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Hundreds of Nova Scotians are on hidden bad tenant lists on Facebook



Renters in Nova Scotia are facing a shortage of affordable homes amid stiff competition, often with children and pets in tow.

But there might be another reason why an application gets turned down.

In various Facebook groups, some hidden and some public, landlords swap photos and names of tenants with whom they’ve had bad experiences. Advocates have flagged at least two ‘bad tenant’ lists with hundreds of names in such groups.

“A landlord could easily put something up there just for a sake of a petty vengeance,” said Fabian Donovan, a member of Nova Scotia ACORN, an organization that advocates for people with low to moderate incomes. Donovan is a renter in Halifax.

“And once it’s out there, it cannot be taken back.”

Such lists are concerning for advocates, legal experts and property owner associations. But some landlords say they’re forced to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves.

Earlier this month, N.S. ACORN launched a campaign highlighting screenshots of posts they’d gathered from the hidden “Landlords Unite” Facebook group over the past year and a half. 

Fabian Donovan, a member of Nova Scotia ACORN, says bad tenant lists on landlord groups need to be taken down. (Fabian Donovan)

The Nova Scotia chapter said its membership in the Facebook group allowed them 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 various reasons, including anti-landlord social media posts or replying rudely to rental listings. 

Another list with nearly 3,200 names was compiled on a hidden Facebook group called “Amherst Landlord Associates,” ACORN said, including some names pulled from police records.

CBC News confirmed that at least the Landlords Unite list is still visible on the group as of this week. Some screenshot posts from ACORN also show landlords discussing offline lists they’ve created for regions around the province.

A post made in the Landlords Unite group and shared by Nova Scotia ACORN appears to suggest certain names, which have been redacted, be added to the group’s bad tenant list. (Nova Scotia ACORN/Facebook)

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 huge amounts of damage and left behind piles of garbage.

“Who knows what was going on. Maybe … the person had a bad marriage. They broke down and he couldn’t afford to pay the rent,” Donovan said, adding that people being named could have had mental-health episodes, or be one of many who lost work during COVID-19.

Donovan said he understands why landlords are upset when they lose out on rent or have to spend large amounts cleaning out their units, but there are legal ways to go about dealing with those situations. He said they could always go through the residential tenancy system, or a collection agency.

ACORN has said anyone who wants to know if they are on a bad tenant list should contact them.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has ruled in the past these lists can 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 during commercial activities. Personal information includes things like name, income and social status.

Here’s how little some people on assistance have left after housing costs

Those at Welcome Housing and Support Services in Halifax sometimes see clients who have only a few dollars to last them the month after their rent and power bills are paid. 2:26

Generally, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act requires that organizations obtain “meaningful consent” for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information, Tobi Cohen, a spokesperson for the office of the privacy commission, said in an email.

On the organization’s website, landlords are warned that informal background checks on tenants, like scanning someone’s Facebook page, or consulting another landlord about them, still counts as collecting personal information and must follow conditions of the act.

Even if a landlord believes a tenant has been disruptive or damaged the unit, or had a poor payment history, “this does not give you the right to disclose this information by … contributing to an unregulated ‘bad tenants list,'” says the office of the privacy commissioner, since “vigilante” actions are seldom, if ever, permitted by law.

The office of the privacy commissioner said formal and regulated mechanisms, like credit agencies, may be used in appropriate circumstances.

But that doesn’t sit well with landlords like Paula Hodson.

She runs credit checks, but those won’t tell you whether someone will take care of a unit, Hodson said, and has had major damage done by people who looked fine on paper.

Hodson and her husband own five units in Nova Scotia, including duplexes and small homes, she said. As a member of Landlords Unite, she said she’s contributed names to the bad tenants list.

Although she has posted names publicly in that group before, she now privately messages the group’s moderator to avoid “retaliation.”

Her reasons have ranged from having police over at a unit multiple times as well as being denied rent due to dramatic damage, including buildups of mould and mildew.

In one unit, Hodson said they’ve spent more than $5,300 over the past few months cleaning up after a former tenant who left in April. That includes painting, cleaning, new flooring and appliances.

Without bad tenant lists and group chats between landlords, they would be even more exposed, Hodson said, “because we have nowhere to find out about these people.”

“If people don’t want their name posted, then don’t do all that damage,” Hodson said.

Nova Scotia, like much of the country, is dealing with an affordable housing crisis with rising prices and not enough units to go around. (David Horemans/CBC)

Hodson said having more details available through the residential tenancy board is much needed, like someone’s damage history, which does exist in an American state where she also owns a rental property.

From her perspective, Hodson said the bad tenant list in Landlords Unite is “not public” since it’s a private Facebook group that was only brought to light by ACORN members who should not have been there.

The advocacy group does post public lists of its own, inviting tenants to name their worst landlords annually in a “Slumlord Smackdown.”

Tension between landlords and renters has risen over the last few years as prices go up, Hodson said, but that increase is needed as insurance, appliances and other costs spike, too. She said she and other landlords have received aggressive and “bullying” messages since ACORN’s campaign began.

Law professor Wayne MacKay. (CBC)

Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University, agreed that these types of shaming issues seem more prevalent now. He said it is likely accentuated by the national housing crisis and prevalence of social media, where things can be broadcast more widely than ever before in history.

He said while it’s likely fine for landlords to discuss tenants’ history one-on-one like any reference letter, the legal issues come in when those details are posted on social media because that could defame someone’s character generally.

Long lists of names on a bad tenant list without context, put together without giving someone a chance to respond, are especially problematic, MacKay said.

“Perhaps there should be some way of the tenants themselves being informed that they’re on this rogues’ gallery and given an opportunity to try to explain themselves,” MacKay said.

“If you’re going to do this kind of thing, there are perhaps better and fairer ways to do it.”

Kevin Russell is the executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said he was “gobsmacked” when he heard of the bad tenant lists after ACORN’S campaign began.

He said his association operates under the laws of Nova Scotia, and doesn’t participate or associate with any online chat groups.

“Nor do we possess, or ever considered developing, a tenant blacklist and we strongly condemn any organization or a landlord that use such lists,” Russell said.

He added that while most professional landlords are “well-versed” in the Residential Tenancies Act and understand how privacy law plays into what they can and can’t do, there has been a surge in people getting into the property investment industry without fully researching landlord and tenant rights.

“They’ve taken situations under their own control, and it’s gone down the wrong path,” he said.

Russell said the association offers various programs to help property owners, including an “I rent it right” online tutorial that covers which tenant verification processes follow the law. 

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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