'Disgusting': Real estate's Christmas eviction message slammed

Penny Burfitt
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·6-min read

A real estate agency has come under fire after they sent a ‘Christmas reminder’ to tenants that has gone viral for what’s being called it’s ‘disgusting’ and ‘threatening’ contents.

An LJ Hooker franchise sent out an email on the 16 December under the subject line ‘Christmas’ in which the popular Christmas poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ or ‘The Night Before Christmas’ was repurposed into a reminder to tenants to pay their rent or risk eviction.

Image of LJ Hooker sign
A franchise of LJ Hooker has been slammed for a Christmas email threatening evictions over late rent. Photo: Facebook/ Supplied

The original email was shared Yahoo Lifestyle, after a screenshot was posted in a Twitter thread.

The post has since gone viral, leaving hundreds of user incensed at messages included in the innocuous-seeming poem.

RELATED:

Lines including ‘your rent still needs to be paid so after Christmas you’ll have somewhere to go’, and ‘it’s not a nice thing for a Property Manager to see evictions over the Christmas period’ were particularly seized upon, as was a message about forgoing an expensive gift for your child to make rent.

LJ Hooker franchise’s full Christmas email

Image of email sent to LJ Hooker tenants Christmas eviction poem
The email was sent to tenants of LJ Hooker on December 16. Photo: Supplied

The full message has been copied below:

“A Christmas reminder...”

“T'was the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

As we welcome the silly season, there’s something you should know, your rent still needs to be paid, so after Christmas you’ll have somewhere to go.

We all enjoy the holidays, so don’t give yourself the stress, make your payment like normal, so you can keep your address.

It’s not a nice thing for a Property Manager to see evictions over the Christmas period, it brings us no glee.

Christmas is about happiness, love and joy, so don’t spoil the time for everyone, to buy that expensive toy.

Enjoy the time with family, be merry and have a drink, and celebrate the time of year, but don’t let your good rental history sink.

We wish you all the happiness, that this time of year brings the loving time and memories, the joy and little things.

Merry Christmas everyone, we look forward to a new year, 2020 has been challenging but 2021 is nearly here.”

The email also included Christmas closure times and emergency contacts.

The LJ Hooker franchise in question and LJ Hooker’s national office have been contacted for comment.

The Tenants Union NSW tells Yahoo Lifestyle these kinds of emails are sent out regularly, but that this year, in particular, this email is particularly insensitive.

“Every year real estate agents send these messages out, but this year it is a particularly insensitive move,” CEO Leo Patterson Ross says, pointing out many sacrificed food, and bills in order to make rent this year and didn't stop paying until they had no other option.

Twitter explodes over ‘horrendous’ email

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

The recipient of the email who shared the message to Twitter on Sunday wrote she was ‘shocked’ upon receiving the email earlier this month.

“When we got the email I was shocked and offended,” she wrote of the email. “In any other circumstance I would complain about awful customer service like this directly to the company, but as a tenant you feel vulnerable.”

Hundreds have since responded to the Tweet, expressing their horror and disappointment at the message after a year of economic hardship for millions of Aussies thanks to the pandemic, the bushfires, and more.

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

“Oh my god,” one woman wrote. “I’ve worked in tenancy law for years and thought nothing could shock me, but this is pretty horrendous.”

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

“That [is] utterly inappropriate,” another agreed. “How DARE LJ Hooker employees send such a thinly veiled threat, in such patronizing language, to their tenants? If I was spoken to like that, I'd be on the phone to my landlord telling them to switch agencies for the sake of their tenants/property.”

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

“What a disgusting, abysmal, patronising email LJ Hooker,” another wrote. “So low.”

Another couldn’t look past the sheer irony of using a Christmas poem to deliver the message to tenants.

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

“Looks like they missed the memo about the spirit of Christmas and the meaning of the season with this subtle invective,” they wrote.

Evictions during coronavirus

The government has put measure sin place regarding eviction during coronavirus. Photo: Getty Images
The government has put measure sin place regarding eviction during coronavirus. Photo: Getty Images

In a bid to combat the economic fallout of the virus, the government introduced COVID-19 rental moratorium measures that have been extended to 26 March 2021, preventing evictions over rent missed because of coronavirus hardship.

The moratorium also extends to protections of those not directly economically impacted by COVID-19, with measures demanding ‘extended notice periods for certain other lease termination reasons’.

A spokesperson for Fair Trading NSW tells Yahoo Lifestyle they are encouraging landlords and tenants to negotiate in ‘good faith’.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the economy, meaning some tenants are having difficulty keeping up with rent payments,” a spokesperson says.

“NSW Fair Trading has actively encouraged landlords and tenants to negotiate alternate rent arrangements in good-faith. If the landlord or agent cannot reach an agreement, they can apply to Fair Trading for assistance in negotiating a resolution.”

“It is important that tenants and landlords are supported to help tenancies continue wherever possible, while Government financial support gets to those who need it.”

They clarify, however, that the moratorium doesn’t mean tenants simply don’t have to pay rent.

“The moratorium does not introduce a pause or automatic waiver on rental payments for COVID-19 impacted tenants,” they say. “Rental terms remain in place until an agreement is reached with the landlord which alters this.”

They add: “The assisted negotiations result in various outcomes which include partial waivers or deferred rental arrears with an agreed payment plan.”

The Tenants Union also hammered home the importance of making eviction the last option on the table.

Mr Ross says eviction shouldn’t be the first option for those in arrears, suggesting capable property managers should ‘explore negotiated payment plans, support services and even rent reductions’.

“Using the threat of homelessness during a pandemic at Christmas time is a very clear expression of an unequal relationship that is not based in mutual respect but instead relies on heavy-handed control,” he says.

“Landlords should consider whether their agency is acting in a way that reflects the landlord's own values especially over this holiday period, and whether they are contributing to an Australia that is based on taking care of everyone in the community.

“But we have hope. We should remember that even Scrooge woke up on Christmas Day with a very different attitude - one that recognises generosity, empathy and kindness."

Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.

Or if you have a story idea, email us at lifestyle.tips@verizonmedia.com.