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New West renter fears COVID-19 risks as manager insists on showing apartment

A family in New Westminster says the manager of the building they will be living in until the end of April is insisting on showing their unit to prospective renters without taking any COVID-19 safety measures.

Lawrence Corso told CBC that he, his wife and eight-year-old daughter have lived in the Onni Group-owned building for three years. On Saturday, the family gave formal notice to the resident caretaker that they would be moving out at the end of April.

Corso said he became concerned when the caretaker insisted he would start showing the unit Tuesday without any coronavirus safety measures in place, other than a promise that prospective renters wouldn’t touch anything.

“I would be OK with showing the apartment if people viewing the apartment wore gloves and masks,” said Corso. “However, anything less than this puts me and my family at risk.

“If these strangers touch, sneeze or cough while in our apartment — for example in my daughter’s room or in our kitchen — the coronavirus can survive in the air and on surfaces for hours.”

According to the Residential Tenancy Act , amendments brought in under the provincial emergency declaration on March 25, tenants now have more power to deny landlords entry to their suite. 

Emergency amendments

“To encourage physical distancing and minimize transmission of COVID-19 … a landlord cannot enter the rental unit for open houses or show the unit to prospective tenants without the consent of the tenant.”

The measures also state that:

  • Landlords are not permitted to enter the rental unit without the consent of the tenant (even if proper notice has been served) unless there is risk to personal property or life.
  • A landlord cannot enter the rental unit to make regular repairs unless the tenant gives consent.

In response to an inquiry from CBC, Onni Group chief of staff Duncan Wlodarczak said Corso’s concerns were due to “miscommunication,” and that the issue had been rectified.

He went on to say that since March 19, Onni Goup had put a hold on in-person showings and had moved to “online/digital/virtual unit tours, so as to minimize any interaction with existing tenants.”

“If at any time a member of our residential property management team does need to enter a suite, all of our staff have the appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, etc.,” said Wlodarczak in a statement.

“At all our properties, we are following all provincial guidelines and requirements,” he said.

Corso says the resident manager has now requested to enter the suite wearing full protective gear to conduct face time tours for prospective renters.

Onni Group is one of North America’s largest real estate developers, operating in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Phoenix, according to its website.

Amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act also give landlords more power, stating they can “reasonably restrict or schedule the use of common or shared areas to support social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus. This would apply to both tenants and guests.”

The new amendments will remain in place for the duration of the provincial state of emergency.

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