Ontario Government has finally put legal restrictions in place to protect it’s most vulnerable citizens from “shady” debt reduction solutions.
Bill 55 | How will it help Ontario Citizens?
Debt Settlement, operated by over 35 companies in Ontario should be now following a new set of rules. Given that the industry has not been well regulated in the past, the new law should provide a solid foundation to ending rip-off companies. However, a law is only as effective as the enforcement surrounding it. Given that we have not seen strong enforcement to date in consumer protection, we highly recommend the buyer beware, read the fine print to prevent being another casualty to bogus debt help companies. If you do feel that a company is providing services that contravene the new law, contact the government of Ontario.
- Eliminating upfront fees for services
- Regulation of fees to consumers and controlling that the service be successful before payment be made.
- Requiring clear, transparent, and detailed contracts that include information about the effect of the contract on the consumer’s credit rating
- Requiring credit counsellors to disclose information regarding the nature of funding of their company, non profit or otherwise.
- Establishing a 10-day cooling-off period, providing consumers more time to consider their agreements with companies
Read the fine print, ask questions, talk to multiple professionals and the most important criteria, MEET the company in person. A solid indication of a reputable company is that you can walk in the office and talk to the principles in the business. Your future depends on your proper due diligence.
Every situation is different and there is no ABC of Bankruptcy, each person should review their entire personal situation with a trustee to determine the best course of action. That being said, there can be strategy behind filing. Especially if you have already determined that bankruptcy is your only viable solution. Just when is best to do it?
The best time to file bankruptcy for many Canadians can be before the end of the calendar year.
The timing has bearing on your future tax refunds, if you normally receive a refund from CRA - Revenue Canada, you will likely benefit by signing your bankruptcy papers prior to Dec. 31. Bankruptcy law, the BIA, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, dictates which tax refunds are applicable to be seized by the trustee/estate, for payment to your creditors. The law also dictates which tax refunds normally would be returned to YOU! There is significant gain to the consumer by filing before Dec. 31 .
Consumer Protection Suspends License, Freezes Accounts
Options Credit Services Canada Ltd a BC licensed debt settlement company is in the news again. On Dec 5 2013 the BC Consumer protection Agency suspended the license of the company and seized the bank accounts associated with the company. Options Credit Services,
Financial troubles and collection agencies or harassing creditors seem to come together in hand in hand.
There is nothing worse than being harassed or hounded by creditors or collection agencies, they call at work, they call at dinner, they disrupt your life. There are horror stories of collection agencies stocking people, showing up at their home in the middle of the night or even at their place of work.
The first step in bringing an end to the fear of collection calls is to understand your rights and your options.
There is a difference between a collection agency and a creditor. You should always deal with your creditor if possible.
What is a creditor- An individual or business who gave credit to a debtor, which has not been repaid, there are 2 types of creditors – Secured Creditor and Unsecured Creditor.
What is a collection agency- A collection agency is a business that obtains or arranges for payment of money owed to either a person or a company. When you have an account with a business that is “past due” or in default, the business may sell your account or turn your account over to a collection agency.
- Keep a log of who calls, time and date of call, name of person that is calling and what is said by them and by you
- Stay calm and be polite and be honest
- Do not make promises you can not keep
- Ask questions:
Will the creditor reduce or eliminate the interest on the debt?
Can the creditor reduce the outstanding amount owing?
Will the creditor extend the timelines to repay the debt?
Can the creditor remove the account from the hands of collections?
There are very specific laws that dictate how debt can be recollected and regulate how collection agencies operate in Canada. National and provincially the laws vary and can be researched in depth at the following agencies.
Understanding your rights is an important first step. Here are helpful links for every province and our federal consumer protection agency, each agency has a process to file complaints against unlawful collection tactics.
Canada – Industry Canada
Alberta – Alberta Fair Trading Act
Manitoba – Consumer Protection Act
Saskatchewan – Consumer Protection Act
Newfoundland – Department of Government Services
Nova Scotia – Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Nunavut – Community and Government Services
Northwest Territories – Municipal and Community Affairs
Dealing with your creditors is the most important factor – Ignoring the issue like an ostrich is a foolish short term reaction, not a solution.
You do have many options
Finding the solution that suits your specific situation is important. There is no one size fits all solution to debt repayment, being proactive and talk to a good professional will get you on the right track.
Offering less borrowing power against their home, Canadians face fewer options to pay off debt.
The government announced on June 21 2012 it will reduce the maximum amortization period for a government-insured mortgage, lowering it from 30 to 25 years, and also drop the upper limit that Canadians can borrow against their home equity from 85 per cent to 80 per cent.
A far cry from the CMHC rules of 2006, which allowed insurance for 40-year-amortizations, when it also moved to provide mortgage insurance on 100 per cent financing.
All these changes are sparked by the continued indebtedness of Canadians, which sits at a staggering 152 % of their income and growing.
Protecting Canadians from their spending habits the government has changed the rules 4 times in 4 years. Cutting the mortgage duration which stood at 40 years in 2008, dropped to 35 years, then dropped to 30 years and now stands at 25 years. Many of the changes are specifically tied to high ratio, government insured financing.
Refinancing and leveraging properties to a maximum of 80% of their value will form a barrier to prevent Canadians from over extending their credit. As many Canadians struggle to meet their payment obligations at historically low interest rates, the fear of financial destruction will become reality when interest rates rise.
For Canadians using a yearly influx of equity loans, to pay off their debt. That door has now been slammed closed.
We suspect this new cap on home equity borrowing will force many Canadians to face the reality of their spending and debt.
Good people have unfortunate events in their life. Getting back on your feet and rebuilding your financial life is possible.
Here is a helpful 5 step approach to rebuilding credit after bankruptcy or a consumer proposal.
