COVID-19: What Does Self-Isolation and Quarantine Mean in Condominiums?

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government recently announced an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act, 2005 requiring travelers entering Canada to mandatorily self-isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. As these new changes will no doubt influence how condominium corporations and Boards navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, we’re providing our on the quarantine requirements.

 What does it mean for a condominium resident to “self-isolate”?

In our view, a condominium resident who is self-isolating must remain inside his/her unit and must not access the condominium’s common elements. The purpose of self-isolation is to prevent transmission of COVID-19 from residents who may be carriers to other residents of the condominium. So self-isolation at home requires the residents to restrict themselves to their units and to avoid contact with others. With respect to exclusive-use common elements, we believe the nature of the exclusive-use common element will determine whether a resident would be able to have access during self-isolation – where access is safe the resident will be required to practice social distancing and avoid contact with other residents.

Can condominium corporations enforce self-isolation by seeking help from the police?

The Condominium Act, 1998 requires Boards to administer the common elements and to adopt measures to ensure that residents comply with the condominium’s governing documents. In our view, the Board’s primary duty is to advise and educate residents on the importance of self-isolation (and social distancing) in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. See Ontario Public Health’s Fact Sheet on “How to Self Isolate” and a similar fact sheet from Government of Canada, which may be useful educational tools to provide to your residents!

The Board will likely also serve as one of the first points of contact for residents. Either those residents looking to self-report for COVID-19 [as noted in our previous blog, condominium corporations are entitled to request information from residents who have tested positive for COVID-19] or for residents who may simply have questions about preventing virus transmission. Accordingly, condominiums should be proactive in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by taking measures such as:

  • Immediately informing all residents (via an electronic notice, if possible) of the mandatory requirement to self-isolate at home for 14 days upon return to Canada, and providing subsequent notices at regular intervals emphasizing the importance of self-isolation and social distancing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the property. Residents should also be advised to immediately communicate with the Board if they have tested positive for COVID-19 (or have experienced symptoms that appear to be from COVID-19).
  • Maintaining a list of residents who are known to the condominium corporation to be COVID-19-positive or who are awaiting test results (please note: names on this list must remain confidential);
  • Coordinating with COVID-19-positive residents (electronically, if possible) to mitigate risk of transmission (this includes requesting such residents to not visit the common elements and to use electronic means of communication as much as possible);
  • Regularly sending notices (electronically, if possible) to inform residents of the measures being adopted by the Board, and being available to answer questions residents may have regarding preventative measures whilst being attentive and empathetic towards the needs of residents in this difficult time

If a resident is not complying with quarantine or self-isolation requirements, we feel that the condominium’s first effort in most cases, will be to communicate with the resident about the self-isolation requirements (i.e. try to educate the resident about the requirements) and hopefully persuade the resident to comply.

If the non-compliance continues, the next step might be to involve police and/or public health authorities in the matter. Our current feeling is that, in most cases, condominium corporations should not be taking other enforcement measures on their own. Again, in cases where education does not “do the trick”, the next best alternative may be to seek assistance from the police and/or public health authorities.  Our understanding is that those authorities will usually start with their own efforts to educate and persuade the violator (and the violator may pay a little more attention to them!)     

NOTE: the specific steps to be taken should be determined on a case-by-case basis. We emphasize the need for Boards and Management to remain vigilant and to act reasonably (with reasonable haste) in all circumstances.

Can a resident in self-isolation leave their home to obtain daily necessaries (such as groceries, etc)?

The Government of Canada’s factsheet on “How to self-isolate at home” advises individuals under self-isolation to use grocery delivery services and to request assistance from family members, friends, and neighbours for essential errands. Accordingly, we are of the view that a condominium resident who is in mandatory self-isolation should not leave their unit and should arrange for daily necessities such as groceries and medicine through other means (such as online delivery or with the assistance of others).

We note that residents in certain condominiums have set up volunteer groups to assist with grocery delivery and other essential errands to those who are self-isolating. While condominium corporations cannot mandatorily impose the creation of such volunteer groups, we believe these types groups serve an important function and could be an effective solution to ensure that those who are self-isolating are able to receive essential supplies. This said, it will be imperative that these groups to follow the Public Health Authority’s protocols (i.e. maintaining social distance, frequent hand washing, wearing gloves/masks, etc.).

Does the requirement to self-isolate apply only to returning travelers?

The mandatory requirement to self-isolate at home applies to anyone entering Canada and to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Further, for those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, Ottawa Public Health recommends self-isolation for 14 days after experiencing the first symptom. Individuals who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting test results are also advised to practice self-isolation for a period of 14 days.

Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!