Electronic Document Management (EDM): Maintenance, Preservation and Archiving of Records and Registers
The new Real Estate Brokerage Act no longer presents any obstacles to the maintenance, preservation and archiving of records and registers on electronic medium. Indeed, the second paragraph of section 16 of the Regulation respecting records, books and registers, trust accounting and inspection of brokers and agencies stipulates: "When the registers and records are conserved on a technological medium, access to the documents contained therein must be limited to the persons employed by or authorized to act for the licence holder, for the information necessary for the carrying on of their activities."
The Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (OACIQ) is responsible for the application of the Real Estate Brokerage Act and its regulations, and its mission is to protect the public. Accordingly, we are issuing a framework for the preservation, archiving and maintenance of records and registers.
In this initial phase, we are issuing the normative framework for EDM of records and registers. A second phase will cover electronic transactions.
In fall 2011, the OACIQ will therefore issue a normative framework for electronic transactions, including electronic signatures. The timing will coincide with the release of the new forms that must be used at the end of 18 months. Indeed, we would like to remind you that existing forms may be used for 18 months from the effective date of the Act, namely May 1, 2010.
This document also contains information that you may find useful regarding the following points:
- Integrity, privacy and retention of information
- Recording of information
- Information Sharing
- Architecture (Web or network)
- System monitoring
1- Integrity, privacy and retention of information
The OACIQ is laying the foundations for norms and standards that will assure a document's integrity. The aim is to make sure that the information contained in the document is not altered or likely to disappear or be modified without anyone noticing. These standards also cover privacy and the retention of information.
Here is what the designers of an electronic document management system will need to focus on. The system must guarantee that:
- the information is uniform and coherent;
- the information is only consulted by authorized persons (privacy);
- the information cannot be altered either accidentally or intentionally (integrity);
- the information is preserved for a period that complies with regulations (archiving). Since the coming into force of the new Act, this retention or archiving period is now six (6) years instead of five (5).
2- Recording of Information
To meet these requirements, one must be conscious of the limitations of the various technologies that are in use. For example, there are two levels of information recording:
The OACIQ requires the use of hard drives for data storage, and magnetic tapes or cartridges for backup. Indeed, CD/DVD use is not included in the standard, since this medium does not meet the requirements of document retention (archiving), and data integrity. In the case of storage, CD/DVD technology is a threat to privacy since data security on this type of medium is practically impossible.
3- Information Sharing
Moreover, information sharing also needs to be regulated. In fact, the OACIQ recommends that the sharing tool track all document sharing actions.
4- Architecture (Web or Network)
Another consideration is the architectural model that is used. Some systems are developed in a NETWORK environment, while others use a WEB architecture.
The level of security and access management vary from one to the next. In a network environment, the granting and withdrawal of access rights occurs in a restrictive setting, since the user must have access to the physical premises, whereas in a WEB environment, users can access the system from outside the physical premises of the organization.
WEB architecture is the preferred environment of the OACIQ because of the many possibilities that it affords. Nevertheless, the system requires stricter protection measures, as well as more stringent access controls to allow granting and withdrawal of access rights in real time.
The documents are originally on paper, and must be digitized in order to be input into the EDM system. The length of time original documents must be retained is determined by the degree of reliability of the backup procedure, and the redundancy of the system itself. The user will therefore need to make sure that the system is stable before destroying any paper documents.
Authentication represents the expression of a person's consent to the contract conditions. The signature does not require any proof of authenticity as long as the integrity of the document is assured. The authentication of the document (handwritten signature) must therefore be affixed to the original document before it is digitized; in addition, it must be certified that the digitized document corresponds to the original version in every respect.
The OACIQ will send you standards regarding electronic signatures, when the regulation respecting new forms takes effect.
The Act states that a person having custody, possession or control of the records and registers and other documents must, on request, make them available to the person conducting the inspection and facilitate their examination, regardless of the storage medium and the means by which they may be accessed. The system must therefore allow retrieval of any document upon request of the person conducting the inspection, the Syndic, or the Assistance Service.
Implementing an electronic document management system requires an investment of both money and time; which is why we invite you to consult the Technical Specifications document by clicking on the link below, or through Synbad.
As well, we invite you to contact the OACIQ first, so the OACIQ Inspection Service can guide you through the process. In so doing, we will be well placed to certify your systems' compliance of with the EDM normative framework.
9- System Monitoring
The OACIQ will be conducting Electronic Document Management (EDM) system inspections in accordance with these norms and standards. This will enable the OACIQ to ensure the systems' continued compliance with the principles of the Québec Real Estate Brokerage Act and regulations.
Keep in mind that Electronic Document Management (EDM) must not be taken lightly. The proposed normative framework takes into account the protection of the public by ensuring the availability of reliable information.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact the OACIQ Inspection Service at 450 676-4800, ext. 8476.