‘Cancel your broadband’: Agent tells tenants rent is ‘priority’ despite coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 10:25 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:49 09 April 2020

Leo Nickolls (inset) said he was gobsmacked at the tone of the email from Martin & Co. Picture: Leo Nickolls/Google Images

Leo Nickolls (inset) said he was gobsmacked at the tone of the email from Martin & Co. Picture: Leo Nickolls/Google Images

Leo Nickolls/Google Images

A tenant was left “gobsmacked” having received a “tone-deaf” email from his letting agent which advised occupants to cancel subscription services and utility bills in order to afford rent.

The Norwich franchise of Martin & Co stated rent was a priority payment because it “literally puts a roof over your head”.

The agents advised renters to “contact your energy supplier and see if you can reduce your monthly direct debits – warmer weather should reduce your energy usage anyway”.

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It went on to advise people to reduce or cancel phone, television and broadband packages, reduce mobile phone costs and cancel subscription services such as Netflix.

The email was sent following the outbreak of the coronavirus with many people losing their jobs or being furloughed.

Designer Leo Nickolls received the email, despite having no problems paying his rent for his home in Norwich’s Golden Triangle.

He said: “I was gobsmacked that they thought this was the right thing to do - passive-aggressively demanding people be able to pay their rent.”

Leo Nickolls said he was Leo Nickolls said he was "gobsmacked" by the tone of the email. Picture: Leo Nickolls

Mr Nickolls, who runs his oven book cover design company, shares him home with son Alfie.

He added: “It was tone-deaf to send this out at the moment. Especially advising people to cancel bills like internet coverage which could help them keep connected and to feel less isolated.

“I went back to them and asked why they had done it and haven’t heard back. I know some friends of mine also queried it.”

Mike White, the owner of the franchise based in Norwich city centre, said: “In hindsight I appreciate it may have come across as tone deaf. Of course when we sent this out we never intended to upset or offend anyone.”

Martin&Co in Norwich. Picture: Archant/GoogleImagesMartin&Co in Norwich. Picture: Archant/GoogleImages

Mr White said he had received two emails from tenants responding to the tone of the original email.

He said: “I do stand by the idea that people should be budgeting carefully in the current climate. We’ve had a number of tenants contact us about not being able to pay rent and we hoped to support them by sharing some links and advice.”

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