Tenants in New Brunswick are expressing alarm following a public admission yesterday by Gerry Webster of the Saint John Apartment Owners Association that his organization maintains a list of 2,500 “problem tenants” that is shared among his association’s 100 members.
The concerning admission about the tenant blacklist, which is illegal under federal privacy legislation, was made in a CBC article published May 17, 2022.
“Federal privacy rules are clear – a tenant blacklist is illegal. We have filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Privacy Commissioner’s office in response to Mr. Webster’s comments in the media,” said Jael Duarte, a lawyer and Tenants Advocate working with the NB Coalition for Tenants Rights.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Webster’s comments constitute an admission that the Saint John Apartment Owners Association maintains an illegal tenant blacklist. The complaint demands that the Association immediately stop maintaining such a list, publicly acknowledge that they have maintained the list illegally, publicly apologize for maintaining a blacklist and that they make a personal apology to every individual on the list.
Webster’s comments come after he has already admitted in an interview with the Telegraph-Journal that his members are looking for ways to circumvent the retroactive 3.8% rent cap proposed by the government by charging tenants extra fees in other ways.
“It is clear that this group has no respect for the law. They recently admitted they want to circumvent the rent cap, now they admit that they maintain an illegal tenant blacklist. And their provincial counterparts used private tenant information last year to intimidate tenants and demand that they help campaign for a tax cut that would enrich landlords or face rent increases,” said Sarah Lunney, Provincial Chair of ACORN NB.
In November 2021, the NB Apartment Owners Association distributed flyers to tenants calling on them to advocate for a property tax cut for landlords. They used private tenant information collected for the purpose of tenancies to engage in advocacy for personal gain, clearly misusing private data.
The flyer suggested that high rents are a direct result of property taxes, effectively threatening tenants with rent increases if property taxes were not lowered. The NB Coalition for Tenants Rights filed a complaint with the Federal Privacy Commissioner on that issue in December, 2021 and is awaiting a response.
The NB Coalition for Tenants Rights and ACORN NB continue to call on the Government of New Brunswick for a new Residential Tenancies Act which guarantees the right to housing, strengthens protections for tenants, and includes a robust rent control regime that is permanent.