Posts Tagged ‘Defamation’

‘Free benefit’ or blacklisted? Hamilton tenants and landlords clash over private information

Monday, March 29th, 2021

‘Free benefit’ or blacklisted? Hamilton tenants and landlords clash over private information

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Seven tenants of a Hamilton apartment building say their personal information — including their names and rent payment histories — was taken by their landlord and submitted to a company without their consent.

The landlord, Live Well Property Management Ltd., entered the information into a database run by the Landlord Credit Bureau (LCB), a newly-licensed consumer reporting agency that boasts over 30,000 landlord and tenant users across North America.

The LCB tracks tenants’ payment habits and then transfers that data to Equifax, a multinational credit reporting agency which — through the information provided by the LCB — can either boost or lower a tenant’s credit score based on how promptly they pay their rent.

While some residents say their privacy has been breached, others worry about the consequences.

Dave Pace-Bonello and his partner Joey Nicole and their son Julian. They have lived at the building -- 94 East Ave. S. -- for 20 years.

The LCB database keeps a list of individual tenant records which — besides a name, email, address and rent history, among other pieces of data — contains reviews written by landlords detailing their experiences with a given tenant.

“If we paid our rent late because our paycheque didn’t land on the first of the month, what would that do to our credit?” asked Dave Pace-Bonello, who has lived in three-storey building at 94 East Ave. S. for the past two decades.

“If our landlord writes a bad review about us just because he doesn’t like us, and another landlord sees that, what does that do to our chances of finding another home?”

The residents at 94 East were informed they had been registered to the service through emails sent to them by the LCB within the past year.

The emails framed the bureau as a “free benefit” for tenants and an opportunity for them to get “an advantage over other applicants” on future lease applications.

Residents who are late with rent, leave without proper notice or cause damages “will likely find it more difficult to obtain tenancy and credit in the future as this information is shared with other landlords and credit bureaus,” the emails say.

Zachary Killam, president and CEO of the LCB, told The Spectator consent is not always required to collect a tenant’s data.

He said the company’s standing as a consumer reporting agency gives it the lawful right to gather information without consent insofar as a debt is owed or an agreement has been breached.

Ann Cavoukian, a former Ontario privacy commissioner, called the collection of information without consent an “appalling” practice.

While she sympathizes with landlords who want a resource to recoup late rent payments, she said such a resource can’t be created at the expense of tenants who are unaware their personal information is being shared.

“Everything has to be totally upfront with people understanding what they’re getting into,” said Cavoukian.

According to the LCB’s privacy policy, it can collect all sorts of data about tenants in addition to outstanding rent and landlord reviews, including IP addresses, passport and driver’s licence numbers, social insurance and security numbers, marital status and job history.

Killam said the LCB “does not currently collect all of those,” but did not specify what information is collected or how.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched an investigation into alleged privacy breaches committed by the LCB.

Spokesperson Vito Pilieci couldn’t comment on the status of the probe, but said federal legislation typically requires “meaningful consent” for the collection, use or disclosure of information.

Dave Pace-Bonello, his partner Joey Nicol and their son Julian in their apartment at 94 East Ave. S., where the family has lived for two decades. Pace-Bonello warned neighbours private information was taken by their landlord and submitted to a consumer reporting agency without their consent.

‘You have no reason to be worried’

Pace-Bonello and his longtime partner, Joey Nicol, asked Live Well management several times to remove their information off the LCB.

All but one request went unheeded.

In one email exchange dated March 24, 2020, Nicol asked her landlord, Matt Christie, why the couple’s information was taken without consent and to remove it from the LCB database.

“You have no reason to be worried,” replied Christie, who is listed as a director of Live Well in corporate records. “(You) always pay your rent on time and when you log in to LCB you will see that’s what has been recorded for you.”

A back-and-forth ensued.

“Consent is not required,” wrote Christie in a May 1 text to Pace-Bonello after Pace-Bonello again said he did not consent to the couple’s information being taken.

“I sent your request to the landlord. I’ll let you know the response once I have it,” he added.

“… and consent is 100 per cent not required.”

An excerpt of a text exchange between 94 East Ave. S. tenant Dave Pace-Bonello and his landlord, Matt Christie, who is a director of Live Well Property Management Ltd. Christie refuses to take Pace-Bonello's tenant information off the LCB database and says consent was not required to collect it.

By July 9, Christie agreed to remove the couple’s record from the LCB database, which included their names, move-in dates, email addresses, rent amount and address. He told them in an email that if rent ever went unpaid in the future, Live Well might reopen their record.

The ordeal left the couple deflated.

“It made me not trust our landlord anymore,” said Nicol of Christie. “I didn’t understand why he was so invested in the LCB but not in us, his tenants. He knew our concerns and he still didn’t address them, and he made me feel combative for sticking up for our family.”

