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Q&A : COVID-19 and Landlord Responsibility

Q: How can I prepare for the possibility of a tenant testing positive for COVID-19 in my building? Is it my responsibility to inform the other tenants?

A: The coronavirus has thrust our community into unprecedent times. It has caused landlords to come up with solutions to novel issues. As anxiety over COVID-19 continues to grow, landlords have had to come up with practical solutions to protect themselves and the residents in their buildings. There are things a landlord should do when a tenant in a multi-dwelling unit tests positive for COVID-19.

It is important to communicate to all residents in the building when a tenant has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The coronavirus spreads quickly and is highly contagious. The other tenants should be informed of this as soon as possible so they can take necessary precautions.

Shortly after being notified of a tenant’s positive results, the landlord should clean and disinfect common areas of the building. This can be done by following recommended cleaning and disinfecting protocols as outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

When communicating this information to residents be mindful of legal and privacy concerns. Do not disclose the identity of the tenant who has been diagnosed. Instead send a general letter to all residents saying – “[O]ne of the residents in this building has tested positive for COVID-19. Recommended cleaning and disinfecting protocol will be done to common areas. Please engage in appropriate safety practices recommended by the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website ( and from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s website (”

Even before a tenant notifies a landlord that they have been diagnosed, a general letter can be sent to all tenants to remind everyone to practice safety protocols as recommended by the CDC.

Some landlords have increased cleaning in areas such as lobbies, stairwells, laundry rooms, mailrooms, and reception areas. Such cleaning includes wiping down surfaces with disinfectant that are frequently touched such as door handles, mailboxes, and elevator buttons. Landlords can also choose to provide hand sanitizer in common areas of the property, implement policies and practices for social distancing such as no more than two persons from different households permitted in an elevator at a time, shut down common use rooms to minimize public gathering, and post signage in frequently used areas (like a laundry room) to encourage and ensure social distancing.

Informing tenants that you are taking active precautions could help reduce anxiety. The San Francisco’s Department of Public Health has created guidelines for multifamily residential buildings that could be used as a good resource

© 2020 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time

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