Can I get a real estate license if I have a prior felony or criminal record?

Day 13 of 30 – Robert Earl’s Prospective Agent Mentorship Guide – Digital Agent Show

Having a prior arrest on your record or a previous run in with the law does not necessarily disqualify you from getting your real estate license.  

Think of it this way.  Two main considerations will come into play. 

  • How serious was the offense or felony?
  • How recent was the arrest or conviction?

Both of these will come into play when the real estate commission for your state is considering whether to issue you a license

Let me explain the process so that you further understand and can take the appropriate steps.

When you finish the real estate class you will be issued a certificate of course completion by the real estate school.  This will allow you to schedule the state final exam.  Some states require you to submit your application prior to taking the final exam. Others have you wait until you pass the test.  

Either way, you are going to need to submit your application for licensure at some point in the process after you have paid for and completed the real estate course. 

More and more states have added a fingerprint submission requirement to the application.  This submission is reviewed by the state’s bureau of investigation or state trooper service.  The real estate commission will rely on these investigations and will do its own review of each and every application submitted. 

So, if you have a felony, it is important for you to know this before you sign up for a real estate class. 

Certain felonies are not absolute deal breakers, while others will disqualify you from consideration for becoming licensed.  

The real estate commission does not make blanket statements as to what constitutes an immediate disqualification.  They review each application on a case by case basis and rule on the individual merits of the applicant. 

It is important that you disclose any previous violations.  

When you become a real estate agent, you potentially have access to people’s houses and will also be responsible for deposit checks and working with people that usually start out as strangers.  The buying and selling public want to know that they are working with someone that has good moral character.

If you have a prior record, the process could take a bit longer. 

When completing the application you need to include all felony offenses and misdemeanors.  You will have an opportunity to to provide information on final judgements and if any fines were paid or time served. 

The application process will be submitted into the state and FBI criminal review database and anything that you omit will be returned on the report, so it is best to be as complete and honest as you can possibly be.

Minor traffic violations or and crimes that were expunged from your record do not have to be included in some states.  Others do require disclosure.  That being said, if you are in doubt, you should probably include it just to be safe. 

How does the real estate commission handle a felony on the report?

In most states, if you have a criminal history then your application will first be reviewed to ensure that you are not subject to being statutorily disqualified from becoming licensed.  As you can imagine, some crimes regarding the abuse or stealing of funds may fall into this category.  

Depending on the offense and how long ago it occurred, you may be required to appear before a review committee or board before the application is reviewed. 

Many states, like Alabama or Florida use the terminology that an applicant must have moral turpitude in order to be approved. Certain crimes, like those against a minor or elder, or a sexual crime will likely cause an immediate disqualification.  Capital, or first-degree, offenses will often lead to outright rejections. 

Lesser crimes may have a disqualification period associated with them that preclude the approval of the license until a period of time has elapsed since the judgment was issued on the crime. After enough time has gone by you will be eligible to submit your application and get approved. 

Any information that you can include in your application will be helpful, including any records from the court, judgements, etc.  If you are working with a probation officer, then any information that they can provide will also help the process and increase your odd of approval. 

No one outside of the real estate commission can state definitively whether you will be approved or not.  Not a real estate broker or another agent.  The closest you can get to finding out is consulting with a lawyer on your behalf.  

Another item of note

You must disclose if you have ever had your license revoked, even if it occurred in another state.  Every state is consistent with this requirement.  And they may not initially find out, but they always do and can immediately suspend your license, causing you to be unable to collect any commissions earned. 

In addition, most states have a reporting requirement that you must notify the real estate commission of any criminal judgment issued against you.  Even during the application process.  

So, just because you have had a prior arrest or criminal record or felony, you may still be eligible to be a real estate agent.   The real estate commission would be the first ones to check with to get an answer, not a real estate agent, broker or real estate school.   A lawyer working on your behalf may also be able to assist you regarding any crimes that might cause a mandatory statutory disqualification.  

Before you begin your Pre-Licensing classes or even contact a real estate school you need to get in touch with your state’s real estate commission. Explain to them the following:

● What the criminal conviction was for and the circumstances surrounding it (how long ago, final resolution, etc.)
● Let them know why you want to become a real estate agent
● Share with them your feelings about being rehabilitated/and or changed
● And make sure you share how long it has been since you completed your sentence

Be honest, forthright and work with the real estate commission in your state to get an approval on your license application. 

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