Evicted tenant was charged 2 months rent for not giving notice. The gov’t ruled this illegal, but the debt remained on his credit report for almost 3 months.
Almost three months after Wesley Harkness’ former landlord agreed to forgive his debt, the money was still outstanding on his credit report, downgrading his credit rating and harming his ability to take out a loan or get a credit card.
Only once the Star asked Equifax why his debt hadn’t been erased was the problem finally resolved.
Harkness’ five-year saga stands as a warning to how difficult it can be to get anything removed from your credit report – even when the debt is imposed illegally and when the lender agrees to drop the claim.
Harkness was evicted from his Jamieson Ave. apartment in 2010 and shortly afterward received a letter from his landlord demanding two months rent because he did not give proper notice.
MetCap, one of Toronto’s biggest corporate landlords with more than 10,000 units in the city, claimed that tenants still had to give 60 days notice to vacate an apartment,even when they were being evicted. After the Star exposed the practice in June, housing minister Ted McMeekin publically stated that it was illegal and MetCap agreed to stop pursuing evicted tenants.
Craig McDonald, collections manager at MetCap’s in-house collections agency, Suite Collections, sent a fax to the credit bureau Equifax on June 25th, asking that Harkness’ debt be marked as “settled.” But Equifax claims to have never received the fax.
Harkness only found out that his debt was still considered “outstanding” when he went to the Equifax office near Finch Ave. and Yonge St. to get his credit report this month, more than 11 weeks after Equifax received the request to mark it as settled.
But one debt expert says even if the debt is considered settled, “that’s not good enough.”
“There’s a distinction here between a debt being settled and if a debt should never have been put there in the first place,” said Mark Silverthorn, a former collections lawyer who quit the industry to share his insider knowledge with the public.
When a debt has been settled, it remains on your credit report for seven years, Silverthorn said. But if a debt was imposed illegally, the lender should have the debt removed from your credit report entirely.
“If the Ontario government has said that this practice is illegal, then there are no settlements. (The debt) shouldn’t be there,” Silverthorn said.
When the Star contacted Equifax and MetCap to inquire into the lingering debt, a second fax was sent to entirely remove the debt.
Equifax Vice President John Russo said a letter was sent to Harkness confirming that it had been removed entirely from his credit report last week.
Source: thestar.com – Marco Chown Oved Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Oct 01 2015