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What records and documents do I need to keep?

December 15, 2012
By SYLVIA HELDRETH - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Question: I'm the sort of person who doesn't remove mattress tags that have "penalty of law" warnings. I own a real estate company and am always confused about what records and documents I need to keep and what I can destroy at the end of each year. What do I need to retain and what can I discard?

Answer: Some things you need to keep forever but a mattress tag is not one of them. As for the other records commonly found in a realty office ...

Important business records, legal documents such as corporate documents (Articles of Incorporation, LLC Operating Agreement); intellectual property registrations (trademarks); licenses; independent contractor agreements; retirement/pension records and business income tax returns should be kept forever or at least until years after the business no longer exists. This "forever" category includes qualification to do business in Florida and related records; real estate agents' and brokers' licenses; corporate seals; stock transfer and stockholder or membership records; minute books and all financing documents; credit and loan agreements; and other legal commitments.

Personnel records fall into several categories. Rules follow requirements set forth under federal equal employment opportunity laws. The three most prominent laws (Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act) require that personnel records be maintained for the term of employment, plus one year. To be safe, medical histories or health data and earnings records, individual attendance records, application forms, performance evaluations, termination papers, exit interview records, withholding information, garnishments and test results should be kept forever or at least four years after the employee or agent leaves. Individual contracts of employment should be kept for seven years after termination.

It is recommended that bank reconciliation, personnel and payroll records, real estate sales contracts and tax-related invoices or any documents supporting tax returns be kept for up to six years. It is interesting that cancelled checks have historically been in this category but now that checks are not returned from the bank, it's advisable to keep some alternative documentation of checks.

Keeping monthly financial statements, credit card statements, important correspondence and expired insurance policies longer than three years is unnecessary.

With computerized back-up systems it is not necessary to keep hard copies of routine correspondence, every old version of policy and procedure manuals or anything else that requires no follow-up.

Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.

This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.



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