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BCFSA’s Guidelines provide a practical application of the information and give suggested best practice guidance to assist real estate professionals. These guidelines provide BCFSA’s interpretation of RESA and all other applicable legislation.
In addition, BCFSA’s Guidelines may be a useful information source for the general public looking for information about standards of conduct for real estate professionals.
These guidelines will help you understand what personal information you can gather, your obligations around retaining, and disposing of that information. Much of the information in this practice guideline connects to other guidelines and includes links.
- Minimize the collection of personal information about consumers.
- Ensure you have informed consent to collect and use consumer personal information for non-statutory purposes.
- Safeguard client/consumer personal information.
- Understand your obligations regarding the retention of personal information.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia has identified over-collection of consumer personal information as a point of concern. When gathering personal information about consumers that will be used by your brokerage or a brokerage client, it is important to first determine the purpose for collecting the information and then gather the minimum amount of required to fulfill that purpose.
In some cases, the information may be needed to determine if the consumer is an appropriate tenant, or to determine if a consumer is someone a seller client wants to engage with in negotiations on a sale. Regardless of its purpose, you must also remember, as noted in the Privacy information, that some personal information and sources of personal information, such as data contained on social media, should never be collected or used, while other personal information and sources of personal information, such as court rulings and newspaper articles, may be considered reasonable.
There are, however, other pieces of legislation such as RESA, the Strata Property Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act which require gathering additional data. It is important to know exactly what information must be gathered, and how long your brokerage may retain that information. You should not collect anything beyond what is required by the legislation and destroy the information when it is permitted.
For more information on how to address private and confidential information, please click here.
Ensure You Have Informed Consent to Collect and Use Consumer Personal Information for Non-Statutory Purposes
As a real estate professional, you may collect consumer personal information for your own business needs. For example, you may have a consumer database that you use to communicate with or send updates to clients. Before collecting personal information for non-statutory reasons, ensure you get your client’s consent. Outline what you and/or your brokerage will be using the information for and comply with any restrictions the consumer may give you in the use of their personal information. Remember that using that contact information for anything other than the purpose it was collected for (such as sending the consumer flyers for another business of yours, or providing their contact information to third parties such as home inspectors) would be a violation of their privacy rights.
You have a duty to protect client confidentiality under the Real Estate Services Rules (“Rules”). Under PIPA, you must obtain consent before disclosing personal information collected from a client or a consumer, except in certain limited circumstances where consent is not required. Personal information provided by potential tenants, for example, cannot be shared beyond the brokerage and the landlord and must only be used to determine whether the tenant is a match for the subject property. Similarly, you should never share personal information provided by a potential buyer in an offer to your seller with anyone other than your seller client (as that was the purpose of the potential buyer providing the information). Providing that information to other potential buyers to drum up additional offers could put you in violation of PIPA and RESA.
If you conduct business from a home office, for example, you should ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect your clients’ personal information until you can transfer records to the brokerage. Read more about how personal offices may operate by clicking here.
Different legislation requires brokerages to retain specific information for set periods of time. For example, brokerage records retained under RESA must be kept for at least seven years. PCMLTFA also requires brokerages to keep some client and consumer information for a specified time. The Canadian Revenue Agency may require you to keep transaction information that details your income.
When the required record retention time has passed, and when the personal information you collected is no longer needed for the purpose in which it was collected, it is important to destroy it securely (i.e. do not throw records into a waste basket where it can be easily retrieved). Periodically checking through your records to ensure you are not keeping personal information for more time than is required is prudent.
For information, please visit Document Retention and Confidentially and protecting consumer information.
RESA outlines your obligations when it comes to information concerning clients of a brokerage Other legislation such as PIPA and PCMLTFA applies to information from clients as well as other parties.
That information should be included in a personal information section of the brokerage policy manual so that the real estate professionals licensed to your brokerage have a clear understanding of what information can be collected in their duties, what information must be retained by the brokerage, and what information should be destroyed. Sending out monthly or quarterly reminders to your real estate professionals reminding them to review their files and ensure that they are only retaining necessary information is also a good idea.
Finally, setting policies around what personal consumer information may be kept by your real estate professionals outside of your brokerage (such as information needed to file taxes with CRA) is also wise. Limiting the information the brokerage permits real estate professionals to keep outside of the brokerage file also minimizes the risk of personal or confidential consumer information inadvertently being shared or viewed by those who should not have access to it (i.e. spouses of the real estate professionals). Periodic reviews of personal information holdings and removal of unnecessary information in a safe and secure way, as well as updating permissions where information is being retained is key.
- Section 30, Real Estate Services Rules, Duties to clients
- Section 33, Real Estate Services Rules, Duty to act honestly
- Section 34, Real Estate Services Rules, Duty to act with reasonable care and skill
Contact information: means information to enable an individual at a place of business to be contacted and includes the name, position name or title, business telephone number, business address, business email or business fax number of the individual
PIPA: means the Personal Information Protection Act which came into effect in 2004.
Personal information: means information about an identifiable individual and includes employee personal information but does not include
- contact information, or
- work product information;
Work product information: means information prepared or collected by an individual or group of individuals as a part of the individual’s or group’s responsibilities or activities related to the individual’s or group’s employment or business but does not include personal about an individual who did not prepare or collect the personal information.