Another tenant at 94 East, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution from Live Well, said she also struggled to remove her information off the LCB.

In one email with Marv Steier, a co-founder of the LCB who is no longer with the company, the tenant asked why she had to provide her SIN if the LCB reports to her credit agency.

“Your landlord is reporting your rent payments for your benefit,” wrote Steier in the email in late April 2020.

“I don’t want this ‘free benefit,’” the tenant replied. “My credit score has been over 800 for years, how would this benefit me?”

The tenant told The Spectator she didn’t consent to have her information collected and asked both the LCB and Live Well to have it removed. She said she never got a clear answer as to whether her record was deleted.

The Spectator posed several questions to Christie concerning the allegations that Live Well took tenants’ information without consent.

He responded with a statement about Pace-Bonello and Nicol.

“We’ve worked hard and considerably improved the standard of the building they live in and assisted them as needed, yet been subject to ongoing derogatory, rude and bullying behaviour from them towards our team,” Christie said via email.

Is the LCB impartial?

Ontario’s Consumer Reporting Act states if a credit agency collects negative or unfavourable information about an individual, there must be some form of effort on the part of the agency to corroborate that information.

The LCB said it does not accept anonymous information on its database and users’ identifications are verified prior to posts. They added landlord and tenant reviews are vetted by staff to ensure foul language and personal attacks are omitted.

“We do not allow false or vindictive reporting,” said Killam, the CEO, who noted consent from tenants is also required before a future landlord can look at their records.

However, it’s difficult to differentiate unfavourable information from fact if that information is subjective, argued Benjamin Reis, a housing lawyer with Downtown Legal Services at the University of Toronto.

“Information put into a consumer report must be based on the best available evidence,” said Reis. “Asking, ‘Tell me what you think about this tenant?’ is not what I think would be best evidence.

“What if we found out that the reason a landlord said, ‘Yes, I have a problem with this person,’ is because the landlord has a problem with people of colour? That’s quite possible.”

Killam said users are contractually bound to be non-discriminatory on the LCB platform. He also said tenants can access their own records and dispute them.

But a section of the LCB’s tenant record form — where landlords are asked six ‘yes or no’ questions about a person’s tenancy — puts that claim of impartial access under scrutiny.

A screenshot of a tenant's record form on the LCB database that is shared with landlord but not tenants.

“This information is NOT SHARED with the tenants but is shared with other landlords who search this tenant,” reads a disclaimer atop the questions, which range from whether the tenant paid rent late or were tried at court for breaching a lease agreement, to property damages or noise complaints.

Reis argued a company can’t claim to be impartial if it allows access to information to one set of users but not the other.

“This idea of a secret list where tenants don’t know if they’re on it, don’t know what was said about them or by who, that’s what most people think about when they think about a blacklist,” said Reis, adding “yes or no” questions also point to the LCB’s lack of due diligence.

“Instead of asking ‘yes or no’ whether the tenant was taken to court, why not include a copy of the decision so people get the facts?”

Douglas Kwan, director of advocacy and legal services of Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, echoed similar remarks about the LCB allowing landlord reviews.

“If you’re solely interested in a tenant’s ability to pay the rent, which is what their website says, what is the purpose of these reviews?” asked Kwan. “A landlord can make lots of comments that really have no place or doesn’t speak to whether a tenant can pay their rent.”

Both Reis and Kwan took issue with what they consider to be a conflict of interest in the LCB’s leadership.

According to corporate records obtained by The Spectator, Killam is one two directors at Live Well Property Management Ltd., which owns several properties in Hamilton and the GTA.

Killam said he hasn’t been actively involved with Live Well since 2018.

“There has never been a conflict of interest,” he said. “LCB is impartial and judicious in its operations and services.”

Reis argued the connection raises questions about neutrality, particularly with respect to consumer reporting agencies.

“Credit agencies like Equifax and TransUnion are institutions people are supposed to trust. But what if they were owned by someone who is also a director at a credit card company?” Reis asked.

“If Bell or Rogers claimed I owed a bill that I didn’t actually owe, I would expect that Equifax not be owned by Bell or Rogers.”

The LCB sues critical tenants

Killam and the LCB sued Pace-Bonello and Nicol for defamation and copyright infringement on Jan. 14.

According to a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia — a province where the LCB is listed under a different name than the corporation number registered in Ontario — the couple “sought to damage the business and reputation of the LCB and their directors” by creating a website that contains information about the agency.

The website is alleged to have accused the LCB of unlawful and unethical conduct, the claim states, and infringed the trademark and copyright of the LCB.

The agency is seeking a permanent injunction restraining the couple from ever writing or publishing information about the LCB that it believes to be defamatory.

Pace-Bonello, who plans to defend himself at the hearing, said he created the website in June after months of haggling with Live Well to remove his information from the LCB.

