Inspections (formerly known as audits) are the process the Commission employs to review brokerage files for accuracy and compliance with the requirements outlined in the Real Estate Trading Act, the Commission Bylaw and the Commission’s record-keeping requirements.
The trust and brokerage inspections are designed to identify areas where brokerages are (or are not) complying with the standards and procedures for trust accounts and record keeping and is one prominent method the Commission uses to protect the public interest. Inspections help the Commission identify problem areas in the industry, which can then be addressed through industry-wide education and communication.
TYPES OF INSPECTIONS & TIMELINES
Each brokerage in Nova Scotia receives an inspection of their trust records annually and a full brokerage inspection every three years, which includes an in-depth review of the brokerage’s real estate trading records, brokerage and service agreements, trust and brokerage records, disclosures and team contracts, among other items (see Bylaw 621 for the full list). Brokerages are also subject to spot inspections and additional as-required inspections resulting from a change of broker or a brokerage closing.
Newly licensed, first-time broker applicants will have three inspections conducted in the broker's first year of licensing, two of which must achieve a minimum of a 'good' rating. A fourth inspection will be conducted in the first half of the broker's second year of licensing, which must also obtain a minimum of a 'good' rating. Should a broker fail to achieve the required minimum rating, they shall continue to be audited twice a year until such a time that, at minimum, a 'good' rating is achieved. These inspections shall be at a cost to the broker.
All first-time brokers will be issued a conditional licence upon initially licensing until the time that they have completed their inspection requirements. At that point, the condition on the licence will be removed.
A compliance inspector selects a sample of transaction files involving trust deposits. Contractual information concerning each deposit is compiled from the transaction files and used to test the brokerage’s trust account procedures to ensure compliance with the Real Estate Trading Act and the Commission Bylaw.
The inspections also reviews the brokerage’s overall trust account record-keeping processes ensuring it complies with record keeping requirements. General observations of the trust records are made and monthly bank statements are reviewed for any sign of trust shortages or other discrepancies.
Looking for specifics on what is reviewed in a trust inspection? Download our Four Record Keeping Requirements Sample.
FULL BROKERAGE INSPECTION
Full brokerage inspections include both a trust account inspection and the review of a sample of the brokerage’s real estate trading records, brokerage and service agreements, trust and brokerage records, disclosures and team contracts, among other items (see Bylaw 621 for the full list). Transaction files are chosen at random and include trades carried out by each licensee of the brokerage.
CHANGE OF BROKER INSPECTION
A change of broker inspection occurs when the broker leaves their brokerage and is replaced. The inspection covers the time period from the last inspection to the date the broker’s licence is terminated. The inspection may take the same format as the trust account inspection or the full brokerage inspection, depending on the reason for the broker change.
BROKERAGE CLOSING INSPECTION
A brokerage closing inspection is conducted when a brokerage ceases operation, within 30 days of the brokerage licence being terminated. This inspection takes the same format as the trust inspection.
FOCUS ON EDUCATION
The Commission’s approach to inspections factors heavily on education and correction. Every inspection is given a final rating based on the level of compliance; ‘very good’, ‘good’, and ‘needs improvement’. Following every inspection, the Commission meets with the broker or managing associate broker of the brokerage to offer advice on correction and to answer any questions they may have on their trust account and record-keeping responsibilities as outlined in the Act, Bylaw and Commission Policies.
There are repercussions for consistently failing to comply with trust account and records management requirements. A broker or managing associate broker who receives three consecutive ‘needs improvement’ ratings for their inspection may be subject to disciplinary action. Any further consecutive ‘needs improvement’ ratings may increase the severity of the disciplinary action and could ultimately result in a licence restriction.