Calls for stricter protocols on masks in B.C. apartment buildings

Once B.C. public health officials announced masks were optional but strongly recommended earlier in the summer, Margaret McCabe said some tenants living in her apartment building simply got too comfortable not wearing them.

"Some tenants in my building have said publicly, they are not going to wear masks and they are not vaccinated. So the two things together are the larger issue," said McCabe, a tenant living in North Vancouver.

Despite signage in the lobby, McCabe said some tenants refuse to wear face coverings while in the elevator, the laundry room and other common areas.

"It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I feel like I can't leave my suite. If I go to the laundry room, I'm wearing gloves," added McCabe.

McCabe spoke with her landlord, who also manages the building, about her concerns. However, according to the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) there is only so much he can do.

"If a tenant is refusing to wear a mask in the building, it is very difficult for a landlord to be able to compel them to wear a mask," said Robert Patterson, lawyer and legal advocate with TRAC.

The Ministry of Health website explaining the province's re-implemented mask mandate does not specifically address mask use in multi-unit residential buildings.

According to the Ministry, masks are mandatory "in all public indoor settings and spaces," such as shopping malls, grocery stores and airports.

"That being said, if a tenant feels uncomfortable, especially if they have some particular vulnerabilities and they're concerned about being exposed, that is something to talk to the landlord about. That might be on a basis of where they can make a stronger claim," said Patterson.

In the midst of a fourth wave, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, McCabe hopes the Ministry of Health includes residential buildings in its provincial mask mandate and that all tenants try to be respectful towards their neighbours.

"People do have a right to choose not to be vaccinated, but does that also give them the right to infect other people?" said McCabe.