It was intended to be a resource for tenants at 94 East who received the same unprompted LCB registration email as the couple did.

“We thought about how many of our neighbours also received that email and had no clue what was going on,” he said.

Dave Pace-Bonello, his partner Joey Nicol and their son Julian. The family has lived at 94 East Ave. S. for 20 years.

The website contains detailed information about the LCB, its terms of service, and what rights tenants have related to consent. There is a disclaimer at the end of each post noting the website is not legal advice and for “community educational” purposes.

It received plenty of traction from neighbours, Pace-Bonello said.

One tenant at 94 East, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution from Live Well, said the site helped give context to that initial email from the LCB.

“If it weren’t for Dave and Joey, we wouldn’t know what (the LCB) was or why we should care or what our rights were,” said the tenant, who has lived in the building for three decades.

Pace-Bonello said he can understand why the LCB isn’t happy with the website — but he can’t understand why they are trying to silence him.

“They’re entitled to respond, absolutely. But to respond in a way that no further conversation can ever happen again, that doesn’t make any sense to me as a Canadian,” he said.

“When you see that someone wants to go to that length with you, rather than answer some of these questions and address these concerns in public, it’s shocking and it’s scary. It’s like the whole bottom falls out.”

For further reading click on Landlord Credit Bureau Facts.

Has Your Landlord Put You On A Sign, A Facebook Site Or A “Bad Tenant” List? Fight Back And Win!

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

The Tenant Can Give His Landlord A World Of Trouble! And Legal Problems!

Landlords Who Defame And Harm Their Tenants Ability To Rent Is Illegal, A Crime! Punishable By Fines And Even Prison Time!

And You Can Easily Fight Back And Win (without paying a cent!) Tenants Are Not Aware Of The System To Jail/Fine Your Landlord!

Recently on the Ontario Landlords Tenant forum a young tenant explained how her landlord threatened her.

Her landlord had seen a story where a Peterborough landlord posted a huge sign illegally defaming her tenant and thought he could do it as well.

She wrote:

Things have been very complicated for everyone the past few months and i am a little behind in the rent. My landlady said if i don’t pay landlords are now “exposing tenants” who don’t pay. She said this will make sure everyone in the area knows not to rent to me and i will be stuck in a shelter with my toddler. Any help please!!!

Fortunately, fellow Tenants explained the process to her to stop this and punish the landlord for attempting to break the law!

The Landlord Has Set The Wrong Example And Must Be Punished

Uneducated landlords are on social media praising this ‘British’ landlord as some type of ‘hero’ when in fact they are a villain and if their tenant defends his rights they will be in a world of trouble!

What Can You Do If You Landlord Follows This Evil Landlords Tactics?

Unfortunately we’ve seen these types of uncivilized and illegal attacks before. For example a tenant found themselves on a “bad tenant list“. Fortunately she followed our tenant defense for tips.

You can read about it here.

So What Can You Do If Your Landlord Is Trying To “Punish” You By Making Your Private Information Public?

Of course then tenant can fight fire with fire by putting their landlord on a “bad landlord list” and making sure no tenants will ever, every rent such a dangerous property with such a bully landlord.

You Can Smear Them Back

Many tenants will see this as a great option as they can tell the truth, and even do it anonymously. Shaming landlords has been very successful!

You Can Legally Grow 4 Weed Plants And Report Your Rental As A Grow OP!

Some tenants have even grown our legal right to 4 plants and then reported it to the town or city to get the rental property flagged as a “grow up” which will cost the landlord/owner tens of thousands of dollars when they try to sell.

But there are other options out there that many tenants don’t know about and can have an immediate impact on your horrible landlord is a fair and honest way.

Tenants Have Lots Legal Of Ways To Fight Back…Do Them All!

Let’s take a look at some legal ways to fight back. Do them all. Go nuts and support your legal rights!

1. Call The Police

Your personal information is being made public without your permission. This is not only a privacy issue, it’s a safety issue. It is also a harassment and bullying issue.

We have heard from tenants who have been put on these illegal lists and they have called the Boys in Blue. They explained the situation and the officers have personally went to the landlords home and told them to “SHUT IT DOWN!” or get arrested.

2. Call The Ontario Enforcement Unit

ONTARIO TENANTS DID YOU KNOW THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT HAS SOMETHING CALLED “RENTAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT?”

This is part of the Ministry of Housing, meaning the provincial government. It used to be called “THE INVESTIGATIONS AND ENFORCEMENT UNIT” but the name was suspiciously changed recently.

DID YOU KNOW?

– IF YOUR LANDLORD IS BREAKING THE RULES YOU CAN AVOID THE LONG AND TEDIOUS LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD AND GET FAST ACTION

– MAKE YOUR LANDLORD CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR IMMEDIATELY OR GET YOUR LANDLORD FINED (OR EVEN CRIMINALLY CHARGED!)

