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Landlords not required to inform tenants of positive COVID-19 cases in buildings

The way landlords choose to handle COVID-19 cases varies.

HOUSTON — Houston’s skyline is filled with residential buildings.

They aren't just high rises, either. There are mid-rises and multi-unit complexes of every shape and size.

The way the landlords choose to handle cases of COVID-19 are just as varied.

“It’s just about awareness,” a Heights apartment complex tenant who did not want to be identified said. “I can’t defend myself, or my family or friends if I don’t know what’s going on around me.”

The tenant said she and her fellow residents received an email notice from their building’s managers giving instructions for what to do if someone on the property is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Here is a portion of the instructions:

  • Do not enter the apartment.
  • Do not discuss the illness with anyone.
  • And do not discuss with news media or other residents!!

“At the top of the notification it’s like, ‘We’re here for you, we want to keep you in the loop,'” the tenant said. “Then at the bottom (it says), ‘If we have it, don’t tell the media, don’t tell people you have it, don’t talk to people,’ with exclamation points.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the largest group of positive COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston are residents who are in their 20s and 30s.

It is why the mayor said he is having city workers remove more than 500 basketball rims from parks throughout the city where he says social distancing has not been observed.

“I hated to do it,” Turner said. “But safety first.”

The city has never addressed the possible spread of COVID-19 within residential buildings where tenants often share hallways, elevators and amenities.

Around 73% of apartment residents are in their 20s and 30s, according to the National Apartment Association.

“Although many landlords may notify residents when someone has tested positive in the community, the landlord is not obligated to do so,” according to a COVID-19 question-and-answer page on the Houston Apartment Association’s website.

KHOU 11 reached out to the mayor’s office to get his opinion on whether residents should be notified of a positive COVID-19 case on their property.

KHOU 11 has not gotten a response.

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