Can You Get a Pennsylvania Real Estate License with Violations such as Felony, DUI or Misdemeanor?

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This article will familiarize you with the rules and conditions for obtaining a real estate salesperson’s license in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania despite a conviction for a past criminal misdeed.

We share specifics for the requirements you must meet, the what and how of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission’s evaluation process, and ways to cover your bases when applying.

Follow along as we explain what’s involved.


Should I Pass a Background Check for a Pennsylvania Real Estate License?

Before the Commission issues you a license, they must receive an official criminal history report, which they will use as part of the basis for accepting or denying your application.

The particular Criminal History Records Check (CHRC) you need to provide depends on where you currently live and how long that has been the case.

Specifically, your PA real estate license background check must cover every state where you’ve lived, worked, or completed professional studies for the past five years.

In-state applicants are required to obtain a background check from the PA State Police. They will use your information to check for a match against the state’s criminal history database.

The requirement for those outside of Pennsylvania is a CHRC from the state agency that is the official repository for this information.

If your residence history during the prior five years includes multiple states, the Commission allows you to meet this requirement by either of the following methods.

  • Provide individual background checks from each of your previous home states.
  • Submit a CHRC from your current state, plus a “Rap Sheet” from the FBI.

Even though your criminal conviction(s) will appear on your background report, you must still disclose that information when applying.

You must also submit required supporting documentation, such as court records, and explain each conviction before the Commission evaluates you as an applicant.

They will review your application closely and thoroughly, looking at factors like recidivism, recency, and rehabilitation.

The Commission reserves the right to refuse a license if, based on all the information available, they find it isn’t in the public’s interest to do so.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Felony in Pennsylvania?

The Commission generally performs a two-stage individualized assessment of applicants with criminal histories to determine eligibility.

Can you get a real estate license in PA with a felony? Given that detailed scrutiny of your offender record, you can if you get through all the hoops.

The first thing the Commission does is determine if your crime directly relates to the profession.

To do that, they consult a predetermined list of violations presumed to make you a substantial risk as a licensee, making them cause for giving your application a thumbs down.

Many of these offenses are or can be charged as felonies. Examples are listed below.

  • Sex crimes
  • Violent offenses
  • Fraudulent practices
  • Forgery and other falsification
  • Theft, robbery, and burglary

If your crime is on the list, at that point, it’s up to you to refute the Commission’s presumption of risk by presenting evidence of rehabilitation using prescribed Assessment Factors.

What happens if your crime isn’t among those listed? The Commission will skip to the second stage of the process and review your conviction using those same assessment criteria.

Are your chances of becoming licensed better in the latter instance? Possibly. It still depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.

In short, the Commission will grant you a license only if they don’t see it posing a risk to others or creating a risk of further criminal conduct.

You can wait and see if you get through the review process. Or, you can ask the Commission beforehand whether your conviction is one they consider substantially related to real estate.

That preliminary determination costs $45 and takes up to 45 days.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Misdemeanor in Pennsylvania?

Legally, a misdemeanor is a lesser crime compared to a felony. However, that doesn’t mean the Commission takes it less seriously when reviewing your criminal history.

The Commission’s list of convictions that can bar you from licensure contains a good number of misdemeanors. Many involve theft and deceit, which cast doubt on your integrity and character.

So, if you have a conviction for those or any other offenses on that list, getting approved will be an uphill climb.

Even if your crime didn’t make the list of violations that could have substantial negative impacts on your fitness to do the job, there’s still a chance the Commission won’t approve your license application.

In either situation, they use specific criteria to determine whether licensure is appropriate. The likelihood of that goes down if:

  • It was a serious crime with no mitigating circumstances.
  • You are a recent offender or show a tendency to re-offend.
  • There’s no convincing evidence of your rehabilitation.
  • You don’t meet all of the other requirements for licensure.
  • You have no references to attest that you’ve turned a corner.

If you’re anxious about how the Commission may view your misdemeanor, you can pay $45 to apply for a preliminary determination. It takes the guesswork out of knowing where you stand.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a DUI in Pennsylvania?

Driving under the influence isn’t listed as one of the violations likely to pose a barrier to entering the real estate profession. Therefore, you can get a real estate license if you have a DUI conviction.

However, the nature of the offense is likely to give the Commission pause when it comes to your suitability for licensure.

In reviewing your application, they consider factors such as the severity of your offense, whether it was a youthful mistake, and what your record has looked like since then.

So, your case might be bolstered if you have a single-occurrence misdemeanor that’s long past, and there’s been a lack of subsequent criminal history.

However, if you have multiple or recent convictions or your case involved serious injury or death, it’s probable that a DUI would prevent you from getting a real estate license.


Tips for Applying for a Pennsylvania Real Estate License with Criminal Record or Misdemeanor

When you have a felony or misdemeanor in your name, attention to detail and extra effort are required when getting a Pennsylvania real estate license.

Here are five things you can do to strengthen your position when working through the process.

