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Kingston Frontenac Housing Corp. blames banking snafu for early withdrawal of tenants’ rent

The building at 35 Eldon Hall Place is just one of many buildings currently run by the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation, a City of Kingston owned housing agency with over 950 rent-geared-to-income units. Photo by Daniel Tastard Homer.

Some residents of the City-owned Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) awoke on Monday to find the housing corporation had withdrawn their rent fees over a week earlier than expected, resulting in insufficient fund charges, and the inability to purchase necessities or pay other bills.

This was the situation on Monday, Jul. 26, 2021, for hundreds of KFHC residents. Kingstonist spoke to one such resident who was very inconvenienced by the occurrence. For this article that person will be referred to as August, as they wish to preserve their privacy and fear some sort of repercussion as a result of speaking out about their landlord.

In a phone interview, according to August, “Everybody woke up on the 26th [of July] and Frontenac Housing took out the rent from every single person that rents from them, that has automatic withdrawals. It was done without anyone’s knowledge: there was no warning given that it was going to happen, [and] even after it happened, they still didn’t contact people to let them know this had happened.” Normally, rent would be withdrawn on the first business day of the month, Tuesday, Aug 3, the day after the Civic Holiday.

In response to an inquiry from the Kingstonist, Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, Chief Executive Officer of Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation, wrote in an email, Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2:37 p.m., “The bank pulled the tenant’s preauthorized rent payment early in error. The tenants were notified and their funds have been returned. The tenants’ own bank may take longer returning it to their own personal bank account.  Tenants have been notified that all NSF fees would be reimbursed upon tenants bringing in bank documentation showing the fee. KFHC immediately took action when the first tenant contacted us.”

August said this is not true.

“Yesterday morning [Tues. 27], I contacted them and they said at the time that they were aware of the situation and that they were trying to get it dealt with. I brought up the fact that they were going to have to reimburse everybody for overdrafts and NSF charges and all that. They agreed that if the bank didn’t do it, that everybody would have to bring their bank statements to them, and they would have to reimburse everybody.”

August was particularly annoyed because, “They didn’t apologize, they didn’t give any timeline on when NSF charges would be returned, whether or not we’d be picking up the cheque that day that they determined that the charges weren’t reimbursed to us.” 

“There was no apology given, and I had to request for them to contact me once the money was returned. They still haven’t contacted me, but the money was returned this morning to everybody, I’ve checked with the four people in the units that live right close to me — that had to happen to them as well,” they said.

“We weren’t actually charged an NSF, it was just returned to the bank account because we didn’t have that big of an overdraft limit. So they took out my rent, which is $XXX [withheld for privacy]… on the 26 [of July], it came back NSF yesterday, so our account was back to normal. But then this morning, overnight [KFHC] actually credited our account $XXX for the mistake. We’re now plus $XXX instead of being even, where we were yesterday. So, now we’ve got to contact them and sort that all out.”

August said there were different explanations given to different tenants.

“This wasn’t told to me but what one of my neighbours was told is that they [KFHC] were trying something new with the banks and the bank screwed it up, but I can’t see every single person’s bank screwing up,” they relayed.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2021 at 1 p.m., August said that there had been no notice to tenants, noting “they’re not being very clear, there still hasn’t been notices, emails, phone calls, anybody to say this has happened. So there’s still going to be people out there that don’t even know this has happened, who used their bank account all day yesterday and were charged overdraft charges. There could have been people that went to get gas yesterday, their bank account had been cleaned out, and they’re sitting at the gas pumps with no money to pay for their gas.” 

August admits that because they have been renting for a long time, the rent is decent in comparison with people who pay almost twice as much for a similar apartment and are new to KFHC. “It’s almost like a lot of this stuff happens constantly to people that have been here long term. They screw around a lot with us. Maybe they are trying to push us out so they can collect higher rents,” they speculated.

Kingstonist again reached out on Wednesday, July 28, to CEO Cousins Brame, inquiring as to what bank had made the error on behalf of KFHC and if and when an apology would be issued. At the time of publication, there has been no response by KFHC. 

August communicated an update the situation to Kingstonist this afternoon, Thursday, Jul. 29, 2021.

“I called Frontenac Housing this morning,” they said, noting they explained that there was still an extra amount, as well as an NSF charge on their account. “They told me I had to call my bank and sort it out. I don’t know why I have to deal with their mistake.”

“So we spent an hour on the phone with the bank between being on hold and trying to resolve the issues having to repeat the issue to different agents… in the end we were informed they would reverse the NSF fee, but it was Frontenac Housing that has to deal with the other issues of the extra money.”

August was very frustrated and also said, “I would also like to point out not ONE apology has been given, not at all. Not even an “I’m sorry” on the phone. Absolutely no apology. I’m pretty upset about this. They drain people’s accounts for two days, make them jump through hoops to deal with their mess up, and they don’t even have the common decency to apologize for stealing people’s money or causing mental stress to people!”  

Furthermore, according to August, “They still haven’t even informed people this has happened! There are people who have no clue.”

Kingstonist will continue to investigate the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.

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