Government sides with immuno-compromised renter

Kirk Winter Headshot

By Kirk Winter

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

Since the arrival of COVID-19 in North America last month the elderly and immuno-compromised have been identified as the two groups most at risk of serious illness from this virulent strain of respiratory virus.

Governments have wisely counselled these groups to social distance and ride COVID-19 out in the safety and comfort of their own homes or apartments. If you are a home or condominium owner this is relatively easy to do, but as a renter this is much more difficult, especially if your landlord behaves like the one mentioned below.

The Advocate received the following plea for help from a local woman. She was having problems with her landlord who insisted on showing her apartment to prospective tenants despite the ongoing pandemic and her well known health issues. We have edited the letter to protect the privacy of both landlord and renter, but the note to The Advocate shared the following unacceptable situation:

“I am reaching out at the recommendation of a friend. I am currently in a dilemma and I have reached out to both the Landlord/Tenant Board and Laurie Scott regarding this issue.

Doug Ford’s government has put into place the no eviction order, which is fantastic. One thing that was never put into place was (policy regarding) landlords coming into apartments (during this pandemic).

I am renting an apartment in (a small town in Kawartha Lakes). Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, I found an apartment in Peterborough to move into when my lease is up on April 30.

Under normal circumstances, my landlord would bring in potential tenants and all would be well.

Unfortunately, this is still the same practice. My landlord is expecting me to allow him to bring in numerous strangers to view my apartment during a pandemic.

I have a complex congenital heart disease plus Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder. If people enter my apartment and are carriers (of COVID-19) this could kill me.

I also work in a job where if I were to become a COVID-19 carrier it would be deadly to the high-risk people I care for.

When I explained this to my landlord his response was “I’ll wear gloves.” What if they cough or sneeze? I asked that and he did not respond.

I am genuinely concerned for my health and others in Ontario who may have the same issues while they are moving too.”

The Advocate immediately contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who are mandated to deal and protect renters in Ontario from questionable practices by landlords. Despite the fact that the entire department was working from home, we received a reply in less than 30 minutes. The MME promised a final response in 48 hours.

In the meantime we kept in contact with the young woman who shared her disappointment after discussing her issue with an assistant in MPP Laurie Scott’s office who shared, “There is not much we can do for you. Laurie will bring it up at Queen’s Park for you.”

Less than 48 hours after our initial discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, we received a response from Rachel Widakdo, media relations and spokesperson for the Ministry. Her answer could not have been clearer:

“No landlord should show a tenant-occupied unit that will put the health and safety of the tenant at risk. Landlords should put the safety of their tenants ahead of all other considerations.

Immediate concerns and questions should be directed to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Rental Housing Enforcement Unit at 1-888-772-9277.”

Our letter writer was very happy with the prompt and unequivocal response, as were we.

Recognition in solving this situation should also be given to Ontario’s well trained and hard working civil service who, despite the fact they are social distancing, are still working for the people of Ontario.


  1. Diane Engelstad says:

    Good job Lindsay Advocate and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing! Laurie Scott…not so much 🙁

  2. Christine Wilson says:

    An excellent response from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and to the Lindsay Advocate for a clear and unambiguous relating of the fact. And kudos to the civil servants who receive such a bad rap in normal times, whom we now realise can be indispensable to the management of this country.

    Laurie Scott, I agree, a very vapid ‘not my problem’ response.

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