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

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Getting a South Carolina real estate license with a less-than-clean record can require some extra work on your part. However, it’s not an impossible task.

In this guide, we provide information on the potential impact criminal and other violations may have. We also answer questions that are likely running through your mind.

So, keep reading to learn about the rules and requirements for adherence when applying for a real estate license in the state of South Carolina.


Should I Pass a Background Check for a South Carolina Real Estate License?

All applicants undergo a background check for an initial South Carolina real estate license. It includes a state and fingerprint-based national criminal history records search.

You’ll initiate the process when you apply to take the exam. You must disclose any criminal history when completing the application.

You’re also required to submit the following additional information if you do have prior convictions, guilty or no contest pleas:

  • A Criminal History Explanation Form on which you’ll detail all offenses
  • Copies of court documents showing the final disposition of those offenses
  • Supporting documentation on the status of sentencing or restitution/fine payment

Once your application is received, the South Carolina Real Estate Commission sends instructions on fingerprint registration and processing.

The Commission uses a third-party vendor with centers statewide for fingerprinting services.

Applicants from South Carolina should go to the nearest center for fingerprinting. Non-residents get cards to obtain fingerprints from a local law enforcement agency and return them to the vendor.

The FBI will use your fingerprints to conduct a national criminal database search. The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) performs the state background check.

You can’t be denied a license solely because your background check shows a conviction. The offense has to directly relate to practicing real estate. Crimes of dishonesty are an example.

The Commission also has the duty to protect the public interest in real estate transactions. So, offenses for which actions call that into question are considered, too.

The Commission can also look at all other information in conjunction with an applicant’s criminal record and may refuse to issue a license if they find the candidate unfit or unsuited for licensure.

You can expect to pay around $50 to get the SC real estate license background check done. This cost is in addition to a $25 application fee.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Felony in South Carolina?

Individuals applying to become real estate agents in South Carolina can apply for a license even if they’re convicted with a felony.

However, certain convictions can prevent them from being licensed. State law spells out felony offenses that the Commission may consider grounds for denying a license.

These include real estate, drug or sex-related crimes, and financial or violent crimes.

Statutes also specify other crimes that could rise to felony charges based on the situation and thus possibly disqualify you. Examples are forgery, larceny, extortion, fraud, and embezzlement.

The Commission will require you to appear before them for an application hearing in these instances. They will listen to your case and decide whether or not to issue a license.

You must meet pre-licensing requirements and apply before the Commission can rule whether you’ll get a license or need to plead your case. So, you won’t know your chances ahead of time.

That’s why it’s critical to provide honest, pertinent information when you apply. The Commission considers each application on its own merits and considers all submitted information.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Misdemeanor in South Carolina?

Even though misdemeanors are generally viewed as less serious than felonies, the Commission duly reviews each application. Note that some misdemeanor convictions may not be in your favor.

In addition to having the power to deny a license for certain felonies, the Commission can do the same based on other crimes that may be charged as misdemeanors.

That list of offenses includes crimes such as the following that reflect poorly on character:

  • Breach of trust
  • Forgery or embezzlement
  • Larceny or extortion
  • Fraud or conspiracy to defraud
  • Obtaining money/property under false pretense

A conviction for violating state or federal fair housing laws can keep you from obtaining a South Carolina real estate license as well.

Even if you have a conviction that’s not for any of these offenses, the Commission will give your application close scrutiny. So, it will take longer to process even if it’s approved in the end.

You may also be required to make an appearance at a hearing where the Commission can obtain more information about your conviction circumstances to make a ruling.


Can You Get a Real Estate License with a DUI in South Carolina?

South Carolina statutes don’t explicitly say that a DUI will prevent you from getting a real estate license.

This is because DUIs don’t fall into the types of misdemeanors or felonies listed as grounds for disqualification.

Therefore, it follows that if you were charged with a single misdemeanor in the past, chances are you can get a real estate license if you have a DUI.

However, a conviction for driving under the influence can stem from impairment caused by drugs. If this is elevated to a felony, it may be problematic depending on the Commission’s view.

Drug-related felonies are on the list of offenses that can keep you from being licensed. So, it’s to your benefit to check with the Commission about how they view drug-related DUI arrests.


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

The Commission’s evaluation of an application for a candidate with a criminal record is serious business. You can facilitate the review and help yourself in the process by following these tips.

