One of the most important steps to becoming a real estate sales agent is to get your real estate license. This path requires pre-licensing education, an exam, an application, and a background check. If you have prior convictions on your record, don’t worry. You may still be able to pursue a career as a real estate agent by providing additional documentation.
Can You Be a Felon and Do Real Estate?
Because the real estate license is specific to each state, every state sets their own requirements. Most states allow those with a felony conviction to pursue a real estate license, with some conditions and only in certain situations.
Getting a real estate license requires submitting an application, completing pre-licensing education, and passing the real estate license exam. If you have a felony on your record, you will generally need to provide additional documentation as part of your application.
Many states give those with a criminal record the opportunity to explain the circumstances using a supplemental application form or a personal statement before completing the full application or taking the real estate license exam. If your conviction will keep you from getting a real estate license, you will find out before spending the time and money on classes or tests.
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Many states grant real estate licenses for those with a felony conviction if the conviction is:
- Non-violent crime, non-sexual crime
- A crime the state determines is not a threat to public safety
- Committed years (generally five or more) prior to the application
- Sentence was completed, parole was completed
Crimes related to real estate, business, or financial management such as fraud or forgery often disqualify applicants from getting a real estate license. Even in these cases, you can apply for a waiver, write a letter or statement, or appear in person before a Board to explain your circumstances and why you believe you will still make an excellent real estate agent.
Do not try to excuse any prior criminal actions. Most states want to see that those with a criminal history have learned from their mistakes. Strong employment history and good recommendations since your conviction can speak to your current character and reliability.
What States Allow Felons to Get a Real Estate License?
Each state makes its own regulations and process for getting a real estate license, whether it’s an agent’s license or a broker’s license, including the requirements for those with a felony conviction. All states include a background check as part of the real estate license application process. None of the states automatically disqualify an applicant with a felony conviction.
You will be required to submit a waiver, additional documentation, or even appear before a review board. Many states conduct their reviews early so that applicants know how their conviction will impact the process. After going through this process, it is possible that your application may still be denied. If this happens, focus on building up a strong work history and becoming a productive employee in another capacity before applying again in the future.
While many states allow felony convictions, there are certain crimes (violent crimes, sexual crimes, crimes related to real estate, business, or financial management) that will not be granted a waiver or approval.
Find out what is required to apply for your real estate license in your state with a felony on your record.
|States||Allows Felony on Real Estate License||Supplemental Form|
|Alabama||Yes||Application for Determination of License Eligibility form|
|Alaska||Yes, 7 years after the sentence was completed||Document with the State of Alaska|
|Arkansas||Yes||Waiver required in most cases|
|California||Yes||Approval process required|
|Colorado||Yes||Can challenge discrepancies or inaccuracies in record|
|Connecticut||Yes||Documented on application|
|Delaware||Yes, 5 years after conviction||Documented on application|
|Florida||Yes||Documented on application|
|Georgia||Yes, 2 years after the sentence was completed||Background check consent form required for all applicants|
|Hawaii||Yes||Complete a Request for Preliminary Decision form|
|Idaho||Yes, 5 years after conviction as long as the sentence is complete||Suitability Review documentation to show character and circumstances|
|Illinois||Yes||Documented on application|
|Indiana||Yes||May need to appear in person before Review Board|
|Iowa||Yes, 5 years after the sentence was completed||Self-disclose and background check|
|Kansas||Yes||Letters of recommendation, completion of sentence or program, resume, and character statement|
|Kentucky||Yes||Documented on application|
|Louisiana||Yes||Letter of detail included with the application|
|Maine||Yes||Documented on application|
|Maryland||Yes||Approval required from the Department of Labor|
|Massachusetts||Yes, 10 years after conviction (for some crimes)||Review and approval from state Real Estate Board|
|Michigan||Yes||Submit statement as a Supporting Document|
|Minnesota||Yes||Submit statement, Charging Document, and Sentencing Order with application|
