How’s your moral character? Is it good enough to pass TREC’s test to get a Texas real estate license?
The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) wants to make sure everyone they license is an upstanding citizen who isn’t going to abuse their position. It’s a little vague, but one requirement all applicants must meet is TREC’s qualifications for honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity.
In this post, we will talk about TREC’s rules and values, along with the Fitness Determination test, previously called the Moral Character Determination test, and how you can ace it. We’ll answer the following questions:
The Fitness Determination test is how TREC decides if you’re fit to be a Texas real estate agent or broker.
Let’s start with an easy step-by-step guide about what is involved.
TREC takes a number of steps during the application process to test an applicant’s moral character. They require:
There are four questions on the application that address whether an applicant’s professional or criminal background has any blemishes. They are yes or no questions. If any of the answers are “yes” you’ll need to complete step 3.
If you said yes to any part of the four background questions or have a license in another state you’ll be required to submit a background history form (Form ID: BH-3). This form is used to describe violations, convictions and professional disciplinary actions in detail. Supporting documents must also be included. If an investigation ensues, TREC will use this information to make a fitness determination.
If TREC is on the fence as to whether an application does or doesn’t meet the fitness requirement, they’ll initiate an investigation. In addition to looking at the nature and extent of the charges, convictions, disciplinary actions and/or offenses, the investigation will determine the applicant’s present fitness for a license based on:
TREC will also take any letters of character reference into account during their investigation process. The letters can be from people within the applicant's business or professional community who are aware of the applicant's prior misconduct.
Applicants can also submit a letter of reference from a potential sponsoring broker that is aware of the prior misconduct, law enforcement or prosecutions involved in the case and anyone else who has had contact with the individual.
If you’re at all concerned about how the fitness determination test will turn out you can submit a Fitness Determination (FD) form before you apply for a license. In addition to FD form, you’ll also have to submit the background history form along with related documentation.
Instead of doing a background check, TREC will use the information you provide to let you know your odds of being deemed morally worthy of getting a real estate license. Essentially, it’s a $50 fee to file a Fitness Determination form, that can save you time, money and struggle if TREC would likely deny your application due to background discrepancies.
The TREC Fitness Determination test involves various steps to judge whether an applicant meets the requirement. In some cases, one of those steps is reviewing an applicant’s Fitness Determination (FD) Form.
The Fitness Determination Form isn’t so much a requirement as it is a voluntary request. Anyone who’s concerned about meeting TREC’s qualifications for honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity can pay the $50 fee and submit the FD form (along with supporting documents) to request that the Commission make a fitness determination before they apply for a license.
You’ll need to provide information on any and all criminal and professional offenses, investigations and/or disciplinary actions. The more detail the better. A Background History Form also has to accompany the FD form. The Commission will use the information you provide to make a determination.
So what’s the upside? If you are probably (or definitely) going to be denied a license based on the honesty, trustworthiness and integrity qualifications the FD can save you time and money that would be spent going through the application process. It’s an even better idea to submit an FD before you take the required Texas real estate courses since you won’t get back the money or time you invested meeting the education requirement.
Although TREC doesn’t really spell out their qualifications for honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity, if you can honestly answer “no” on questions 7-11 of the license application form you should be fine.
However, if you answer yes on one of the questions and/or any of the following will be discovered during the background check requesting a Fitness Determination is a good idea. It’s definitely a good idea for applicants with a record of:
If you’ve already submitted a license application the window of opportunity for submitting an FD has passed. The Commission will look over the application and the accompanying Background History Form to decide whether to permit a license, deny a license or initiate an investigation to explore the matter further.
Now that we’ve covered the FD details and process, you may be wondering how exactly TREC decides if your character shows honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity.
They have several methods, but the first step is a series of questions on the Texas real estate license application. The questions delve into the applicant’s professional disciplinary and criminal history (if there is one). Every applicant must answer the questions honestly, which may require filling out additional forms with more information.
Here are the disciplinary action and criminal history questions you’ll have to answer on the application. Remember, honesty is always the best policy. There will also be a background check that will uncover criminal history whether it’s stated on the application or not.
