How to Document a File

Question:
What documents should an agent keep in his or her file?
Recommendation:
One of the most recurring themes that I see with agents is a lack of documentation in an agent’s file.Historically, agents have only maintained the following in their files:1. MLS listing print out;
2. Property Disclosure;
3. Signed Residential Agreement to Buy or Sell;
4. Copy of Deposit check;
5. Signed HUD; and
6. Signed Cash Sale.

If the above list represents your typical file, then this email is directed to you!

Unknown to many agents is the legal requirement for agents to keep copies of many more documents than they are currently keeping.

According to La. R.S. 37:1449(E) real estate brokers shall maintain copies of all documents which in any way pertain to real estate transactions wherein they or the agents sponsored by them have appeared in representation of a client.

(Yes, the statute says “Brokers,” but how is a Broker supposed to obtain a copy of the document unless the agent provides the document to the Broker?)

This is a very broad provision that clearly encompasses more than the list of six (6) items noted above. Rather, the phrase “all documents which in any way pertain to real estate transactions,” includes, but is not limited to the above six (6) items as well as copies of all faxes, hand written phone messages, emails, texts (yes,

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it is possible to print out text messages), offers, counter-offers, final contracts, listing agreements, disclosure forms, addendums, termite inspection reports, etc. – basically, every piece of paper generated during the real estate transaction needs to be maintained in an agent’s file.

This means that agent files should now have some size to them!

The next question that I inevitably receive from agents is, “why – why is it necessary that agents keep a copy of all those documents?”

The biggest reasons are:

1. Agents that keep well-documented files are more likely to be up to date with the status of the transaction and keep the closing moving forward;
2. Agents with well-documented files will be able to respond to their clients quickly and more thoroughly;
3. If a lawsuit arises, agents with well-documented files might be able to counter the lawsuit (and possibly even get dismissed) by providing documents that contradict the plaintiff’s allegations; and
4. If a lawsuit arises, agents with well-documented files will have more documents to review to “refresh their recollection” on the details of a transaction and, thus, be more prepared for the inevitable deposition and/or trial testimony.

 

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