Landlord Under Fire for Accidentally CCing Tenants in Email About Being Evicted After Coronavirus Crisis

"I thought it was shameful that during a global pandemic the earliest they thought to reach out to us was the day prior to rent being due," tenant Alexander Mercier tells PEOPLE

A number of appalled residents of a Los Angeles property-management company are firing back at their landlord after Saturn Management accidentally copied all tenants in an insensitive email about rent payment amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Last Tuesday, roughly 300 tenants received a mass email about April’s rent. In the email, Saturn Management expressed that despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s emergency order strengthening protections for residential tenants in response to coronavirus, residents would still be expected to pay for their housing.

“Angelenos should be focused on staying healthy, staying safe, and staying at home — and I don’t want anyone who’s hurting financially as a result of this virus to be worried about losing their home or basic necessities,” Mayor Garcetti said in a statement on March 23. “If you can afford rent and utilities, then please pay them on time. If you’re struggling during this emergency, we’ll do everything possible to help ease and lift those burdens.”

However, Saturn Management, who oversees more than two dozen properties, shared different sentiments in the email to tenants, PEOPLE can confirm.

“The governor of California has instituted an emergency ordinance relating to the payment of rent, that although delays eviction for non-payment of rent, it does not prohibit an eviction for non-payment of rent in the future. Rents are still due pursuant to your lease agreement with the landlord & management company. We want everyone to be able to remain in their homes and to buy food & medicine. Hopefully, this does not last too long and everyone can get back to work. Please understand that rent is needed to pay the mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and maintenance employees and supplies. We will work with everyone so we can all get through this shut down the easiest way possible,” the email from Saturn Management, obtained by PEOPLE, read.”

Saturn Management has yet to provide comment to PEOPLE.

A lot of tenants, including Alexander Mercier, were very disappointed at management’s tone-deaf message and since they could all see each other’s emails, they decided to do something about it.

“I replied to the thread, minus Saturn Management, asking ‘Y’all paying April rent or what? I know Cheesecake Factory isn’t. People quickly began to reply expressing their disappointment in Saturn Management’s note and saying how they were down for a rent strike,” Mercier tells PEOPLE.

“A young woman that was on the thread made a Slack channel and people began to migrate there to continue conversations and organizing.”

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Mercier, who’s had “poor experiences” with Saturn Management, explains that as soon as tenants began communicating with each other, they realized they weren’t alone in their frustration.

“It became wildly apparent that Saturn Management has been neglecting tenants and getting away with it for a while. Personally, I am going on strike. I wasn’t planning on paying April rent anyway, but Saturn’s abrasive response, in conjunction with support from other tenants, only solidified my decision. I was really disappointed in Saturn’s email to us… and I thought it was shameful that during a global pandemic the earliest they thought to reach out to us was the DAY prior to rent being due,” Mercier adds.

Tenant Jennifer Tiedeman was equally outraged telling PEOPLE, “[Saturn’s] response to the pandemic just solidifies to me that this is a heartless and corrupt company.”

“I have been a tenant under Saturn Management since September of 2019 and my overall experience with this company has been horrible,” Tiedeman explains.

Responding to the outrage, Saturn Management leasing associate Michael Mannheim told CURBED Los Angeles, who was first to report the news, that the email was sent to simply “keep the line of communication open” and expressed frustration for how the message was interpreted.

Mannheim also said that Saturn Management wanted to “make sure that they understood the resources that were available to them.”

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“The fact is, now our tenants are banding together, using our error against us, vocalizing their grievances,” Mannheim told CURBED Los Angeles. “But we’ve also had tenants reach out to us to express their apologies for the pack mentality and the nasty correspondence this has caused. Even tenants involved in coordinating the possible rent strike, these are people that — in general — I always thought I had a good relationship with, and now I’m part of the fodder.”

Mannheim further explained that he has since offered tenants who are struggling amid the global health crisis to make delayed payments on a case-by-case basis.

Mannheim also told CURBED Los Angeles “We may be part owners in some of these properties, but we represent individuals and families who depend on us. In many cases the rent we collect is their only source of income, and part of our job is that balancing act.”

As of Friday, Mercier tells PEOPLE she had not received “any response from Saturn.. I and many other tenants in my building have been responsible, respectful and dutiful tenants, for a long time.”

However, on Monday evening, Saturn Management issued an apology to its tenants.

“We wanted to reach out to apologize, and acknowledge that our most recent email from March 31st caused some confusion, stress, and anger for many of you. We recognize these are uncertain times, and we are all learning how to navigate these new challenges,” Saturn Management said in the email sent out to tenants, obtained by PEOPLE.

“As the impact of COVID-19 was evolving, our intention was to offer you information on available resources from different services throughout the City & County. We understand that message could have been delivered in a better way. We recognize that these uncertain times can be stressful and can impact your daily lives in different ways. We want to reiterate that we can understand and empathize with your individual circumstances.”

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“We would never want anyone to have to choose between putting food on the table or paying rent. At this time, safeguarding your health and well-being is our most important priority. We are here to work with each and every one of you to ensure that you have a home to properly shelter in place,” Saturn Management wrote.

Saturn Management also plans to address the many concerns that don’t just involve rent payment as many residents have complained about poor maintenance service.

“We hear you, and we will be working on ways to address these issues. Your feedback is helpful in making sure we understand where those needs are,” Saturn Management added.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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