Can You Get a Real Estate License With a Felony?
For individuals looking for a fresh start with a new career, real estate is a fantastic choice. But what about those who need a fresh start from a less-than-rosy past? There may be a few questions running through your mind, like: “Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor? Can a felon become a real estate agent? What causes real estate license disqualification?”
For someone who has had a rough background or a felony conviction, getting a real estate license can be challenging — but it's not impossible. The rules will obviously vary from state to state, but with adherence to some basic requirements, you can indeed pursue a career as a real estate agent. If you’re still concerned and asking yourself, “Can you be a real estate agent with a felony?”, take a deep breath. This guide will answer all your questions.
The Hardest States to Get a Real Estate License With a Felony
What states allow felons to have real estate licenses? Each state in the U.S. has a Regulatory Commission. Although these boards have the mandate to conduct rigorous checks before granting a real estate license, they bear different rules for assessing an application with a felony record.
For instance, some are more lenient and might consider your application two to five years after you’ve completed the sentence. If the felony is more serious, you might have to wait for ten or so years. On the other hand, some states are very uncompromising, so they make it difficult for anyone with a felony conviction to obtain a real estate license. These no-nonsense states include:
Michigan—The law here prohibits anyone with a record of embezzlement or misappropriation of funds from becoming a real estate agent. So, if you have a felony conviction of this kind in the Great Lake State, sorry, but the die has already been cast.
Georgia—If you have a criminal record in Georgia, chances are that your application for a real estate license won't see the light of day. The rejection rate here is as high as 95%.
Arizona—A.R.S. 31-2124(M) is very clear on this, stating that "the Department shall not issue a license to a person has been convicted of a felony offense and who is currently incarcerated for the conviction, paroled, or under community supervision and under the supervision of a parole or community supervision officer who is on probation as a result of the conviction."
North Carolina—The stakes are equally high in the Tar Heel State. The law requires applicants to disclose any past actions that may be deemed illegal or unprofessional with or without a felony conviction. Do this, and you have a fair chance of earning that real estate license.
Alabama—The law here states that you must not be convicted of a felony or crime that involves moral turpitude, or you’ll face real estate license disqualification.
California—Like in North Carolina, the state of California requires any applicant to come clean about past misdemeanors or felony convictions. If you have a conviction for a violent crime, you might as well forget about a career in real estate. So, the answer to, “Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor in California?” is yes, though you’ll need to be transparent during the process.
Real Estate License Disqualifications
The answer to the question, “Can I get a real estate license with a felony?" is that the qualifications vary from state to state.
For example, in the state of Utah, you must meet some basic requirements to be considered for a real estate license, including:
- Having a high school diploma or equivalent
- Completing the State of Utah's Qualifying Questionnaire
- Meeting the mandatory licensing qualifications of truthfulness, integrity, honesty, and competency
Another example is the state of Arizona, which requires applicants to submit fingerprints for a background check. If you're found with a prior conviction of incarceration, parole, or under community service, you stand to be disqualified.
That said, there are several factors that impact real estate license applicants with a criminal record. Here are a few:
- The type of crime committed
- How long ago the conviction was
- If the crime is related to real estate
- Conviction/charge level
Did You Know?
In Iowa, felons need to wait five years after their conviction and have completed all their conviction requirements to have their application considered by the state.
Becoming a Real Estate Agent With a Felony—Honesty and Transparency
One of the single most important things to keep in mind when trying to earn a real estate license is that transparency really does matter. Trying to hide a "ding" in your criminal record is pointless and will only end up hurting you in the long run. Every state conducts rigorous background checks, so there's no way to hide your past.
Before you begin your Pre-Licensing education, get in touch with your state's real estate commission. Explain to them the following:
● Your exact criminal conviction and the circumstances surrounding it
● Why you want to become a real estate agent
● How you feel that you have been rehabilitated/and or changed
● How long it has been since you completed your sentence
Being upfront and honest actually shows your state's commission that you can be trusted — something that goes a long way to demonstrate that you truly deserve a chance in the real estate industry. And while your state's commission will definitely go by whatever rules that are in place, you have a high chance of getting the thumbs up if you come clean right from the outset.
Integrity, transparency, and full disclosure are all crucial in the day-to-day life of a real estate agent, and it all starts with being forthright on your license application. It would be best if you committed to honesty in every single decision you make, both professionally and personally. We're confident that this principle will reward you in the long run.
Felony Reviews for Real Estate License Applications
Some state commissions will require a felony review for felons to earn their real estate license. It's not actually as bad as it sounds. Think of it as a more in-depth look into your criminal history and your journey to rehabilitation.
A felony review typically includes the following:
● Any documents relating to the felony
● The number of felonies or other similar incidents in your history
● The events leading up to the felony
● The relationship of the crime to the practice of real estate
● The severity and nature of the conviction
● The applicant's activities since the completion of the sentence, including payment of restitution, education, employment, participation in rehab, and anything else that suggests a change of character
A felony review might also prove valuable when you're out there hunting for a job. Oftentimes, brokers will ask for your felony review before they draft you as a part of their brokerage. This review acts as tangible proof that you've indeed turned a corner and are ready to help society.
Since a felony review is often a written document, make sure that everything outlined within it is 100% correct. As we said, transparency is key to the application process. Do it right from the onset, and you'll increase your chances of nailing a job in the real estate industry.