Recording, retaining and retrieving your forms is more crucial than ever

When things get busy, keeping track of documents and complying with the rules of record keeping and privacy could be onerous. But an audit of your business practices would probably feel even more onerous.

The Real Estate Council of BC says it audits about 250 brokerages in the province each year to review their policies and procedures. They look for how forms are stored, retrieved, and retained.

It seems there is no better time than the present to review the rules concerning document management.

Electronic files

Brokerages are permitted to keep electronic records as long as the records can be promptly printed out on paper if an individual authorized by the Real Estate Services Act (RESA) to inspect, review or receive brokerage records (e.g. a Council auditor), makes the request for them.

Storing electronic files

Be aware that no other federal, provincial or municipal statues supersede the legal obligation brokerages have for keeping records as stipulated by RESA.

Council cautions brokers that US companies providing information storage service are subject to different privacy laws which could result in a breach of clients’ confidential information and contravene Canadian privacy and confidentiality law.

If you contract an outside company or server to store your electronic records, the records must still be available for retrieval by the regulators.

Also, if a brokerage stores electronic records outside of British Columbia, copies of those records must also be kept in British Columbia and available for inspection.

Backing up files

Make backup copies of all your business information that has been recorded on re-writable media, such as computer hard disks, USBs or remote servers. Backup copies will allow you to access your information, if it gets accidentally lost, deleted, or stolen.

Make sure that both paper and digital copies of records in storage are protected. For example, your digital files and the information in them could be damaged or compromised by magnetic fields, direct light, excessive moisture, and temperature extremes.

When you keep backup records in a medium other than paper:

  • Follow the suggested procedures of the media manufacturer.
  • Pay particular attention to the suggested shelf life of the medium.
  • Ensure the file backup can be restored in a format that is usable and accessible as needed.

Retention of records

Section 8-10 of the Rules requires licensees to keep records for seven years.  This makes it necessary to ensure the security and the accessibility of an office’s records at any point, even after they are archived.

To this end, brokerages are advised to review the requirements for document management outlined in Division 2, Sections 8-4 , 8-5, of the Rules dealing with disclosure documents.

Council forms app

The Council operates a web-based application that allows you to quickly and easily submit a copy of the Disclosure of Representation in Trading Services and the Disclosure of Risks to Unrepresented Parties to your brokerage.

The app also tracks the date and time that a form is submitted and holds the information it receives for 72 hours before it is deleted.

It is important to note that if the app is not accessible or fully functional at any given time, this does not remove the licensee’s responsibility to submit the mandatory forms to their broker, and Council. The use restrictions are in 3.7 of the Terms of Use of Council’s app.

If there is an issue or problem that could pose a risk to the security or use of the app or to the information provided (or any data of any other user of the app), you are required to notify the Council. Email:

Consulting with IT and legal experts about managing electronic records may be necessary, especially for those brokerages handling large volumes. But whether you keep your forms on paper or electronic format, make sure your records are complete, secure and retrievable.