Can I Get a California Real Estate License with a Criminal Record?

Will a criminal record hold you back from getting a real estate license in California? The best answer to that question is, not necessarily.
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Will a criminal record hold you back from getting a real estate license in California? The best answer to that question is, not necessarily.

Denial or Approval is Up to the California Department of Real Estate

The California Business and Professions Code grants the Department of Real Estate (DRE) the right to deny a license based on a previous criminal record. This includes misdemeanor and felony convictions that occurred in any county in the country.

The DRE will investigate each case individually to determine if a conviction warrants denial. In addition to the conviction, aggravating factors will also be considered.

You’re most likely to be denied if the conviction is related to the requirements, function, and duties of having a real estate license. The DRE uses something called the Criteria of Substantial Relationship to make the determination. Licenses are also commonly denied due to a conviction of a violent crime.

The DRE has created a list of the most common disqualifying convictions so applicants know their odds before applying. If you have a previous conviction it’s a good idea to check the list out since you won’t be refunded the application fee if your application is denied.

Honesty is the Best Policy on Your Application

One of the basic requirements to apply for a license is honesty. That means you must be completely honest when you fill out your examination and license application.

If you fail to mention a conviction or disciplinary action of any kind there’s a good chance your application will be denied. The DRE does a background check in conjunction with the Department of Justice (including fingerprints) on all applicants so they’ll probably find out if anything is omitted.

There aren’t really any loopholes or exceptions outside of convictions in a juvenile court and convictions that have been sealed under Penal Code section 1203.45. You’ve got to disclose any and all convictions no matter when they occurred. This includes convictions that were set aside, dismissed or expunged. Pending criminal charges also have to be disclosed.

Got Denied? Request a Hearing

If your application is denied due to a past criminal record and the DRE doesn’t file a Statement of Issues you can request a hearing. But you’ll only have 60 days from the time of the denial so don’t hesitate to plead your case if you think the denial wasn’t justified.

What If You’re Convicted of a Crime After Getting a License?

Having a California real estate license isn’t a get out of jail free card. Remember how you had to submit fingerprints when you applied for a license? Those stay on record with the DOJ.

If you’re arrested for a misdemeanor or felony after receiving a license the DOJ will notify the Department of Real Estate. Licensees are also required to notify the DRE within 30 days of a charge, conviction or disciplinary action.

If the arrest leads to a conviction, then there will be a DRE administrative hearing to determine what actions should be taken. Before the hearing, the DRE will send the licensee a copy of the formal accusation that has been filed, which describes why disciplinary action should be taken. The licensee can choose to defend themselves during the hearing or voluntarily surrender their license.

But that might not be the end of your real estate career. You can petition the DRE to reinstate your license after it’s surrendered or revoked. You’ll have to wait at least one year from the time of the disciplinary action to file a petition that proves it’s not against the public interest for you to have a real estate license.