|Mississippi||Yes, 5 years after conviction||Appeal to Mississippi Real Estate Commission|
|Missouri||Yes||Review by Missouri Division of Professional Registration: Real Estate Commission|
|Montana||Yes||Documented on application|
|Nebraska||Yes||Required to appear in person before Nebraska Real Estate Commission|
|Nevada||Yes||Documented on application|
|New Hampshire||Yes||Complete Real Estate Commission Arrest & Conviction Form|
|New Jersey||Yes, 5 years after conviction (for some crimes)||Documented on application and disclosed in answers to screening questions|
|New Mexico||Yes, 3 years after conviction||Documented on application|
|New York||Yes, 3-5 years after conviction (depending on the seriousness of crime)||Apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct (2+ felonies) or Certificate of Relief from Disabilities (1 felony)|
|North Carolina||Yes||Apply for a Certificate of Relief|
|North Dakota||Yes||Documented on application|
|Ohio||Yes||Documented on application|
|Oklahoma||Yes, 5-20 years after conviction (depending on the seriousness of crime)||Documented on application|
|Oregon||Yes||Review by Oregon Real Estate Agency|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||Documented on application|
|Rhode Island||Yes||Full explanation attached to the application|
|South Carolina||Yes||May be required to appear before South Carolina Real Estate Commission for Application Hearing|
|South Dakota||Yes||Felonies of “moral turpitude” will be denied by South Dakota Real Estate Commission|
|Tennessee||Yes||Must complete an Application for Decision Regarding Prior Criminal Convictions. Some convictions require an in-person appearance before Commission|
|Texas||Yes||Complete a Fitness Determination Form|
|Utah||Yes, 5 years after the sentence was completed||Document on application|
|Vermont||Yes||Document on application|
|Virginia||Yes||Disclose during the application process|
|Washington||Yes||Review by Washington Department of Labor|
|West Virginia||Yes||Must complete Background Check application|
|Wisconsin||Yes||Complete Convictions and Pending Charges Form|
|Wyoming||Yes||Document on application|
Disclosing Felonies for the Real Estate License
One of the most important qualities of a real estate agent is their honesty and trustworthiness, so it should not be surprising that each state expects applicants to be honest about their own history during the licensing process as well.
Not including felony or misdemeanor convictions on your application is often enough to deny the application altogether. If you aren’t sure if you should include a specific situation, it is better to include it than have it come up on your background check without an explanation from you on the application.
Almost all real estate license applications include a section for disclosing felony, misdemeanor, and other convictions. It is critical that you include all convictions in your record on your real estate license application. Some states even require that these statements are notarized. Knowingly providing false information on a notarized statement is itself a crime.
Most states include a background check and fingerprinting as part of the real estate license application process. If you have a criminal record, this will come up during the background check. Being honest on your application about your past can often outweigh the black mark on your record. On the other hand, not being upfront about your convictions can hurt your chances of a successful application.
Alternate Paths for Felons Working in Real Estate
If you still want to work in real estate but are unable to get your real estate sales agent license, there are a few other options available.
- Property Manager: Some states require property managers to have their own license, but the requirements are often different from those of the real estate license.
- Administrative Assistant: Many real estate offices need hard-working, reliable office staff to help with the administrative work involved with buying and selling houses.
- Homeowners Association Manager: This person helps keep communities with HOAs running, including answering phone calls, arranging maintenance, and keeping budgets.
All of these positions are valuable to the real estate industry and may offer you the chance to build up a positive work history and reapply for a waiver in the future.
Hiring managers look for applicants who they can rely on, to tell the truth, including disclosing any felonies or misdemeanors in their past. Developing strong professional relationships with other real estate professionals can result in great references for your future application.
Does a Felony Affect Real Estate Licenses?
A spotty record does not need to mean that your path to becoming a real estate agent is closed. Many states allow those with a criminal history, even a felony, to get their real estate license. Just make sure that you provide supplemental application materials, such as any required forms, letters of reference, or details about the conviction. Learning from your past mistakes can put you on track to become a real estate agent.