Toronto

Toronto condo building brings in vaccine policy for amenities though province doesn't require it

A condominium building in downtown Toronto has informed its residents they will now need to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 to use its amenities — a move a lawyer warns could be challenged in court. 

Condos don't fall under the province's COVID-19 vaccine passport plan

A Toronto condo is requiring residents to show proof of vaccination to use its amenities. (John Badcock/CBC)

A condominium building in downtown Toronto has informed its residents they will now need to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 to use its amenities — a move a lawyer warns could be challenged in court. 

Residents at Casa Condos, located at 33 Charles St East, were sent an email Thursday morning from the condo's property management company, stating that "proof of vaccination status is required for guests and residents who wish to use all amenities," effective immediately.

It means unvaccinated residents will not be allowed to use the 46-storey building's outdoor facilities, such as the rooftop deck, pool and barbecue, or its indoor amenities, including a party room, cinema, visitor suites and gym.

The email, from Del Property Management Inc., said the move was due to the "provincial government's vaccine certificate program," which requires proof of vaccination to "use non-essential businesses."

WATCH / Toronto condo requires residents to show proof of vaccination to use its amenities

Toronto condo requires proof of vaccination for residents to use amenities

21 days ago
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A Toronto condo tower told its residents this morning of a new COVID-19 policy change in their building. Starting immediately, the condo management has said residents and guests must provide proof of vaccination to use all amenities in the building. Chris Glover has the story. 2:06

But the province clarified its stance on condominium buildings in a statement to CBC, saying they are not subject to Ontario's vaccination passport plan introduced this week, as they are "not considered public settings or facilities."

"However, the condo board may implement their own rules respecting use of condo gyms or media rooms," Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said.

"These condos may wish to consult their legal counsel if they are considering such a measure."

When contacted by CBC News, Casa Condos declined to comment.

However, a Toronto lawyer said the new rule could be "too broad" in its scope and due to the speed it was introduced, a resident could challenge it in court.

Condos must 'act responsibly'

Bradley Chaplick, who specializes in condo law at Horlick Levitt Di Lella, said the condominium could not enforce it as a "rule",  as they would have needed to give 30 days' notice and a statement that owners could vote on it.

A "policy," on the other hand, can be brought in by a condo's board, but it cannot impose new restrictions upon owners or occupants. 

Condos have "some discretion" to bring in new policies, he said, but they have to "act responsibly."

"Some of those amenities will be outdoors and others simply will not be captured by the scope of the government's vaccine certificate mandate — such as guest suites, for example," Chaplick said.

Ontario residents will soon have to show proof they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to dine indoors at restaurants and go to gyms and theatres, as part of vaccination policy that comes into effect on Sept. 22. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

"You don't have the same concerns when you're talking about someone reserving a guest suite as you do when people are using a communal gym with no masks on; those are totally different scenarios."

He said the condo's vaccine mandate looked "overly broad" and could be challenged in court.

"You might conclude that the policy is overly broad and therefore not reasonable. Or you might have a totally different interpretation from a judge who says COVID is really serious and the government saw fit to implement mandatory vaccination policies for gyms and movie theatres, and if you want to extend that to your media room and roof deck, then that's not unreasonable. And both of those decisions have merit," Chaplick said.

However, he wondered how a private building would enforce a vaccine mandate, due to the level of enforcement and extra staffing it would require.

Residents support policy

Four Casa Condos residents interviewed by CBC News agreed the vaccine policy was a good move.

Susan Castillo, who has lived in the building for three years, said she was "not too surprised" to receive the email from building management, but it was "a little sudden."

"At least that allows us to keep the amenities open that way," she said.

Another woman, who moved to Toronto from the United States and who declined to be named, said she was in favour of the idea and was happy Ontario had been "proactive" in rolling out vaccine passports.

"[I have] strong feelings about people in our country who are not bothering to get vaccinated, who have very uninformed ideas about vaccinations there," she said. 

"I am vaccinated so this makes me feel more protected [...] It feels like an aggressive move to start curbing the effects of the pandemic and I don't think there's anything wrong with the intent of that."

Mark Bernstein said he thought it was a "great" idea.

"It's everyone's choice to do what they want. Unfortunately there are things that we have to do, and we have to just abide by them."

However, at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, seven hours after they had notified residents of the new policy, Casa Condos sent out another email indicating they may be rethinking the move.

"In receipt of your emails and phone calls in regards to the notice concerning vaccination certificate requirement in order to use the amenities, the board of directors are consulting and the decision will be communicated with all residents accordingly," the email said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashleigh Stewart is an investigative journalist from New Zealand now living in Toronto, via stints in Dubai, Tokyo and Jakarta. She's particularly interested in stories about mental health, inequality and underrepresented communities. Outside of work, you'll find her on a ski field or a mountain trail. Follow her on Twitter @ash_stewart_ or email her on ashleigh.stewart@cbc.ca.

With files from Chris Glover

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