COVID-19 and apartment living

Jul 21, 2020 | CV19, Health, Housing, Impact Updates, informed

You’ve probably seen and read plenty of general information on COVID-19 safety precautions, information on hand washing, wearing masks on public transportation and in stores, as well as social distancing. But what if you live in an apartment or other group setting, and social distancing is a challenge?

People living in apartments face additional challenges when it comes to staying safe and practicing prevention. Common spaces like lobbies, elevators, mailbox clusters, garbage chutes, laundry rooms and indoor and outdoor recreation areas all make it more difficult to practice prevention.

Here are some tips and suggestions on personal hygiene, managing your apartment and what to expect from your landlord.

What you can do for personal hygiene in addition to hand washing for 20 seconds and avoiding close contact with those who are sick:

  • Avoid touching common surfaces others touch in public places and in your apartment building or common areas as best you can.
  • Don’t share food or drinks.
  • When taking elevators avoid touching your face after pushing elevator buttons.  If there isn’t enough space in the elevator to stay 6 ft apart, wait for the next elevator. See Ottawa Public Health’s Elevator etiquette for more.
  • Strictly limit time spent in high risk settings, including closed spaces with poor ventilation and crowded places with large numbers of people gathered.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering in situations where physical distancing may not be possible.
  • Stock up on some basic items for the possibility that you may have to quarantine in your apartment for two weeks.
  • Find ways to socialize at a distance by talking from one balcony to another. Or place chairs in the hall to talk to your neighbour.


Cleaning and disinfecting your apartment

  • Try to keep your apartment neat, clean and organized to maintain a healthy environment. 
  • Clean regularly and sanitize often using items like Lysol spray and Clorox wipes on “high touch” surfaces including countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, nightstands, bathroom fixtures, toilets, refrigerator handles, kitchen faucets, light switches, TV remotes, cell phones, computer keyboards and tablets.

See: How to Clean and disinfect your Apartment During Coronavirus  (video)

When someone in your apartment gets sick:

  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick, even if symptoms are mild
  • Make sure the sick person in quarantined
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve
  • Keep two metres apart from others who are outside of your close contact bubble
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Wear a mask
  • Clean the bathroom daily
  • Keep the apartment ventilated, if possible
  • Wipe down tabletops, doorknobs and phones with a good disinfectant several times a day
  • Wash bed linens in hot water and don’t handle them too much afterwards. Rather, hold them at arms length when putting them away or back on the bed.
  • Call before seeing your doctor.
  • Protect vulnerable family, friends and contacts by finding virtual ways to connect and support those who at higher risk for severe outcomes of COVID-19.

What building management can do:

  •  Make hand sanitizer available at the front desk, the gym, by mailboxes
  • Clean a lot, disinfect commonly touched surfaces at the front desk, lobby restroom, mailroom, game rooms, elevators, door handles and delivery areas several times a day.
  • Have deliveries left in the lobby for pickup not taken to apartments
  • Close the garbage, and make sure all garbage cans and lobby waste baskets have working lids and are kept closed.
  • Encourage staff to stay home if they are sick, assuring them they will not lose jobs.
  • Encourage employees, residents and visitors to report if they believe they may have contracted COVID-19, especially if they have used common areas.
  • Landlords who are selling tenant-occupied homes are strongly advised to follow the guidance of the Real Estate Council of Ontario and avoid in-person showings. Landlords are subject to the Human Rights Code and have a duty to accommodate tenants under protected grounds, including people with disabilities. For example, conducting an in-person showing when a tenant has an immune-compromising condition could lead to a complaint under the Code.
  • Risk mitigation tool for outdoor recreation spaces and activities operating during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during COVID-19
  • Follow Province of Ontario guidelines for reopening of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities such as pools.

Group living settings

In group living settings many people who aren’t in the same family unit live together. They may live there for a short or long period of time. These settings may include vulnerable and most at risk populations who have a higher chance for serious illness. You should adapt public health measures for your setting to prevent COVID-19 from entering and lower the chance of it spreading.

Examples of these settings include:

  • closed settings, such as:
    • residential care
    • correctional facilities
    • long-term care facilities
  • group homes for people with disabilities
  • shelters for people experiencing homelessness

Learn more about the measures you can take in group living settings

Additional resources

Ottawa Public Health:

Multi-Unit Dwelling Resources

Multilingual Resources for Diverse Communities During COVID-19 include

National Collaboration Centre for Environmental Health: