A man who says he was invited to be part of a closed Facebook group for local landlords says it's wrong the group is keeping a blacklist of tenants to avoid.
Matthew Hahnimaki provided the list to Sudbury.com, as well as screenshots of a discussion in which a landlord advises other property owners to keep the blacklist "on the down low" because it is illegal.
The group, Sudbury Landlords, has 209 members as of June 6, and a list of tenants 218 names long who have been identified as being problematic.
Hanhimaki, a lawncare worker, became a member of the group on June 5, somewhat by accident, after a post about a sale his company was having was shared to the group's page.
"Someone had posted about my company in there and I couldn't post a response because I wasn't a member of the group," said Hanhimaki, who went on to request to join and was accepted shortly after.
The group, as Hanhimaki has gathered over his short stay, is a place where landlords, most of whom are independant with one or two properties, can share information about things like where to get credit checks done, and recommend businesses like Hanhimaki's to other landlords in Sudbury.
Hanhimaki said it didn't take long before he became aware members of the group were maintaining a list "of not so good tenants" and sharing it amongst themselves. The list has some 200 names on it.
"There's posts on there from people asking about the list and they seem to want to keep it hush-hush," said Hanhimaki. "You have to send a message to this one specific girl and she'll send it to you."
An exchange between members of the group shows people requesting the list of names, and one member saying "Just a heads up having a list is illegal so keep it on the down low".
Another member responded to the comment, stating, "Really should find another way to refer people to it without mentioning names. Perhaps create a Gmail account for whomever has the list and just give that out."
Sudbury.com has obtained a copy of the list, along with screenshots from posts on the Sudbury Landlords page with members requesting their own copy.
Hanhimaki is not on the list himself, but feels this is an unfair way for tenants to be treated.
"This is wrong," Hahnimaki said. "I'm on my landlord about maintenance things and that might rub him the wrong way, but that doesn't mean I'm a bad tenant. I always pay my rent on time."
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada seems to agree with Hahnimaki’s opinion that a "bad tenant list" is wrong.
In a 2016 ruling involving a dispute between a landlord and tenant over a "bad tenants" list, the Privacy Commissioner found that while landlords can use a credit reporting agency for the purpose of entering into renewing a tenancy agreement, there are limits to the type of information that can be collected, stipulations on the accuracy and fairness of that information, and that the person whose credit information is being sought must give consent to the landlord to access that information.
Unless the person maintaining the list is a licensed credit agency in Ontario, the list contravenes subsection 5(3) of the the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
What's more, unless the tenants on the list were aware their personal information was being disclosed to other landlords, landlords had no right to share the information among themselves.
Sudbury.com has reached out to the landlord who allegedly manages the list, but has received no response as of yet. This story will be updated when new information becomes available.
Tom Putman is no longer a landlord but is the admin of the Sudbury Landlords group. He's the admin for about 40 Facebook groups, the insurance agent told Sudbury.com.
He said he's aware a tenant blacklist was being maintained, but had no idea it was as large as it is (he's never seen the list, he said, as it is not maintained in the group itself, but by a group member), nor that such a list could breach any privacy rules.
Given the question of privacy and personal information, though, he said he can understand why the Privacy Commissioner would have ruled against landlords having such lists.
"I work in insurance and holding such a list here (at his insurance office) would be illegal, so I can understand that," Putman said.
He said he will be posting to members of the Sudbury Landlords group, informing them about the list, but said his job as admin is mostly to eliminate spam from the page, not police what the landlords are doing off the page.