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Consumer Guide to Confidentiality
This FAQ outlines what constitutes confidential information, why your agent will collect that information, and how the information is treated once your agency relationship ends. It also outlines what external law enforcement bodies may request access to that information and why.
When you think of your personal information, you are probably concerned about confidentiality. Most of the time, people do not share information they want kept confidential, but there are times where you share information with third parties and expect them to keep the information private. This may happen when you are banking or accessing health care.
The real estate industry is no different. Licensed real estate professionals, by law, must keep a client’s information confidential.
What confidential information do I give to my real estate professional?
During a real estate transaction, your real estate professional will collect some of your personal information. Some of the information is used to complete listing contracts while other information is required by federal law to help prevent money laundering. This information may be gathered in person, over the phone or through emails or text messages. No matter how you share the confidential information, the real estate professional has the same obligation to maintain your confidentiality.
Service agreements include listing contracts, buyer agency contracts, and strata and rental management agreements. They contain information such as your name, address, the name of your real estate professional and the brokerage they work for. These agreements outline what everyone’s responsibilities are throughout the relationship. Listing agreements also outline what confidential information is shared for marketing purposes.
Your real estate professional is only permitted to share confidential information when approved by you or required by law.
When you hire a real estate professional, they will have you complete a form known as a FINTRAC form. FINTRAC is the federal body responsibly for facilitating, preventing, and deterring money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. The form will ask for identifying information such as your name, date of birth, a form of identification, information about your job among other things. The federal government requires all real estate agents to collect this information and keep it at their brokerage as part of their anti-money laundering obligations.
All the personal information on this form is kept confidential unless requested by the federal government as part of an investigation into potential money laundering or terrorist financing.
In this age of technology, most communication takes the form of electronic documents. People prefer to send quick text messages and emails instead of discussing things over the phone and sometimes those texts and emails contain information that you do not want other people to see. This could include your reason for buying or selling a home, or how much you are willing to negotiate on price.
While some of this information is not personal, it is still considered confidential because the buyer or seller on the other side of the transaction could use the information to their benefit. For that reason, any information you provide your real estate professional will only be shared with your permission.
Your real estate professional may request that you permit them to share facts such as why you are selling or renting your home if they believe it will bring you a higher offer price or benefit you in some other way.
What happens when my relationship with my real estate professional ends?
Once a transaction is complete, or you decide you no longer want to work with a real estate professional or brokerage, and your contract with them is terminated, your agency relationship ends. All documents and information will be kept at the brokerage for up to seven years.
All the information kept by the brokerage after your relationship with them ends are either stored in paper or digital format. While most of the duties owed to you by your real estate professional end once your relationship ends, the confidentiality requirement goes on forever. Neither your former real estate professional nor the brokerage they are licensed to can ever share any personal information about you unless requested by you or directed by law.
Sometimes when you are buying or selling a property you may encounter a real estate professional you’ve worked with representing a client on the other side of the transaction. If that occurs, you can rest assured that the real estate professional must keep your information confidential.
In fact, your former real estate professional must inform their new client of your past relationship. They must also explain that they will be unable to share any information about you, even if it is to the new client’s benefit. The new client can either allow the real estate professional to reduce the duties owed to them by not requiring your information, or they can need to find a new real estate professional who is not connected to you.
This content was developed with financial support from the Real Estate Foundation of BC.