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

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As a real estate hopeful with a checkered past, you need to know what your record may mean for your ability to get a Tennessee license.

This expert guide brings you up to speed. It covers the conditions and requirements set by the state, what goes into determining your eligibility, and helpful hints for applying.

So before you take your next step in pursuing your Tennessee real estate license, read on to get details on how the process works when you have a history of violating the law.


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

The Tennessee Real Estate Commission requires you to submit to a background check to become an affiliate broker. That’s the title the state uses for real estate agents.

You’re also subject to the same requirement if you’re a broker candidate who is not currently an active affiliate with Tennessee.

You must be fingerprinted to begin the criminal history records check. The Commission requests that you use electronic fingerprint submission.

You have two ways to do that:

  • Option 1: Make an appointment with IdentoGO. They have centers throughout the state, and you can use their locator to find the closest one and make an appointment.
  • Option 2: Get fingerprinted by another vendor or a local law enforcement agency and submit the traditional “hard cards” to IdentoGO for conversion to digital fingerprints.

Ultimately, your prints are transmitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Both agencies run a check against their databases and send a report to the Commission.

You must also answer qualifying questions on the Broker Examination Application. For those disclosing criminal history within the last ten years, you may be required to provide:

  • A certified copy of your conviction record
  • A form containing details for each charge

The Commission considers all this information as they determine your eligibility for a license, looking at it through the lens of safeguarding the interest of the public.

Factors that come into play in approval include the type and recency of the crime, its relevance to real estate, and whether you prove you now meet the qualifications of honesty and integrity.


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

If you have a felony history, you may wonder how friendly the Rules of the Tennessee Real Estate Commission are when it comes to that.

For instance, is the conviction an absolute disqualifier? Or can a felon get a real estate license in Tennessee in some instances?

As for the first question, being a felon can make you automatically ineligible, depending on when you apply.

The rules don’t allow anyone currently on probation or parole to take the exam or be considered for licensure. There’s also a waiting period after that.

You can only apply if two years have passed since your conviction date or the end of your parole, probation, or incarceration. Your application will be assessed on its merits.

So, you could get a license if you make it through all the hoops, one of which is appearing before the Commission for the purpose of determining if your application should be approved.

In making a decision, they consider factors like the following for any felony convictions within the last ten years.

  • The level of your crime, circumstances involved, and how long ago it was
  • Whether your offense could put the public at personal or financial risk
  • Whether you’ve met all conditions and kept on the straight and narrow

If you have concerns that your conviction may block access to a license, you can ask for a preliminary decision. It provides advisory guidance on whether they may rule in your favor.


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

You can obtain a Tennessee real estate license with a misdemeanor record. However, the Commission has to be sure that you warrant the public trust before they will grant one.

The more minor the crime, the longer ago it occurred, and the stronger the evidence that you’re not likely to be a repeat offender, the better your chances of licensure.

Conversely, offenses with underlying behavior that could directly and negatively impact how you practice real estate can dim your prospects of becoming a licensee.

For example, Commission rules specifically mention misdemeanors involving the theft of property, money, or services.

If you were convicted in the past ten years for any of those, you must provide court documents and detailed explanations. You also have to present your case in front of the Commission.

A hard-and-fast rule for those same offenses also affects your eligibility to apply.

And that is, you can’t proceed with the licensing process if it’s been less than two years since you satisfied the sentencing conditions of your conviction.

To help you with deciding whether to apply, the Commission allows you to ask in advance what their determination might be. You’ll need to complete the appropriate form to make the request.


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

A felony DUI will prevent you from getting a real estate license in Tennessee for two years following your conviction, parole, probation, or incarceration, whichever is later.

You can apply if the required time has elapsed or you committed a misdemeanor. Just be aware that your chances of being approved will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.

You’ll have to disclose your DUI conviction when you apply. The documentation you submit will present your case to the Commission.

Because the behavior of driving under the influence could have a direct bearing on your ability to safely practice real estate, the Commission is sure to review all related information closely.

But if you’re not a recidivist or your offense wasn’t a felony, there’s a possibility that you can get a license if you have a DUI if the Commission is convinced that the behavior won’t reoccur.


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

Getting a Tennessee real estate license is more involved when you have a criminal record. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process and give yourself the best chance of getting a “yes.”

  • Get a predetermination. That way, the Commission may let a favorable preliminary decision stand without further review or a hearing when you submit an application.
  • Adhere to the 2-year waiting period. If you apply before the required time elapses for being off probation or parole, your application for licensure will be denied.
  • Have letters of recommendation at the ready. These can go a long way toward proving that your criminal record doesn’t represent the person you are today.
  • Disclose all relevant convictions. If your criminal background check shows something you didn’t list, that’s a big strike against you.
  • If you’re eligible, explore whether it’s to your benefit to petition the court for a Certificate of Employability. An attorney familiar with this can offer guidance.

Can I Appeal the Commission’s Negative Decision?

There isn’t a formal appeals process if your application is denied. However, you can submit a request to the Commission to have your application status reviewed.

You can also include any additional information that could strengthen your case for licensure that you want them to consider.

The review is not an automatic right. So, there’s no guarantee that the Commission will grant it. Even if they do, they may not change their original decision.


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

As so much is at stake for real estate clients, the Commission holds Tennessee real estate agents to rigorous standards of conduct. In a nutshell, you are expected to behave honestly, ethically, and lawfully.

So, if you violate the law, it follows that the Commission can exercise its power to discipline you. The repercussions can include license disqualification.

For instance, they may suspend or revoke your license if you’re convicted of wrongfully taking someone else’s property. Forgery, embezzlement, and larceny are examples of offenses.

You could lose your license, whether these crimes are felonies or misdemeanors. And it doesn’t matter if the court convicted you or you accepted a conviction via a guilty or no-contest plea.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must notify the Commission in writing within 60 days of the conviction. At the same time, you should request a hearing.

If you don’t ask for a hearing during that 60-day window, your license will be automatically revoked when that time is up.


Where to Study for a Real Estate License Exam?

Upon completion of the background check requirements, you are able to focus on the next steps in the licensing process. Part of which is studying for the real estate exam.

In Tennessee, there are various choices for where to complete the approved pre-licensing studies that prepare you to take the exam.

Some of the real estate schools in Tennessee offer traditional learning experiences for those who prefer to attend class in person and interact face-to-face with the instructor and other students.

Live online learning is also available. The classroom is virtual, but you still benefit from real-time, instructor-led lectures. You also get to attend class from home.

You can do your classwork most anywhere you like if you take online courses. The available home study (correspondence) options give you the same flexibility.

Compare the pros and cons of real estate classes online vs. traditional classroom courses to pick the best method that will help you to pass the Tennessee real estate exam on your first try.

Exam prep courses are predominantly offered online, also allowing you to pick your preferred study spot.

As you do, make sure the place you choose meets these critical factors:

  • Somewhere near you, so it’s convenient
  • Limited noise and few to no distractions
  • Conducive to being maximally productive

Additional Information

We hope this article helps you cover all the bases when applying for a TN real estate license with violations on your record.

As you complete all the steps in the licensing process, refer to these useful guides to make the entire experience easier for you:

Remember that as part of your license application, you will be required to choose a broker to work for.

Check out our directory of the best real estate brokerages in Tennessee to pick one that can give you a great start in the business.

While waiting for your license application to get approved, gear up for a busy real estate career by reading these resources:

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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