doing their part and following the experts' advice there is no reason to be inviting guests into your home," said the statement.
Killam Properties began encouraging tenants last month to cancel all social visits and limit visits to caregiving only.
MetCap Living told guests not to enter the building if they have tested positive for COVID-19, have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Gary Andrea, a spokesperson for the province, said landlords cannot prevent tenants from having visitors in the units.
"However, under the current state of emergency due to COVID-19, the chief medical officer of health is requesting people stay in their own home as much as possible," he said in an email.
'Stay at home with the people who live with you'
He also said Nova Scotians are expected to follow the advice of the public health office, which includes limiting essential gatherings to no more than five people and following physical distancing guidelines.
Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau said they are enforcing rules under the Health Protection Act and Emergency Management Act, neither of which extend to enforcing no-visitor policies.
Halifax Regional Police say these restrictions are civil matters.
"The best way to protect yourself, your family and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community is to stay at home with the people who live with you," said spokesperson Const. John MacLeod.
What if you're self-isolating?
People who are in self-isolation due to travel, exposure to COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus are not permitted to leave their property, but can go on their own deck, balcony or yard. Common areas are off limits.
Apartment dwellers in self-isolation who need groceries, prescription drugs and other supplies should arrange to have someone else deliver those things to them, all while maintaining safe physical distancing.
Killam Properties has issued specific advice to its tenants that are self-isolating, which includes letting their residence managers know when someone will be dropping off items, preferably at a time when the building has lower traffic than usual.
It suggests the delivery person knocks and steps back from the door, and that tenants should take the items inside with minimal contact with the person or spaces. Once the delivery is complete, tenants are asked to contact them again so that they can wipe down the exterior door and surfaces.
Some apartment managers have also asked tenants who are experiencing symptoms of illness, have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been around someone who has, or who have travelled outside of the province to disclose that to their superintendents.
What if you're self-isolating with a pet?
For residents who are self-isolating and have pets, Killam recommends that a friend, neighbour or even the superintendent should take the animal outside if needed.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says there is no evidence to suggest dogs can catch COVID-19, but there may be a chance if someone pets or coughs on an animal that the virus could be transmitted to the next person who pets the animal.
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