  • Reference the application checklist to confirm the requirements and necessary documents. That will help ensure you provide everything needed when you apply.
  • Read the Best Practices Guide. It details the process and criteria for evaluating applicants with criminal convictions, giving you a better idea of what to expect.
  • Remember, honesty is the key when revealing convictions. You don’t want something to show on your background check that you didn’t tell the Commission about.
  • Request a preliminary determination. It will tell you whether your conviction falls in the grounds-for-denial category, and you can better prepare to defend your case.


Survey of Experts

Is it more challenging to get a real estate license with violations on one’s record?

Do you know any people who got a real estate license with violations on their record?

Expert Insight

Give advice to people with violations on their record to successfully get licensed.

Greg Solfanelli Realtor

Keep moving forward and do whatever you can to move beyond violations and show the Commission you’ve changed and that’s only part of your past.

Pennsylvania has a component where people can submit testimonial/character letters to overcome these sorts of obstacles to licensure.

— Greg Solfanelli, Realty Network Group, Director of Marketing & Consumer Experience

Can I Appeal the Commission’s Negative Decision?

If the Commission rejects your application, that’s not necessarily the final decision. At that point, the denial is considered to be a preliminary one that you can appeal.

What does that appeal process look like?

The Commission will give you an opportunity for an informal conference to discuss the matter further. You’ll have a chance to plead your case for why they should reconsider their decision.

Following that, they will reevaluate your application. They may uphold the initial determination. If that’s the case, PA real estate license law allows you to request a formal hearing.

You have the responsibility as the applicant to prove that you are worthy of licensure. You are also entitled to legal representation at your hearing.


Can a Real Estate License Be Suspended or Revoked Because of a Violation Committed After Receiving It?

The practice of real estate is a serious business. And the Commission has high standards, including complying with the profession’s rules and regulations.

Those same rules give the Commission authority to discipline Pennsylvania real estate agents for violating those standards.

They may not necessarily punish you with license disqualification for breaking the rules. Instead, they may penalize you financially or impose another sanction, such as probation or a reprimand.

On the other hand, being convicted of certain crimes can put your license in jeopardy.

The Commission uses the same list of crimes that constitute grounds for denying a license in determining whether suspension or revocation applies in your case.

So, violations like felony offenses or fraud-related crimes can subject you to PA real estate license revocation, and imprisonment is possible if you perform unlicensed activity afterward.

If you’re convicted, you will have to answer to the Commission. You must start by notifying them within 30 days of the occurrence, or they can automatically take action.

As part of the disciplinary process, you can expect an opportunity to participate in a hearing, after which the Commission decides what sanction to invoke.


Where to Study for a Real Estate License Exam?

Once the Commission deemed you eligible for a license, you can then turn your attention to meeting the pre-licensing education requirements.

Completing this part of the process is important before you are allowed to take the real estate license exam.

You can choose between several learning experiences in Pennsylvania to complete your preparatory studies.

Some providers teach the 75-hour pre-licensing course in the classroom. This option offers direct, personalized instruction and supports connections with other students and your teacher.

You can also learn through a virtual classroom. That provides a combination of structure and freedom. You have a regular schedule. But you can participate in class from home.

You can take the course online if you’re willing to trade off in-person interaction for greater flexibility. That allows you to access classwork from any place you prefer.

Most Pennsylvania real estate schools also have the exam prep course available online.

So, you can use your favorite study spot—a quiet room in your home or the neighborhood coffeehouse—for that, too.

In deciding where to study, use our video guide on real estate classes online vs classroom learning for guidance. It provides expert insight into the positives and negatives of each option.

When you’ve completed your preparatory studies, you should allot ample time to study for the real estate exam.

Refer to our article to learn the best way to pass the Pennsylvania real estate exam.


Survey of Experts

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Additional Information

When you’re finally ready to file for your license application, note that you will be required to choose a broker to work for.

Your sponsoring brokerage firm will be in charge of training and supervising you as a newbie agent. You can find one through our directory of top real estate brokers in Pennsylvania.

To make sure you don’t miss any steps in the licensing process, it will serve you well to prepare a list that details all the requirements and how much time and money you need to invest to complete each step.

The following guides answer all your FAQs in terms of the estimated timeline and the corresponding fees related to acquiring your license and keeping it active.

In preparation for becoming a licensed salesperson in the state, absorb as much knowledge and information as you can to ensure a successful real estate career.

You can start by learning the pros and cons of being a real estate agent to know what it’s like to work as a realtor.

Consider joining a real estate team as well to meet experienced agents who can help guide your career.

It’s also good to prepare an action plan that enumerates the next steps you need to take after passing the real estate exam.

To help you build and grow your real estate career quickly, we at Real Estate Bees created a directory for real estate professionals.

It’s designed to help you get more exposure for your business, including receiving leads. Create a free profile by signing up here.


If you want to contribute your expert advice on a topic of your expertise, feel free to apply to our Expert Contributor Program.


About the Author

Kristina Morales is a REALTOR® with over 20 years of professional experience. She actively practices real estate in Ohio but also has practiced real estate in California and Texas. Conducting her real estate business in three states has allowed her to gain unique experiences that make her a well-rounded realtor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and her MBA with a concentration in Banking and Finance. Prior to real estate, Kristina had an extensive corporate career in banking and treasury. She ended her finance career as an Assistant Treasurer at a publicly traded oil & gas company in Houston, TX.

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