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Can my landlord discriminate against me for contracting COVID-19?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2020 | Tenants' Rights |

As of May 1, New York still leads the nation in coronavirus cases, with more than 300,000 residents affected. Now that the state is expanding testing, where anyone can get a test at their local pharmacy, more people are likely to test positive. If you are one of them, you’ll likely be concerned about numerous things:

  • How well you will battle the virus?
  • Whom you might infect or already have infected?
  • Will your positive status will impact your living situation? Can your landlord force you to move out if you are infected?

Coronavirus and your housing status

While there is no hard rules on what happens after you test positive for COVID-19, the state of New York has provided a guideline for some of the most frequently asked questions tenants may have. In some buildings, tenant, co-op or condo association groups have adopted rules that limit anyone from opening their home to nonresidents right now and also have limited non-residents from entering the building. You may face a problem if your name isn’t on your lease or if you want to stay with a friend or relative while recovering.

In early April, one New Hampshire doctor was asked to leave while staying at his brother’s vacant Upper West Side apartment because residents felt he put others at risk because he was in New York to help treat coronavirus patients. While barring some nonresidents based on the coronavirus emergency may be prudent and permissible, some may not.  Barring childcare workers, for instance, may run afoul of the New York City Human Rights Law.

Preventative measures

Of course, if you do test positive, you should follow all of the CDC’s recommended self-quarantine measures:

  • isolating yourself in your room until you have been fever-free 72 hours (without taking fever reducer medicine)
  • following whatever your doctor’s instructions were for treatment
  • staying isolated for at least seven days since your symptoms began
  • maintaining isolation until your symptoms are improving

If you do face problems with your landlord because you contracted COVID-19 or your right to have guests is being limited, you should contact a tenant rights attorney. No one should face housing discrimination during a public health crisis, and an attorney can help you know what your options are.

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