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

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Can you get a Washington real estate license with a criminal record? The answer to that question is, maybe. The Washington State Department of Licensing will delve deep into an applicant’s background to determine if they’re approved to get a real estate license.

Criminal Background Checks During the Application Process

The Washington State Department of Licensing uses two methods to find out if an applicant has a criminal record:

The honor system: Every applicant is required to answer five criminal history questions. You’ll also be asked if you’ve had penalties or actions taken against any professional licenses, permits, etc. If there are any pending charges the department wants to know about those too.

Fingerprinting: Since some applicants may want to conceal their criminal record, the state also requires fingerprints for an initial license and every six years thereafter. The fingerprints are sent to the Washington State Patrol (WSP) for a state background check and the FBI for a national background check.

It’s in your best interest to be completely honest on the questionnaire. The fingerprinting process all but assures the licensing department will find out about a conviction or charge.

What to Do If You Do Have a Criminal Record

Getting on with your professional life after a criminal conviction is admirable. But the fact remains that it could keep you from getting a real estate license in Washington. If you answer yes to any of the criminal history questions the licensing department will want more details.

Provide an explanation with the following information:

  • Date of the conviction
  • Location
  • Type of offense
  • Case number
  • Results of the case

You can also include any other pertinent details about the conviction or case. Additional documents can be uploaded with your application to help explain the situation and events surrounding the charge.

Determining Factors for Applicants With a Criminal Record

If you have a prior conviction all hope is not lost. The licensing department looks at four factors to determine whether or not to deny a broker license application. Those four factors are:

  • The type of crime committed
  • How long ago the conviction occurred (generally the department is looking at convictions in the last 10 years)
  • How/If the crime relates to the practice of real estate
  • Level of the conviction (i.e. misdemeanor, felony)

Given that investigations are done on a case-by-case basis, it’s usually a good idea to provide an explanation for criminal convictions. There’s a possibility that investigators will reach out to you or others involved with the case to gain more information.

If your application is denied due to a past criminal record you’ll be notified and given directions with next steps that can be taken in the process.