Coronavirus fears see Malaysian student evicted from Perth share house by landlord
By Frances Bell
Updated about 5 hours ago
A Malaysian student has described being evicted from her Perth home due to her landlord’s fears about the coronavirus outbreak, despite the fact she had not travelled to China.
“Helen”, who the ABC has agreed not to name for fears of further discrimination, said she rented a room at a townhouse in Perth’s southern suburbs in November.
The community services student said she did not sign a lease but had a verbal agreement with the landlord, who also lived at the house, to pay $86 a week plus bills and other expenses.
Helen, who is of Chinese descent, travelled home to Malaysia on January 24 to visit family and friends for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
She said she flew back to Perth on February 4, arriving home at 4:00am to discover the locks had been changed and a note taped to the front door.
“WARNING – NO TRESPASSING”, it said.
“House in lockdown due to coronavirus.
“Due to your failure to stay in contact with me with World Health Organisation GLOBAL EMERGENCY over coronavirus you are no longer welcome in this house.”
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The note included a mobile phone number for Helen to call, adding that the owner had attempted to contact her while she was away “many times without success”.
Her belongings had been left outside the house for her to collect.
Eviction linked to overseas trip
Helen said she did not receive any messages while in Malaysia, but found she had a number of text messages from the landlord when she returned to Australia, .
One of them clearly linked her eviction with her decision to travel during the outbreak.
“You made a decision to travel back home for the Chinese New year when when [sic] there was an outbreak of coronavirus,” it said.
“The world health organisation has declared a global emergency and I now have made a decision to change locks on the house and put your belongings outside as I am concerned for my welfare and family and friends.
“It was a hard decision to make between family and friends but as you have travelled we are very concerned and you are no longer welcome to come back to the house.”
The messages were signed off with a name that matches the name on the land title documents for the property.
Helen told ABC Radio Perth she felt sad and confused because she had not been anywhere near China or the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated.
“I haven’t been to China [so] why do they think I have the virus?” she said.
Helen said she went to the police but they were unable to take any action because she did not have a formal rental agreement with the landlord.
She said she was now living with a friend.
The ABC attempted to contact the landlord but he hung up the phone and subsequent calls went to voicemail.
No travel bans for Malaysia
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy this week said he was increasingly concerned about discrimination against people of Chinese background.
Australia currently has 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus, none of which are in WA.
All of the cases in Australia have come from Wuhan except one person in NSW, who had contact in China with a confirmed case from Wuhan.
None of the Australian Government’s travel bans or health advice relate to travel from Malaysia.