April 26, 2018

Ask the Registrar: How long do I have to keep old files to be compliant? Do we require written permission to destroy old files?

The short answer to your question is that the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA 2002) requires brokerages to keep all documents and records related to a trade in real estate for at least six years after a transaction has been completed (see O. Reg. 579/05, s. 18).  A brokerage must retain written offers to purchase that have not been accepted for at least a year after the brokerage received the written offer (O. Reg. 579/05, s. 19.1).

Brokerages don’t need permission under REBBA to destroy files that are more than 6 years old, but there are good reasons why you may choose to retain these files. You never know if a legal or tax dispute may arise, and you’ll find yourself needing those files at a later date. If you don’t have space for old paper files in your office, your brokerage could rent a storage locker or save them electronically.

Before destroying old paper files, I strongly recommend that you electronically scan each page and keep the electronic files (most likely PDFs, JPEGs or PNGs) on a storage device before you shred or destroy the paper versions. You will have to ponder some considerations pertaining to privacy protection and the risks of storing data digitally, but there are many advantages to conducting your business digitally. It’s convenient, and paperless.