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 NSREC Bylaw and the NSREC's record-keeping requirements.
The trust and brokerage audits 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 NSREC uses to protect the public interest. Audits help the NSREC identify problem areas in the industry, which can then be addressed through industry-wide education and communication.
TYPES OF AUDITS & TIMELINES
Each brokerage in Nova Scotia receives an audit of their trust records annually and a full brokerage audit 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 audits and additional as-required audits resulting from a change of broker or a brokerage closing.
Newly licensed, first-time broker applicants will have three audits conducted in the broker's first year of licensing, two of which must achieve a minimum of a 'good' rating. A fourth audit 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 audits 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 audit requirements. At that point, the condition on the licence will be removed.
A compliance auditor 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 NSREC Bylaw.
The audits 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.
View a sample of the four record-keeping requirements here.
FULL BROKERAGE AUDIT
Full brokerage audits include both a trust account audit 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 AUDIT
A change of broker audit occurs when the broker leaves their brokerage and is replaced. The audit covers the time period from the last audit to the date the broker’s licence is terminated. The audit may take the same format as the trust account audit or the full brokerage audit, depending on the reason for the broker change.
BROKERAGE CLOSING AUDIT
A brokerage closing audit is conducted when a brokerage ceases operation, within 30 days of the brokerage licence being terminated. This audit takes the same format as the trust audit.
FOCUS ON EDUCATION
The NSREC's approach to audits factors heavily on education and correction. Every audit is given a final rating based on the level of compliance; ‘very good’, ‘good’, and ‘needs improvement’. Following every audit, the NSREC 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 Nova Scotia Real Estate Trading Act, NSREC Bylaw and NSREC 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 audit 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.