Are you worried that your less-than-perfect past could stop you from getting your Pennsylvania real estate license? Well, it can be tricky, but you can still get your license, even if you have a criminal record.
What You Need to Get a PA Real Estate License
Let’s first break down the requirements to get a license.
If you want to get a salesperson license (that is, a license where your real estate activity is supervised by a licensed broker), you must:
Be at least 18 years old
Have a high school degree or an equivalent certificate
Meet the pre-license education requirements: 75 hours of pre-licensing education, or the equivalent
Have a reputation for being honest, trustworthy, competent, and having integrity
Be in good standing, meaning you don’t have a past real estate license (of any kind, anywhere) that has been suspended, surrendered, or revoked as a result of disciplinary action or unpaid fees
Have a clear criminal history (more on this in a moment!)
Undergo a criminal record check from the PA State Police, done within 90 days of submission
Broker applicants must meet all of the above salesperson requirements, plus a couple of additional requirements regarding education and experience. Check out the image below to see how the requirements for brokers build upon the requirements for salespersons:
How to Apply for a Pennsylvania Real Estate License With a Criminal Record
For the most part the application process is the same whether or not you have been charged with a crime. The differences mostly come after you submit the application.
Reporting of Criminal History
If you do have a past criminal history, you need to report it. Applicants must inform the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission of any of the below, for any felony or misdemeanor:
Nolo contendere pleas
What if you commit a crime after you have obtained your license? If you are found guilty, plead guilty, or plead nolo contendere to any misdemeanor or felony (even if it is not related to real estate), you must inform the Commission within 30 days.
In all cases, whether for past criminal history, lack of good standing for a previous license, or crimes committed while holding a Pennsylvania real estate license, the Commission will decide whether or not to take disciplinary action based on the crime and the sentence.
Prepare for a Longer Review Period
Once the application has been submitted it will be reviewed. Applications that contain information regarding a criminal charge will go through an additional review process with the Real Estate Commission that extends the time it takes to get approval for taking the pre-licensing exam.
The Commission will review the application at their next meeting. At the meeting the Commission will decide whether to grant or preliminarily deny the application. If the decision is preliminary denial, then you will have an opportunity to meet with the Commission.
During this informal conference you’ll have a chance to plead your case. The Commission will take your points into consideration and re-evaluate the application. If the Commission still won’t accept the application it will be provisionally denied and you can request a formal hearing.
Prepare for a Formal Hearing
The Commission will schedule formal hearings for an upcoming meeting. They will once again look at any evidence and documentation that is provided along with listening to testimony. Whatever the Commission decides after the formal hearing is the final word.
How the Commission Decides
Unfortunately, you won’t know whether or not a prior criminal conviction will prevent you from getting your Pennsylvania real estate license until you submit the license application. And, at that point, you’ve completed the pre-license course and passed the Pennsylvania license exam. You’ve put all that time, money, and effort in, and it could all be for nothing.
So what can you do? The Commission only decides once it has your application in front of you. If you call or write ahead of time, they will not give guidance. However, a good lawyer might be able to help. If they have experience representing applicants before the Commission’s Enforcement Committee, they may be able to offer you advice.
The Commission’s Enforcement Committee will interview you and then make a decision about your licensure.
Crimes More Likely to Prevent Licensure
Some crimes are more likely than others to prevent you from getting a Pennsylvania real estate license. These crimes are more likely to affect the applicant’s ability to conduct real estate and demonstrate a lack of the required honesty, competency, trustworthiness, and integrity. Such crimes include:
Inchoate crimes (solicitation, criminal conspiracy)
Theft and related offenses
Insurance and mortgage-related offenses
One-time offenses are less likely to prevent licensure. The Committee is looking for a pattern of criminal history that suggests you would not make an honorable real estate agent. Check the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission’s list of criminal convictions for the full rundown of specific offenses that can lead to license denial.
Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA)
Because of the CHRIA, you do not have to report arrests without convictions or convictions for summary offenses. A summary offense is less than a misdemeanor and carries a maximum punishment of a $300 fine or 90-day imprisonment.
*This article was updated on 4/21/2021