Hundreds of Nova Scotians are on Hidden Bad Tenant Lists on Facebook
Renters in Nova Scotia face a shortage of affordable housing amid fierce competition, often accompanied by children and pets.
But there may be another reason why a request is denied.
In various Facebook groups, some hidden and others public, landlords exchange photos and names of tenants with whom they have had bad experiences. Advocates have reported at least two lists of “bad tenants” with hundreds of names in these groups.
“An owner could easily put something up there just for a little revenge,” said Fabian Donovan, member of ACORN Nova Scotia, an organization that advocates for low to moderate income people. Donovan is a tenant in Halifax.
“And once he’s there, he can’t be taken back.”
Such lists are of concern to lawyers, jurists and homeowners associations. But some owners say they have to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves.
Earlier this month, NS ACORN launched a campaign highlighting screenshots of posts they had collected from the hidden Facebook group “Landlords Unite” over the past year and a half.
The Nova Scotia chapter said its Facebook group membership allowed it to see various files, including a “Do Not Rent” list that had 256 names as of Aug. 21.
They said names were added to this list for a variety of reasons, including anti-landlord posts on social media or rude responses to rental ads.
Another list with nearly 3,200 names was compiled on a hidden Facebook group called “Amherst Landlord Associates,” ACORN said, including some names taken from police records.
CBC News has confirmed that at least the Landlords Unite roster is still visible on the group as of this week. Some screenshots from ACORN also show owners discussing the offline listings they’ve created for regions across the province.
Another group called Landlords Nova Scotia, which is open, regularly shares photos and names of tenants who have allegedly not paid months of rent, or caused massive damage and left piles of garbage.
“Who knows what was going on. Maybe… the person had a bad marriage. They broke up and he couldn’t afford to pay the rent,” Donovan said, adding that the appointees could have had mental health episodes, or be one of the many people who lost their jobs during COVID-19.
Donovan said he understands why landlords get upset when they lose their rent or have to spend large sums to clean their homes, but there are legal ways to deal with these situations. He said they could always go through the residential rental system or through a collection agency.
ACORN said anyone who wants to know if he’s on a bad tenant list should contact him.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has ruled in the past that these lists may be illegal and violate the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
The Act is Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, which applies to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities. Personal information includes things like name, income, and social status.
Generally, personal information protection and electronic documents law requires organizations to obtain “meaningful consent” for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information, said Tobi Cohen, spokesperson for the United States. office of the privacy committee, in an email.
On the organization’s website, landlords are warned that informal tenant background checks, like scanning someone’s Facebook page or consulting another landlord about them, still count as collection. personal information and must comply with the conditions of the law.
Even if a landlord thinks a tenant has disrupted or damaged the unit, or had a bad payment history, “it does not give you the right to disclose this information by … contributing to a” bad tenant list “no regulated, “says the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, as” vigilance “actions are rarely, if ever, permitted by law.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has said that formal and regulated mechanisms, such as credit bureaus, can be used in appropriate circumstances.
But that doesn’t suit homeowners like Paula Hodson.
She does credit checks, but those won’t tell you if someone will take care of a unit, Hodson said, and suffered significant damage from people who looked good on paper.
Hodson and her husband own five homes in Nova Scotia, including duplexes and cottages, she said. As a member of Landlords Unite, she said she added names to the bad tenant list.
Although she has already posted names to this group, she is now sending private messages to the group moderator to avoid “retaliation”.
Its reasons range from the presence of the police in a unit on several occasions and the denial of rent due to dramatic damage, including mold build-up.
In one unit, Hodson said he spent more than $ 5,300 in recent months cleaning up after a former tenant left in April. This includes painting, cleaning, new flooring, and appliances.
Without the bad tenant lists and group discussions between landlords, they would be even more exposed, Hodson said, “because we have nowhere to find these people.”
“If people don’t want their names displayed, then don’t do all of this damage,” Hodson said.
Hodson said it was essential to have more details through the residential rental commission, such as someone’s damage history, which exists in a US state where she also owns a rental property.
From his perspective, Hodson said the list of bad tenants in Landlords Unite is “not public” because it is a private Facebook group that has only been brought to light by members of ACORN that shouldn’t have been there.
The advocacy group publishes its own public lists, urging tenants to name their worst landlords each year in a “Slumlord Smackdown”.
Tension between homeowners and renters has grown in recent years as prices rise, Hodson said, but the increase is necessary as insurance, appliances and other costs rise as well. She said she and other owners had received aggressive and “intimidating” messages since ACORN’s campaign began.
Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University, agreed that these types of shame issues seem more prevalent now. He said this was likely accentuated by the national housing crisis and the prevalence of social media, where things can be broadcast more widely than ever before in history.
He said it was probably okay for landlords to discuss tenant history one-on-one like any letter of reference, but legal issues arise when those details are posted on social media, because it might defame someone’s character in general.
Long lists of names on a list of bad tenants without context, put together without giving anyone a chance to respond, are particularly problematic, MacKay said.
“Maybe there should be a way for the tenants themselves to be made aware that they are in this rogue gallery and to have a chance to try and explain themselves,” MacKay said.
“If you’re going to do this sort of thing, maybe there are better and fairer ways to do it.”
Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said he was “stunned” when he heard about bad tenant listings after ACORN’s campaign began.
He said his association operates under the laws of Nova Scotia and does not participate or associate with any online discussion groups.
“We also do not have, or have never considered developing, a blacklist of tenants and we strongly condemn any organization or landlord that uses such lists,” said Russell.
He added that while most professional landlords are “familiar” with the residential tenancy law and understand how privacy law plays into what they can and cannot do, There has been an increase in the number of people entering the real estate investment industry without doing extensive research. owner’s and tenant’s rights.
“They’ve taken situations under their own control, and it’s on the wrong track,” he said.
Russell said the association has a variety of programs to help landlords, including an online “Rent It Right” tutorial that covers which tenant verification processes are against the law.