Courtesy of Sands & Associates.
Unless you have been living under a rock. You have heard the warnings. Whether from the Government of Canada, Finance Minister of Canada or the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Canadians are piling on too much debt.
Those debt chickens are going to be coming home to roost. Many families are just making ends meet and some are barely able to make the minimum payments each month. The base interest rate for the Bank of Canada is at 1%. Historically low. If the debt is barely manageable with that low of an interest rate, what is going to happen to those families when interest rates increase by 2%. Every line of credit, unsecured credit card and flexible mortgage rate will rise. It will not rise proportionately to the bank rate. It will rise more, it always rises more and faster. The simple fact that the Bank of Canada announced today that rates will rise faster than expected. That announcement will have the banks increasing rates especially the long term mortgage and financing rates immediately.
Locking in any flexible debt is an immediate solution, lock in your mortgage, your car loan, line of credit or any other interest rate that is secured to an asset. Other unsecured credit, you will feel the pinch as rates increase. How big a pinch depends on the debt and type of financing you are currently using.
Reducing your debt is the best solution. Consolidating your unsecured debt through a mortgage extension or line of credit is a serious step, it takes unsecured debt and makes it completely secured, at the same time the consolidation reduces the value of the asset that the loan is tied to. So what is accomplished, that new dishwasher or trip south, that was such a great deal and you saved so much money when you purchased it on credit, that is now going to have 25 years of interest attached to it as it becomes part of your mortgage payment. Not such a great deal now.
Canadians have added debt at record levels, increasing the interest rate on that debt is going to change the landscape of many households very quickly. If you find you need help and before you consolidate your finances, look at all your options. Talk to professionals, Trustees in Bankrutpcy will be able to give you professional advice. Many Canadians are finding that filing a consumer proposal to reduce debt and lower payments is the best option. This does not reduce the value of your assets and the consumer proposal can actually be bought out or paid off with a 2nd mortgage or line of credit. There are many options available.
Be very careful not to get pulled into debt settlement or debt negotiation, this will only make your situation worse and you will likely end up with more debt. As they charge high fees with no guaranteed results.
Low Interest Rates and Rising Housing Prices = Increased Canadian Debt
Canada has never been in debt as much as their are now. 2012 is likely to be the year when Canadian families reach a new plateau in debt level. Household debt in Canada, was close to 151 per cent at the end of last year. The Bank of Canada’s own analysis expects the ratio to approach the 160-per-cent level reached in the United States just prior to the 2008 financial crisis.
The Canadian debt level has attracted the attention of our high ranking government officials, most notably Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty and Mark Carney the governor of the Bank of Canada. The Bank of Canada is ready and willing to intervene if the debt levels appear to be a threat to the overall economic stability of Canada.
Mark Carney the Governor of the Bank of Canada states
“We have never been as indebted as we are today as individuals,” he said. “We’ve done analysis which shows that about 10 per cent of Canadians are vulnerable if interest rates returned to more normal levels, which will happen.” The solution on the table is raise interest rates, slow down borrowing.
Yet we Canadians keep borrowing to buy homes, or refinancing, taking out loans against the equity. Accumulating more and more debt. This will have a disastrous effect. Specific areas of Canada, particularly Vancouver are already seeing a drop of over 30% in housing prices for 2012.
This would be the beginning of the perfect storm, if this trend of reduced home prices and highly leveraged mortgages is combined with increasing interest rates. Canadians could end up with it’s very own housing crisis. Homeowners with mortgages that out value the price of the home. Canadians with debt that out weighs their assets.
Why do Canadians file bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is when consumers stop paying their bills for any reason or have debts exceeding total assets. Almost 130,000 Canadians filed for bankruptcy in 2010, a decrease by 8% from 2010.
The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in 2011 reported that over three-quarters of consumer bankruptcies/insolvencies originated from Canada’s three most heavily populated provinces: Ontario 51,273 Quebec 36,000 and British Columbia 11,600
What happened to those individuals. OSB statistics surprisingly reveal a wide range of reasons behind Canadian bankruptcies. Many of the instigators are the result of no fault of the individual, they are just a victim of circumstance.
The primary instigators of insolvency and bankruptcy in Canada include:
1. Overextension of credit (22 per cent of all Canadian bankruptcies).
2. Seasonal employment (15 per cent).
3. Job loss (12.8 per cent).
4. Medical problems (11.3 per cent).
5. Relationship breakdown (10.3 per cent).
6. Money mismanagement (9.2 per cent).
7. Failed business (9.1 per cent).
8. Failure to pay taxes (3.6 per cent).
9. Gambling addiction (2 per cent).
10. Inadequate pension (1.4 per cent).
Business failures represent an obvious reason for insolvency. Without sufficient income, owners simply can’t pay their bills. And money mismanagement problems can drive high rollers into bankruptcy where wild spending exceeds earnings.
Not paying taxes, gambling addictions and tiny pensions cause relatively fewer bankruptcies, but still represent serious financial problems to many Canadians.
If you find yourself having questions regarding your debt, you need solutions and professional help. Let us help you, we have a nationwide network of licensed Trustees in Bankruptcy that will be able to assist you.
Holidays are over, got everyone fantastic presents, celebrated and had maybe a bit too much fun!
If you had a large amount of credit card debt before the holidays, chances are that you now have even a larger amount of credit card debt, potentially your credit cards are maxed out to the limits.
We can help now. Reduce Your Payments Up to 50%
Completely free analysis
Federally Licensed Trustees in Bankruptcy & Certified Credit Counsellors
Learn about your debt relief options to lower your monthly payments, interest, and consolidate your payments.
Bankruptcy is not your only option, talk to someone in your neighbourhood about how a Consumer Proposal will benefit your financial situation and give you a Financial Fresh Start for 2012.