Can I Get a New York Real Estate License with a Criminal Record?

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We all make mistakes in life, and unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes leave a paper trail behind. If you’re thinking about starting a career in real estate and living in New York here’s what you need to know about getting a license with a criminal record.

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Misdemeanors vs. Felonies - There’s a Big Difference

Having a criminal record of any kind isn’t a resume builder, but there’s a big difference between misdemeanors and felonies. Article 12-A Real Property Law of New York lays it out pretty clear.

If you’ve been found guilty of a felony in New York or any other state it’s an automatic disqualification for getting a real estate license. Being found guilty of any type of sex offense (many of which are felonies) is also an immediate disqualifier.

Misdemeanors, however, shouldn’t prevent you from getting a real estate license in New York.

But There’s Hope in the Form of a Certificate

Even with a felony on your criminal record, it may still be possible to get a real estate license if you can obtain a Certificate of Relief From Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.

A Certificate of Relief From Disabilities is used when you only have one felony on your record. (Multiple felony convictions in the same court on the same day count as one felony.)

A Certificate of Good Conduct is used by those who have two or more separate felonies. If you were convicted of a class A or B felony you must wait for 5 years after incarceration/conviction (whichever occurred last) and 3 years after a C, D or E felony to receive a Certificate of Good Conduct.

The certificates are granted by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Both restore your legal right to apply for a real estate license in New York. You can also overcome a felony conviction if you’re able to get an executive pardon from the governor, but that will take some serious string pulling.

Keep in mind the Secretary of State could still decide to deny your license even if you’re able to get one of the certificates above. You’re also not in the clear once you receive a license. If you are a licensed broker or salesperson and are convicted of a felony anywhere in the U.S. you must send the Department of State a certified copy of the judgment within five days. At that point, your license will be revoked.

For more information on Certificates of Relief From Disabilities or Certificates of Good Conduct, you can contact the DOCCS Certificate Review Unit or read about them in the New York State Correction Law, Article 23.