New federal laws and regulations dealing with money laundering and anti-terrorist financing now in effect require real estate agents and brokers to collect and verify more personal information from buyers and sellers.
Real estate agents now must also track the source of funds received during the course of a real estate transaction, such as the deposit.
The new regulations are part of Bill C-25 passed in 2007 that requires a number of industries, including real estate, to do more to help stop money laundering and terrorist financing. The regulations are enforced by the federal agency known as the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC.
“Real estate agents have had legal obligations under the federal government's push to prevent criminal activity and terrorism since 2001, when Canada’s first comprehensive laws to combat money laundering and terrorist financing were introduced,” said Canadian Real Estate Association president Calvin Lindberg.
“In the first phase of compliance, real estate agents were required to report only suspicious transactions, or transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash,” he added. “Now, verified personal information must be kept of the buyer and seller for each and every real estate transaction in Canada. That personal information includes details such as occupation.”
Real estate agents are now required to ask for proof of the identity of all buyers or sellers involved in a Canadian real estate transaction — there were 559,325 MLS® transactions last year. If the client is a corporation, that information must include corporate documentation and the names of the corporation directors. Agents must also ascertain if a third party is involved in the transaction.
This also applies if a buyer or seller involved in a transaction is not represented by a real estate agent, but the other individual involved is represented. Those buying or selling privately will be asked by the agent representing the other party involved in the transaction to provide proof of identity as well, and that record must be kept by the real estate agent involved in the transaction.
Also under the new FINTRAC regulations, real estate agents dealing with clients they never meet must also verify personal information. The broker office involved can do this with a service agreement with an agent or “mandatary” (one given the mandate to act in the transaction) in the area where the client is located. That agent or mandatary must then meet the client,
verify the identification of the client, and
provide the information to the broker office
actually handling the real estate transaction.
“There are buyers, sellers or investors from other countries who rely on expertise here rather than visiting the property themselves,” the CREA president said. “They must now meet with an official agent of the Canadian broker, and provide proof of identity. This agreement will add to the business costs of the Canadian broker.”
In addition to verification of personal information, real estate agents must also complete a report on the receipt of all funds received during the real estate transaction, not just those of $10,000 or more.
In order to comply with these new federal regulations, real estate agents are required to keep this identification and receipt of funds information on file for five years and provide it to FINTRAC if requested. It is the individual broker office that will be responsible for the safe keeping of the information, and the brokerage that will have to respond to any FINTRAC information request.