  • Be transparent. The state’s background check is rigorous. So, disclose all violations. You don’t want the background report to show anything you haven’t accounted for.
  • Provide everything that’s asked for. That way, your application is complete. When submitting the Criminal History Explanation Form, include all required supporting documentation.
  • Make sure your information is accurate. You don’t want an accidental error to cause confusion or raise a red flag.
  • Respond quickly to any requests or follow-up questions from the Commission. It can go a long way to demonstrating your intent to be upfront and honest.
  • Prepare for a hearing. Get reference letters that show you’ve moved past your criminal record. Draft a summary that illustrates how you’ve learned from past mistakes.
  • Reach out to the Commission as a proactive measure. They can help you better understand the rules, so that you can effectively work through the process.

Can I Appeal the Commission’s Negative Decision?

You can petition the state’s Administrative Law Court to review the Commission’s decision. This Court exists to provide a neutral forum for objective hearings in matters of this nature.

An administrative law judge will hear your case in accordance with ALC rules. You can have an attorney represent you in the appeal proceedings.


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

Yes, the Commission has the legal authority to suspend or revoke a real estate license or take other disciplinary action against a licensee.

Two dozen-plus reasons can lead to license disqualification. These include the same criminal offenses that can hurt your chances of getting an initial license.

And, as a licensee, you have a time deadline for notifying the Commission if you’re convicted for one of the potentially disqualifying crimes. You have to report it by certified mail within 10 days.

Other misconduct that can result in temporary or permanent loss of your license includes misrepresentation and mishandling funds. Dishonesty and untrustworthiness also make the list.

If the Commission revokes your license, you’re not allowed to reapply for three years. If you seek a license after that time has elapsed, you’ll need to:

  • Prove to the Commission’s satisfaction that you are honest and trustworthy, and can competently practice the profession of real estate.
  • Provide proof that you meet the educational qualifications if the information the Commission has is more than five years old.
  • Pass the applicable exam and meet any other qualifications and conditions that apply to a new licensee.

If you disagree with the punitive actions, you can request a review by the Administrative Law Court of South Carolina. However, the decision will stand pending completion of the appeal.


Where to Study for a Real Estate License Exam?

Should you need to reapply for your license after it has been suspended or revoked, you will need to complete your pre-licensing education and take the real estate exam again.

Completing pre-licensing education is one of the most effective ways to prepare for the exam. South Carolina makes that easy to do with dozens of approved providers throughout the state.

You’ll find classes offered at real estate schools, academies, and institutes. In addition, several two-year technical colleges are also on the provider list.

You can choose one from our directory of the top real estate schools in South Carolina.

In addition to the variety of educational settings, there are also several options for attending class. Providers offer the following classroom experiences:

  • Courses taught in a physical classroom
  • Live-streamed, instructor-led classes
  • Video recordings of in-class instruction

You can also study online. The courses are self-paced. You can choose between providers that only offer online education and in-state, brick-and-mortar schools that do online courses as well.

Know which method suits you best by reading our guide comparing real estate classes online vs. traditional classroom courses.

When it’s time to take the real estate exam, it’s important that you are fully prepared before making an appointment with the testing center.

Refer to our tips on studying for the real estate exam so you’re more confident when test day comes. Make sure to also read our article on how to pass the South Carolina real estate exam the first time to avoid retakes.


Additional Information

The background check may incur fees when taken, so make sure you prepare a reasonable budget for this and all the other expenses associated with the licensing process.

We break down the cost of a real estate license in South Carolina to give you an idea of the financial commitment involved in getting your license in the state.

Additionally, we tackle the timeline involved to fulfill all the steps in the licensing process in our article on how long it takes to get a real estate license in South Carolina.

Apart from meeting all the requirements for a background check and completing education and testing prerequisites, you will need to find a broker to sponsor you.

Picking the right brokerage firm to work for is important to ensure that you’re building your real estate business on solid ground.

Our database of the best real estate companies in South Carolina provides you with a list of the top brokers in the state from which you can choose to work as a new agent.

Once you pass the exam and become licensed, the next steps you take will define your career as a real estate agent.

Know what to expect from the insight provided by experienced agents on the pros and cons of being a real estate agent as a career.

It’s also a must to make plans on what to do after you get your real estate license. The actions you will adopt can make it easier for you to establish a good real estate career in the state.

Your plans may include joining a real estate team, which is essential when you want to be in the circle of successful realtors. You can learn so much from their experiences.

You can also start creating some solid marketing strategies to promote your business in the state. Explore all the options that are ready at your disposal.

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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