– THE RENTAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT WILL EVEN CALL YOU LANDLORD AND WARN THEM OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!

Ontario’s Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (formerly called Investigation and Enforcement Unit) is a regulatory entity in the residential rental tenancies sector in Ontario.

The Rental Housing Enforcement Unit is separate from the Landlord and Tenant Board and deals only with enforcement of offences. The Unit takes complaints from tenants for offences committed under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the Act).

If you are a tenant of a rental property in Ontario, the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit can help you by:

listening to your complaint
explaining your rights and responsibilities under the Act
working with you and your landlord or tenant to resolve issues
carrying out formal investigations when issues cannot be resolved
fining or criminally charging your landlord

So what are some of the offences landlords do that will lead to huge fines and even criminal charges?

-disconnecting or interfering with a vital service that the landlord is required to supply to tenants (e.g. heat, electricity, fuel, gas or water)

-failing to provide rent receipts to tenants who request them

-illegally evicting a tenant without following the eviction process

-failing to make a tenant’s belongings available within 72 hours of eviction

-collecting unlawful security deposits

-altering the locking system for a rental unit or residential complex without giving the tenant replacement keys

-providing false or misleading information in documents filed with the Landlord and Tenant Board

-Not providing proper notice to come into your home

-Taking pictures in your home when you do not agree

-Having real estate agents keep bothering you with no proper notice and harassment

-Tons of other offences under the Residential Tenancies Act (basically anything your landlord does that you fee is unfair…..report them!)

HOW DO I GET THE RENTAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT TO CALL MY LANDLORD AND WARN THEM, FINE THEM OR CRIMINALLY CHARGE THEM?

Landlords and tenants in Ontario may report any offence under the Act by contacting our call centre.

Telephone: 416-585-7214
Toll-free telephone: 1-888-772-9277
Fax: 416-585-6464
Toll free fax line: 1-866-321-4127

Call centre hours:
Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

DO IT!

Already the Ontario website under Ford seems be trying to mislead Tenants on rights. But the reality is you can report your landlord and not only teach them a “life lesson” being fined or being jailed, but you are helping get rid of these bad landlords who hate tenants.

If you have any problems with your landlord and want fast action, call the ONTARIO GOVERNMENT RENTAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT, FREE OF CHARGE, AND START THE INVESTIGATION INTO YOUR LANDLORDS ACTIONS.

3. Go To Legal Aid And File A Tenants Right Form

They will help you.

Find your nearest legal aid clinic who will give you FREE legal help

Tenant legal issues

4. Ask Legal Aid To Help You Apply To The Human Rights Commission

The landlord is destroying your human right to privacy. File.

5. Make A Complaint To The Canada Privacy Commissioner

Are there any privacy laws that set out the rules for how landlords handle tenants’ personal information?

Landlords are required to comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, or provincial legislation deemed to be substantially similar.

PIPEDA sets out the ground rules for how businesses, including landlords, must handle personal information in the course of commercial activity.

Here are some of the key obligations that landlords have under the law:

  • They must obtain an individual’s consent when they collect, use or disclose that person’s personal information (except in limited, defined circumstances set out in the law.)
  • They must identify the reasons for collecting personal information before or at the time of collection. They should ensure that these purposes are limited to what a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances.
  • They need to provide individuals with access to the personal information that they hold about them and allow them to challenge its accuracy.
  • They can only use a tenant’s personal information for the purposes for which it was collected.
  • They are responsible for ensuring the personal information is protected by appropriate safeguards.

Signs and bad tenant lists are ILLEGAL!

Make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner!

This below is totally illegal and if her tenant defends himself she is toast!

THIS IS ILLEGAL AND UNACCEPTABLE! MAKE HER PAY!

 

This is Outrageous and Illegal! The Landlord Will Be Fined or Worse IF YOU FIGHT FOR YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS!

Sean If You Fight She Will Go Down!

Use The System To Fight Your Landlord!

If Sean follows our rules, his landlord will be in big trouble! Yet the rural rump landlords want to portray these illegal actions as “heroic”.

It’s no wonder the provincial government views small landlords as out of control low lives who have no idea of the laws and regulations of even being a landlord in Ontario!

We can make signs up at all the truck stops, they way we’ll sure gett’im eh! Fer sher.

Please Fight For Your Rights!

Don’t let these landlords break the law and then be called ‘heroes’ by the uneducated rural rump unprofessional landlords!

 

Tenants Need To Fight Back!

They are called heroes’ by the uneducated rural rump unprofessional landlords.

But these cocky wannabe be British royals will learn a lesson when tenants fight back!

Oh My God I Didn’t Know The Laws and I’m SCREWED

They will be criminals if Tenants learn our rights and FIGHT BACK!

DO IT!

AND WIN!