Question 8 (a) Have you ever had a professional or occupational license in this state or any other state suspended, canceled or revoked, or ever surrendered such a license?
(b) Have you ever had an application for a professional or occupational license disapproved or denied in this state or any other state?
(c) Are there any disciplinary hearings or investigations pending against any professional or occupational licenses you hold in this state or any other state?
Question 9 Are there any unpaid judgments against you?
Question 10 (a) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense? (Include all felonies, all misdemeanors other than minor traffic tickets, and all military tribunal convictions.)
(b) Have you ever been placed on parole, probation or community supervision (also known as deferred adjudication) regardless of whether the case was dismissed or you were discharged?
(c) Are there any criminal charges pending against you?
Question 11 Have you ever acted, or attempted to act, as a real estate broker or sales agent or appraiser in this state or in any other state at a time when not properly licensed? (Include all periods in which you acted either before obtaining a license or after a license may have expired.)
So you had a little snafu at some point or maybe made a dumb mistake when you were much younger? As long as it wasn’t a violent crime, an offense involving money, or a real estate-related crime you probably won’t automatically be denied a license.
However, you will have to fill out and submit a Background History Form if you answer “yes” to any of the questions above. On the Background History Form you must provide additional details about any discrepancies in your past as well as supporting documents.
Every offense, even ones that were dismissed, must be noted. A separate Background History Form is needed for each discrepancy that’s reported.
Answering the criminal history questions can be stressful if your record isn’t squeaky clean. If there’s any doubt in your mind that you’ll meet the honesty, trustworthiness and integrity qualification you can always request a Fitness Determination before submitting an application to find out if you meet the qualifications.
Do you know someone who’s applying for a Texas real estate license? There’s a chance they may need a letter of character reference.
Letters of character reference are needed when an applicant has to submit a Background History Form because of a prior criminal offense. The Commission may request letters of character reference or the applicant may collect them to help show they are presently fit for a license.
If you’ve been asked to provide a letter of character reference here are a few details that can help during the writing process.
Are you the best person to provide a letter of character reference? Letters of reference are most impactful when they come from particular individuals. TREC law states that the applicant is responsible for providing letters from:
Additionally, an applicant can submit letters of recommendation from:
The general purpose of a letter of a character reference is to vouch for the applicant and help them prove that they should be allowed to get a Texas real estate license. It’s your testimony about their character.
The two things that are absolutely necessary on a letter of character reference are:
Other information that you’ll want to include in the letter of character reference:
There’s no need to go overboard with the accolades, but the tone should be positive. Simply provide an honest assessment of the applicant’s character and qualifications based on direct experiences. Try to keep your letter factual and supported by specifics and facts.
It’s best to keep the letter of character reference to a single page. At the end of the letter, you can include that the Commission may contact you for more information or to answer additional questions.
Finally, sign the letter, print your name and date it.
Did you answer “yes” to any of the professional or criminal history questions on the TREC real estate license application? Then you’ll have to fill out a Background History Form. You’ll also need to submit the form if you request a Fitness Determination.
Filling out the form can put any applicant on edge. Completing the Background History Form correctly is important since errors can slow down the licensing process and your responses could lead to an investigation or license denial.
This step-by-step guide will help you stress less while filling out the Background History Form.
The questions on the license application are limited to a few situations. Those who will have to submit a Background History Form include:
Now, on to filling out the form.
The Background History Form can be found on the TREC website. Download the PDF and read through the directions completely before you start.
Downloading the form is important because that’s the only way to save information as you work on it.
TREC wants to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you provide misleading information or lie about the circumstances and TREC finds out, they’ll probably deny your license application. No bueno.
The first thing you will be asked to do is list your name, contact information, and employment history. The employment history will need to include everything in the last five years as well as unemployment periods of 30+ days.
Another reason TREC will deny a license is if an applicant fails to report an infraction on the Background History Form. TREC wants you to list every single thing:
The infractions should be noted no matter how long ago they occurred.
