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

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Rhode Island used to have a blanket policy. If you had a criminal record, there were certain licenses you couldn’t get. This has now changed.

It is possible to get a real estate license in Rhode Island if you have a criminal record. Each individual, and their violations, are looked at separately before a decision is made.

To understand what you need to do to get through this process, and what possible roadblocks you may face, keep reading.

We break down exactly how to approach the licensing process even with a felony, misdemeanor, or DUI in your past.


Should I Pass a Background Check for a Rhode Island Real Estate License?

Submitting a background check is required to get a real estate license in Rhode Island. A criminal history record must come from the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General.

This is required whether you’re getting a salesperson or a broker license.

Background checks are performed on site at the customer service center of the Rhode Island Attorney General located at 4 Howard Avenue in Cranston.

You can also apply by mail by sending in a notarized copy of your photo ID and a signed and notarized letter that gives permission to conduct the background investigation.

A state background check costs $5.

For other expenses you need to budget for, read our article — How Much Does It Cost to Get a Real Estate License in Rhode Island?

Once complete, a letter gets sent directly to the real estate commission indicating whether you’re qualified or disqualified based on the statutes related to the license.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Felony in Rhode Island?

Every felony is different, and each individual case is reviewed by the Rhode Island Real Estate Commission.

They look at how the felony relates to your ability to do your job as a real estate agent to make their decision.

There are certain grounds for denial, and most of which tie back to felonies connected to financial crimes like embezzlement, fraud, or forgery.

Any felonies that show a deficit in character, like those connected to dishonesty, could also prevent you from getting your real estate license in Rhode Island.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Misdemeanor in Rhode Island?

Misdemeanors are also reviewed on an individual basis. Specifics of the conviction are heavily considered, especially as they relate to your character.

Any crimes connected to trustworthiness and honesty can impact your ability to get a real estate license.

Also, convictions connected to money, like larceny or fraud, could work against you as they can present your character in an unflattering light.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a DUI in Rhode Island?

You can get a real estate license if you have a DUI in Rhode Island. DUIs are not on the list of crimes that lead to an automatic denial.

However, a DUI can prevent you from getting a real estate license since they do often bring your character into question.

It’s up to the commission to review your specific case, but since this is a delicate situation, they may require you to present follow-up documentation.

This is ideal for you since it allows you to accurately depict the situation around the conviction and hopefully show it’s not anything that will impact your ability to be a real estate agent.


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

Recent legislative changes in Rhode Island have actually made it possible for those with a criminal record to apply for a real estate license.

Before the Fair Chance Licensing Act passed, this was not the case. Now, licensing agencies need to look at how past convictions relate to the field the licensee wants to enter.

Individual situations are evaluated based on this and when the crime was committed.

There are no more flat-out denials, and the commission is required to document their reason for a denial and submit to a transparent appeals process.

Taking all this into consideration, here are some tips to keep in mind when getting licensed in the state with a criminal record:

  • It’s important for you to get out in front of your criminal history. If you know something will show up, be ready to defend why it won’t interfere.
  • Have all supporting documents and information ready to submit, upon request, to ensure a proper review of your case as well.

Can I Appeal the Commission’s Negative Decision?

Once the commission decides on your eligibility, they’ll contact you with their decision. If they’ve rejected your application for a real estate license, you can appeal.

You can request a hearing to respond to the specific grounds that led to the denial of your real estate license.


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

It is possible to have action taken against Rhode Island real estate agents that can lead to a license disqualification.

Before that, though, there may be other penalties if they break any statutes.

Monetary penalties, after a hearing, can be up to $2,000 per violation. They may also end up with a license suspension or probation for up to one year.

Reasons that can lead to a real estate license being revoked include, among others:

  • Substantial misrepresentation
  • False promise of character
  • Misleading or untruthful advertising
  • Mishandling customer funds

There are actually 37 different possible behaviors, based on Rhode Island statutes, that can lead to a real estate license being revoked or suspended.


Where to Study for a Real Estate License Exam?

Although review of your background check is a huge part of the real estate process, even if your license application is approved, you still have to pass a test.

And to pass the test, you have to study, and preparation starts in the classroom.

Both a salesperson licensee and a broker licensee must complete a required amount of pre-licensing coursework.

The salesperson coursework is 45 hours, and must include three hours in a new agency law course.

Brokers must have two years of full-time experience, plus complete 90 hours of coursework in approved classroom study.

You should take your course in an institution approved by the commission. You can pick one from our list of the best real estate agent classes in Rhode Island.

Pre-licensing courses can be taken in person or via a live virtual classroom. There are pros and cons to each method of instruction, and it’ll be in your best interest to learn about them.

Our guide comparing real estate classes online vs. traditional classroom courses can walk you through the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Once the pre-licensing coursework is complete, it’s best to set aside time to study before scheduling your exam. Here are some tips:

  • Use the study materials and resources provided through your pre-licensing instructors as a starting point.
  • Make outlines of your class notes and flashcards of the terms and basic information you need to review.
  • Consider forming a study group to stay motivated to study.
  • Have people around you to quiz you on the important stuff.

For the topics you need to focus on, refer to our guide tackling what to study for the Rhode Island real estate exam.

You can also look at the general content outlines contained within your Candidate Handbook from test administrator Pearson VUE.

We also have an article discussing how to pass the real estate exam the first time.


Additional Information

Besides completing the education requirement and taking the real estate exam, you will need to complete all other prerequisites for getting a real estate license in Rhode Island.

One of which is securing a sponsoring broker. You can choose one from our directory of top-rated real estate brokerage firms in your area.

When making your decision, make sure to pick a brokerage firm where you can thrive and learn a great deal about the real estate business.

Our guide on how to choose the right real estate brokerage to work for as a new agent can help with your decision making.

When you’ve completed all the requirements and filed your application, what’s next is to wait for your license to be approved.

The time it takes to complete the licensing process depends on how fast you fulfill each step.

For an estimated timeline, read our article on this topic — How Long Does It Take to Get a Real Estate License in Rhode Island?

While waiting for your license to be approved, you can use the time to read up on resources designed to make your transition to becoming a real estate agent easy.

Learn about the benefits of being a real estate agent from industry experts sharing their insight on what makes the job a rewarding career.

Our guide on the next steps after passing the real estate exam can help you formulate a fool-proof plan for building your real estate business.

Know the steps to joining a real estate team, where you can get a good start to your real estate career and meet experienced agents who can share their knowledge of the industry.

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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