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Personal information now mandatory

Realtors required to confirm the buyer's ID.

Canadian realtors are bracing for a customer backlash starting today, as they become foot soldiers in the battle against money-laundering. Federal regulations that kick in today will force realtors to start asking property sellers and buyers personal information never before required.

In Ontario alone, 47,000 realtors will be expected to fall in line or face stiff penalties. "We know there is going to be consumer rejection on this and we are just following the law," said Gerry Weir, a London realtor and president of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

Realtors will be required to ask for the name, address, date of birth and occupation of property buyers and sellers, plus ID such as a driver's licence or passport.

Weir said Ottawa has made little effort to educate people about the changes, and realtors feel they're being forced into an uncomfortable enforcement role. He said realtors will have to keep the information for seven years and submit it on request to the Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), a federal agency set up to track suspicious transactions that could be related to money-laundering or terrorism.

If the buyer is foreign or from another part of Canada, the real estate broker will be required to hire an agent in the buyer's community who can confirm the buyer's ID.

If a client refuses to disclose the information, Weir said, a realtor would have to walk away from the deal or report the person to FINTRAC.

"Even if I have known you for 30 years, I still have to ask for that information," he said.

Weir said it could get even worse.

He said Ottawa also wanted to require a receipt-of-funds record, with information on anyone who actually supplied money for sales, including relatives or friends.

Weir said the government backed down on that, but he expects it will only be temporary.

"That is the next step; that will happen," he said.

FINTRAC officials appear confused about the new rules.

Spokesperson Peter Lamey at first said one piece of ID was needed from buyers and sellers, and information such as date of birth and occupation wouldn't be required.

He later said the information wouldn't only be required from buyers and sellers, but also from anyone who contributed money to a deal as part of the receipt of funds record, contradicting Weir's belief that Ottawa had backed down on that provision.

Negotiations on the rules were handled by the federal Finance Department and not FINTRAC, Lamey said.

For years, realtors have been required to report any suspicious financial transactions to FINTRAC, especially those involving cash payments of more than $10,000. Weir said he's reported three transactions in recent years, and two involved someone trying to buying a house to set up a marijuana growing operation. Still, he said only a very small number of real estate transaction are suspicious.

Weir said the government will only do spot inspections during the next six months to ensure realtors and brokers are meeting the requirements.

After that, any realtor or broker who doesn't meet the requirements could face hefty fines or jail time. Weir said the OREA wants to educate people about the changes, but there've been long negotiations with the government and the rules weren't firmed up until last week.

June 23, 2008 in Real Estate Regulations | Permalink


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Posted by: torontohomeandhouse123 | Jun 11, 2010 3:56:46 AM

I find this quite paranoid of the agencies, but I guess it could be worse. They could have us Realtors asking clients about their family background or even shoe size :). Now seriously I can`t imagine having to hire someone in Ottawa to confirm on a buyer here in Toronto. All the paperwork and complaints from the buyers/sellers, not to mention the rejections. But again, it still could be worse.

Posted by: Toronto realtor | Jul 14, 2008 8:02:08 AM

Can you say "Bib Brother is watching"?

What next? Will we have to register to buy gasoline.

Posted by: George Allen | Jun 24, 2008 1:22:06 PM

In my opinion it`s just a slight change however it may cause some minor nuisances. As I`ve been working for a Toronto real estate company I know that how people hate to be "investigated" but also they can understand our policy as well, the trustfulness is the most important quality in this business. We should keep our friendly manner in every circumstances and clients will be more eager to go through the procedure.

Posted by: Toronto real estate agent | Jun 24, 2008 5:40:37 AM

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