This page provides legal information only. It is not intended to replace advice from a lawyer or other professional, such as a licensed insolvency trustee or credit counsellor.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has further information about Credit Reports and Scores.
What is a consumer reporting agency?
Consumer reporting agencies collect information about a person’s credit and payment history. Consumer reporting agencies are also called credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus. The two main credit reporting agencies in Canada are Equifax and TransUnion. Credit reporting agencies must be licensed by Service Nova Scotia to operate here, and must follow the rules in Nova Scotia’s Consumer Reporting Act.
What is a credit report?
A credit report summarizes your credit history. It includes information about your borrowing and repayment history, whether you have filed for bankruptcy, or have collection activities or judgments against you. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada gives more information about credit reports and credit scores, and building a good credit history, at www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca
What is a credit report for?
Prospective creditors, landlords, insurance companies, employers, may use this information to decide whether you are a good or bad credit risk. For example, you may be asked to agree to have a consumer reporting agency give a credit report about you when you apply to:
- borrow money
- hook up power
- get a credit card
- rent an apartment
- get insurance
- get a job.
If a prospective creditor, landlord, insurance company or employer denies you a benefit or increases the cost of benefit to you based on your credit report, they must notify you immediately of the denial or increase in cost.
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a three-digit number that comes from the information in your credit report. It shows how well you manage credit and how risky it would be for a lender to lend you money.
Who can get a credit report about me?
In most cases you must consent in writing to have your credit report given out. But there are exceptions:
- A credit reporting agency may give out your credit report without your consent if a court orders it
- A governmental body may access information in your credit file (see below), and
- If you have applied for a loan or other credit and you did not give your written consent to check your credit, the creditor may still contact the credit reporting agency. In this case the creditor must let you know that they will check your credit, and must give you the name and address of the credit reporting agency within 10 days of requesting the credit check. This rule applies to a potential lender, employer, landlord, insurer or other authorized recipient of a credit report.
Other than the exceptions listed here, no other person is authorized to obtain the information held by a credit reporting agency without your written consent, and a credit reporting agency is not allowed to sell, lease or give the information contained in your file other than to another credit reporting agency.
Can the government access information in my credit report?
Yes. Any provincial or federal government department may obtain your name, address, former addresses, and place or former places of employment from a consumer reporting agency. In addition, the collection services division of Service Nova Scotia may obtain personal information such as your address, former address, places or former places of employment, and social insurance number, in order to aid in collecting a debt or fine owing to the Nova Scotia government.
Can I refuse to give permission for a lender to check my credit history?
Yes. But the lender may refuse to give you a loan or credit without that information.
Information a credit reporting agency might have about you
Your credit report may contain information about your:
- identity, including your social insurance number and date of birth
- marital status
- borrowing and repayment history
- assets and liabilities
- credit worthiness
- character & reputation
- health, physical or personal characteristics
- mode of living.
Information in your credit report must be in writing, and be fair and accurate. You have a right to have any inaccuracies in your credit report corrected.
Your right to see your credit report
You have a right to see your credit report. The reporting agency must also have someone available to explain your file to you. If you wish to see your file, you can make an appointment to do so in person at the credit reporting agency’s office. You may also request a copy of your credit file by mail, or online. It is free to get your credit file in person or by mail, but there is usually a fee to get it online. You must provide identification to view or get a copy of your credit file.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has information about Ordering Your Credit Report and Score, including how to get a free credit report. Ordering your credit report has no effect on your credit score. It is a good idea to order your Credit Report at least once a year, from each of Equifax and TransUnion, as the two organizations may have different information about you. It is particularly important to order your Credit Report if you have been a victim of fraud, or if there has been a data breach where your personal financial information may be at risk.
Read this short article about why you should order your Credit Report.
Do I have to waive or release any legal rights in order to see my credit report?
No. A credit reporting agency cannot demand that you waive any legal rights in order to see your credit report.
If information in your file is wrong
If you find incorrect information in your file, you may file a protest or complaint with the credit reporting agency. The agency must immediately verify the information – for example, by obtaining proof of the debt from the creditor. If the information cannot be verified, the agency must remove the inaccurate information from your file.
If the information is accurate, the reporting agency must record your protest in the file and tell you, and anyone who got your credit report in the past 60 days, what action was taken. You are allowed to put a short note in your file (consumer statement), up to 100 words, explaining the circumstances of a debt, judgment, late payment, etc.
Alternatively, if you are dissatisfied by the decision of a credit reporting agency regarding your protest or complaint, you can appeal to Service Nova Scotia. Get information here if you are making a complaint about a federally regulated financial institution (a bank, for example).
Complaints about a credit reporting agency
If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a credit reporting agency you can make a complaint directly to the credit reporting agency, and/or contact Service Nova Scotia at 1 800 670 4357 or 902-424-5200.
How long an unpaid debt stays on your credit record
For most unpaid debts the time limit is 6 years; however this time period can change depending on the type of debt, and the place you live in Canada.
In Nova Scotia in most cases a creditor must sue within 2 years in order to get a judgment from the court and extend the life of an unpaid debt. However, this time period could extend as far as 20 years depending on the circumstances. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has information about how long certain information stays on your credit report. However, you will likely need to contact the credit reporting agency directly (Equifax or TransUnion) for information about how long negative information stays on your credit report.
How long a bankruptcy stays on your credit record
A bankruptcy stays on your credit record for 6 years from the date you are discharged, unless you have been bankrupt more than once, in which case it will be on your credit report for 14 years.
Can my file include information from outside Canada?
No. All of the information in the file must come from within Canada. Foreign sources are not allowed.
Improving your credit
There are several ways to improve your credit score, including
- pay all bills on time;
- avoid going over your credit limit;
- making fewer applications for credit;
- obtaining your credit report and reviewing it to ensure all information is accurate.
However, be wary of companies who say they will “repair” your credit. If the information contained in your credit report is true and accurate, no company can change the information, nor can they do anything more than you could do by simply reviewing your report and protesting any inaccurate information directly to the credit reporting agency.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has information about how to improve your credit score.
- Service Nova Scotia licenses credit reporting agencies, and deals with consumer complaints. Contact them at (902) 424-5200 (in Halifax) or toll-free at 1-800-670-4357, or online at www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/
- Financial Consumer Agency of Canada – comprehensive consumer information about credit reports, credit scores, and building a good credit history. Visit www.fcac-acfc. gc.ca or call 1 866-461-3222.
- A credit counselling agency. Credit counsellors can help you in a number of ways, such as a debt management plan, budgeting, wise credit use, and general money management. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has information about how to find a reputable Credit Counselling service: www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca.
- Debtor Assistance Program, offered through Service Nova Scotia. Provides free help with managing your money, dealing with creditors, and consumer proposals, but cannot adminster bankruptcies (you need a licensed trustee for a bankruptcy). Contact the Debtor Assistance Program at 1 800 670-4357 or 902-424-5200, or online at gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/individuals/debtor-assistance.asp
- A trustee in bankruptcy, also called a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, can provide professional advice about your options for dealing with debt. Trustees are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Bankruptcies', or search for 'trustee in bankruptcy' online. You can also get a listing of local trustees from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy at 1 877 376-9902 (toll free) or osb.ic.gc.ca
- Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy - regulates bankruptcies, oversees and licenses trustees in bankruptcy (licensed insolvency trustees), and has helpful general information for debtors and creditors
Phone: 1 877 376-9902 (toll free)
Reviewed December 2017