You may end up having to submit more than one Background History Form. TREC requires a separate form for each license held, criminal case/charge, judgment, and disciplinary action.
The Background History Form is your chance to explain your yes answers. Space is provided on the form, but if it isn’t enough, attach additional pages rather than cutting your answers short.
You’ll also need to include documents related to anything you report on the Background History Form. The form will provide directions for what type of documents need to be submitted at the bottom of each section. Don’t send in the form until you’re able to gather the additional information.
The Background History Form isn’t valid unless it’s signed and dated.
The form and all additional documents can’t be submitted online. They have to be mailed to the Texas Real Estate Commission at:
P.O. Box 12188 Austin, TX 78711-2188
After you submit the form it may take TREC some time to respond. They could ask you for additional information or initiate an investigation. Regardless, it’s best to respond immediately and comply with the TREC directives if you want to get a Texas real estate license.
When you decide to get a Texas real estate license you may not realize the process includes a pretty extensive background check. If there’s any concern that something from the past may impact your future as a real estate agent, you can request a Fitness Determination.
Submitting a Fitness Determination (FD) form will help you find out if you’re likely to pass the Texas Real Estate Commission’s honesty, integrity and trustworthiness requirement before actually applying for a license. It’s a convenience that can save you time and money, as long as you do things correctly.
The worst mistake you can make is not being 100% honest when filling out the FD form. It’s one of the quickest ways to get your license application denied once you move to that step.
Some people are tempted to bend the truth on the FD since the Commission doesn’t do a background check. But trust us, if your FD checks out but then doesn’t line up with what the Commission finds during the background check, it won’t turn out good. Even if it’s a small white lie, TREC will interpret that as a lack of honesty and probably deny the license.
Another big mistake is failing to note every single possible infraction that could turn up in the background check. When you’re answering the questions on the form everything must be disclosed, no matter how much time has passed. Even dismissed and pending charges count, so include everything.
You’ll have to also submit a Background History form as well. The FD will be considered incomplete and returned if TREC doesn’t receive both forms.
Get tips on how to fill out the TREC Background History form.
Along with a Background History form, you’ll also need to submit a fee. The fee is $50, but it has to be paid in a certain way. You can only pay by money order or check, and it has to be for the full amount. If you don’t make the payment exactly as directed, the FD will be rejected.
If you’ve already submitted a license application the train has left the station. At this stage, there’s no point in submitting a FD form.
Don’t worry, the FD and Background History form are pretty straightforward. As long as you avoid the mistakes above and fill out the forms completely, you should get a response letting you know if you’re likely to be okayed for a Texas real estate license.
People who have performed unlicensed activity, have a record of criminal offenses, are subject to unpaid judgments or experienced professional discipline are strongly encouraged to request a Fitness Determination (FD). The determination is essentially a way to find out if the Commission believes you’ll meet the honesty, integrity and trustworthiness requirement before going through the full application process.
After submitting an FD form and Background History form you’ll hear back from TREC letting you know if your FD was approved or denied. If you passed, great! You can move forward in the process with more reassurance you’ll be approved for a Texas real estate license.
But what happens if you fail the TREC Fitness Determination? What steps should you take next?
TREC carefully examines and considers each FD submission on a case-by-case basis. If they feel something in your past isn’t satisfactory for receiving a real estate license, you’ll be notified by email or mail. TREC is fairly lenient, but violent offenses, real estate-related crimes, and charges involving money are huge red flags that often lead to a license denial.
It’s understandable to be upset if you get a denial notice from TREC after submitting an FD. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the road on your path to getting a Texas real estate license.
You can’t appeal the Commission’s determination, but you can submit another FD and Background History form in hopes of getting a more favorable outcome. This time it may be helpful to include:
Basically, do what you can to prove that your past infraction was an isolated event and that you’re now an upright citizen who is fit to have a license. Point out the facts and details that support this, like how long it’s been since the infraction and the steps you took to correct your actions.
Hopefully by providing the additional compelling information you can turn the first Fitness Determination around.
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