An Australian share house rental company has deleted its online presence after sending out an email its tenants labelled "racist" and "unacceptable".
On Monday Sydney-based Sweet Potato Living, which advertises rooms through Flatmates.com.au, sent an email with different instructions for Australian and non-Australian tenants, telling foreign nationals who have lost their jobs to immediately leave the country. The email has now been shared in various Facebook groups.
"If you are from another country and have lost your job and have waited this long, YOU ARE BEING IRRESPONSIBLE FOR DOING SO!!!!" the email, signed only by the company's "help and maintenance" department, reads. "Go back home to your friends and family and live through this crisis with their support as many non-Australians have already done."
When Mark — a pseudonym to protect his privacy, as he remains a tenant of Sweet Potato Living — read the first two paragraphs of the email he said he made a cup of green tea because he knew the rest of it would make him angry, and he was right: “The email just got worse and worse”.
"I was absolutely disgusted with what I read," the 20-year-old told BuzzFeed News.
"It was incredibly racist and incredibly hurtful to not only foreigners but anyone else who might be struggling.
"It is un-Australian what they’ve said. This is not what this country is about."
Mark has been renting a room in an eight-person share house in Sydney’s inner west through Sweet Potato Living.
"It is just a really shitty situation and what they’ve done is super out of line and unacceptable," he said.
Half the residents in his house are foreign nationals, a few of whom have lost their jobs.
"There was a guy who moved in recently from France who lost his job a week after the coronavirus pandemic hit," Mark said. "A few others have lost their jobs but have a safety net."
Mark, who pays $280 a week for his room, said he is lucky to have a secure job but "like most millennials" is living pay cheque to pay cheque.
On its website, which was taken down soon after the email was sent, Sweet Potato Living described itself as Sydney's "number one provider of share housing". Some rental listings were also removed from Flatmates.com.au.
The email said everyone is under financial stress right now "especially Sweet Potato Living".
It refers to Sunday's news announced by federal and state governments that for six months residential and commercial landlords will be banned from evicting tenants under financial stress caused by the coronavirus economic downturn.
"As the government has announced a moratorium in relation to evictions, let's be VERY clear regarding this," the email says. "This applies to those AUSTRALIANS who are experiencing financial hardship.
"For anyone thinking this moratorium is a chance to NOT pay rent, your are gravely mistaken and you need to check your facts before making this kind of assumption."
It gives different instructions for "AUSTRALIANS" and "NON Australians".
It encourages "AUSTRALIANS" who have lost their jobs to go into "survival mode" and seek casual work so they can continue to pay rent, and that if they can't get work or claim government assistance then "move back with close friends or family".
The message to NON Australians who have lost their jobs is to "catch the next available flight home" to their "country of origin".
"If you are from another country and have lost your job and have waited this long, YOU ARE BEING IRRESPONSIBLE FOR DOING SO!!!!" it says. "Go back home to your friends and family and live through this crisis with their support as many non-Australians have already done."
BuzzFeed News approached Sweet Potato Living for comment on Tuesday morning and received no response.
Another tenant, who originally posted the email in a mutual aid group set up for people in Sydney to help each other during the pandemic, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he received a call from a staff member at Sweet Potato Living. He said the staff member apologised "on behalf of" the director but "refused to give out the details of the director".
Another member of the Facebook group, who did not respond to a message from BuzzFeed News, commented that the email had upset his girlfriend.
Mark also emailed the company to let them know he disapproved but hasn't heard back.
“I’m actually looking to get out of here right now because of that email and because I feel so betrayed and disgusted,” he said.