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City of Ottawa brings in collection agency to gather decades-old tickets, tanking residents' credit scores


Thousands of people in Ottawa have seen their credit score dip or outright plummet because of old tickets and fines.

Some go back as far as 2003.

"In January, the City contracted a new private collections agencies (sic) through a competitive process. Financial Debt Recovery (FDR) is the final collection agency in the process and only collects debts that have already been at previous City-contracted collection agencies and remain unpaid," said Joseph Muhuni, deputy city treasurer revenue, in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

"FDR attempted to collect the debt and to date, has subsequently reported 103,000 unpaid Provincial Offences Act fines and 3,000 unpaid water bills to the credit bureau."

Muhuni claims the city issues several notices by mail, phone and through other "collection activities" available to the city.

"Prior to the debt being referred to the Collections Unit in Revenue Services, individuals are provided with an invoice, bill or a ticket and a deadline to pay the debt through regular channels," said Muhuni in the statement.

"Revenue Services advises the individual that if the debt is not paid by a certain date, enhanced collection activities will commence. If the receivable remains unpaid, it is referred to a private collections agency that will use all the tools available to them to ensure the outstanding debt is paid. The City has the authority to refer unpaid debt to a private collection agency under the Provincial Offences Act and the Municipal Act."

However, hundreds of people have commented on a Reddit thread claiming they never received prior communication before noticing a blow to their credit scores.

Many also claim they have no idea what the tickets are for, having received no prior communication from the City before noticing a drop in their credit scores.

Shane Martineau-Gagne woke up Saturday morning to an alert from Credit Karma.

"They never sent me a letter, they never sent me a phone call or email," he told CTV News.

"Nothing. Just straight to the credit report and that's it. Not even the collection company tried contacting me."

Martineau-Gagne says his unpaid ticket is from 2015 for "prohibited activity" for $161. He says he does not know why he was issued the ticket nine years ago, but he would have paid it before it affected his credit score had he had known.

"I would have just paid it if I had known instead of sending it to collections, not even telling us it's going to collections and then just showing up on our credit report," he said.

"Something as miniscule as $161, tanking your credit score by 50 points and some people even more? That is not okay."

Martineau-Gagne's wife, Sabrina Little, saw her credit score suffer a far greater set back.

On Sunday, Little received an alert from Credit Karma indicating her that her credit score dropped by roughly 150 points because of four outstanding tickets and fines from as far back as 2011, when she was just 17-years-old.

"That was a significant shock for me. I had been working very hard to get it up to at least 700 and to wake up that morning to find that it went all the way down to 550? I was devastated," Little told CTV News.

"Apparently some are for trespassing, which I don't understand, one is for a bylaw ticket that I don't remember either. I honestly couldn't tell you really."

Muhuni said those who have received a collection notice or have had an item placed on their credit report by the third-party collection agency for outstanding arrears with the City can call Financial Debt Recovery at 1-877-300-9585 to make payment arrangements. Top Stories

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