How to get a real estate license with a prior criminal conviction?

Real Estate Attorney with The Law Offices of Steven C. Vondran, P.C. Attorney at Law

real estate license criminal background



If you have ever dreamed of having your real estate license and getting involved in the amazing real estate business (either representing clients buying or selling residential or commercial real estate, quoting mortgages, handling property management, or even selling business opportunities), but have prior criminal convictions in your background – either a felony or misdemeanor, this blog is for you.   This blog will tell you everything you need to know about what your chances are to “get your ticket” to the real estate dance.  We have helped many men and women realize their dreams despites some “dumb mistakes” they made in their past.

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Okay, so let's get right down to it, the question everyone always asks me as a BRE defense lawyer is "Can I get a real estate license if I have a felony in my background"?  This is a common question.  The short answer is YES, in many cases you can.  The BRE is a forgiving regultaory agency (in my 12 years of dealing with them), and while they can be very TOUGH, I have found them to also be FAIR.  We have a long working history working through a wide variety of real estate legal issues over the years including:

1.  Responding to BRE/ DRE investigations and subpoena responses;

2.  Helping brokers and salepersons with audits;

3.  Defending real estate licensees in accusations;

4.  Representing prospective real estate licensees in "statement of issues" cases;

5.  Representing notaries, appraisers, and mortgage loan officers;

6.  Helping over 60 companies obtain an legal "advance fee agreement;"

7.  Handling Realtor ethics disputes;

8.  Representing clients in commission and right of publicity disputes

9.   Handling Arbitration cases

10.  Litigation

The list goes on and on.  As a licensed real estate broker myself, I know the issues and hurdles than can arise in the course of a real estate licensee's career.  I personally think real estate is the best industry in the world.  Where virtually ANYONE (even those with a criminal background) can make a living, and perhaps even MAKE IT BIG!!  This blog will help you if you have a prior RAP sheet or felony or misdemeanor in your histroy.  Here are some of the FAQ''s that people ask us all the time.  To skip this and speak to us now call (877) 276-5084 or visit

Frequently Asked Questions re Criminal Records and Real Estate License

1.   Can I get a license even though I have a criminal record?

The short answer is YES, you can.  There usually needs to be a passage of time, at a minimum I would say two to five years, but there is a way you can get your license even if you did something bad in your past. As we like to tell our clients "we all make mistakes" and if you "did your time and paid the fine" we are usually able to help.  You have to be able to show changes in "attitudes and associations."  We can help you tell your story and make the case for licensing.

2.  What crimes are the worst?

Obviously not all crimes are created equal.  A misdemeanor (such as shoplifting, vandalism, many DUI"s, simple assault and battery, drunk in public, etc.) these are some crimes that are easier to deal with than crimes like rape, burgluraly, robbery, arson, cruelty to animals, sex crimes, etc.).  Call us to discuss your crime. What the BRE commissioner will be looking at closely is whether or not your prior crime is "substantially related" to the duties, qualifications and functions of a real estate professional.  The more closely related your crime is to the duties of a real estate agent, the harder your case will be.

3.   Should I hire your firm before I take the real estate examination?

We normally recommend that you take and pass your exam before you call us.  This is NOT ALWAYS THE CASE however, as there are things that we can do or suggest that may take some time to prepare for.  We discuss these things when we are retained.

4.  Should I wait to see if I am denied before I hire your firm?

Again, as noted above, you can be proactive and get our law firm involed at the earliest possible stage so that we can review your case, make suggestions for rehabilitation, and help you get ready to present your application.  The application will ask you if you have a PRIOR CRIMINAL CONVICTION, make sure you FULLY DISCLOSE this on your real estate license application.  If you fail to do this (we handle many of these cases as well), this will come back to bite you and can make it very difficult to obtain your license as the CalBRE will consider this to be a "misrepresentation" and they will think you are triyng to intentionally hide something and obtain a real estate license via fraud. NOT GOOD.  At any rate, if you are denied a license or receive a "statement of issues" you should contact us IMMEDIATELY.

5.  What is a "statement of issues"?

A statement of issues is what you get from the Bureau of Real Estate when they intend to deny your real estate license.  They will give you a chance to contest their intent to deny and have a hearing before a neutral judge,  We can help you in responding to these, seeking a possible settlement with the BRE (prior to having to go to a hearing) and seek to obtain your licensing rights at a hearing if required.  We are skilled and experienced negotiators and we have helped many many others in your shoes get into the real estate business.

6.  Do I really need a lawyer?

No.  You can do it yourself, but there are benefits to hiring a real estate law firm.  See my response to the next question.  Don't forget the old saying "a person who represents themselves has a fool for a client."

7.  What can you firm do for me?

When you hire a law firm we can help prepare your case to professionally represent you and tell your "story" (everyone has a story) in the best light possible.  The benefits are as follows:

a.  We tell your story objectively - often times there is still a degree of denial, shame or embarassment in having to explain the prior crimes.  We tell your story professionally.

b.  We help you prepare your application so that you can properly address the issue of "substantially related."  This is a legal issue that if you do not have experience with the case law (I have provided some at our website) you will have a hard time making the case so to speak.  

c.   We can help you prepare to articulate your position on the issue of "rehabilitation factors" which becomes an issue in each case.

d.  We can negotiate for a potential early settlement of your case to try to avoid a public hearing.

e.  We have built relationships with the BRE over the years and as we like to say "they know us and we know them." We have always strived to maintain positive relationships that hel facilitate us getting things done.  This is not to say you can be guaranteed a license, but in my opinion it is much better than hiring a lawyer off the street who is trying to obtain a real estate license for the first time).

8.  What are the costs to hire a law firm?

We offer low flat rate fees (depending upon the type of case and work involved) from 3,000-10,000.

9.  What is "substantially related" test and how does that work?

The best way to review this topic is to read the BRE blog post on the substantially related test.  Here is part of what this article says:

"CalBRE may deny the issuance of a license to an applicant if he or she has been convicted of a substantially related crime. The same applies to the issuance of a license to a corporation, if an officer, director, or person owning or controlling 10 percent or more of the corporation’s stock has been convicted of a substantially related crime. CalBRE uses Criteria of Substantial Relationship to determine if a crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee. As part of the CalBRE’s background investigation of applicants, the Bureau reviews all applicants’ criminal histories and determines if the applicant has committed any substantially related crime(s) which would serve as a basis for denial of the license. Additionally, pursuant to Section 485 of the Business and Professions Code, the bureau may deny an application for a license without first filing a Statement of Issues. However, when this occurs the applicant has 60 days from the date of the denial to request a hearing to contest the bureau’s denial."

As you can see, the phrase leaves itself open to interpretation, and from experience, the BRE in California feels that a WHOLE LOT OF PRIOR CRIMES are substantially related.  This is one good reason to hire a law firm to help you make your legal arguments.

10.  What are the "rehabilitation factors" the BRE will look to?

Here is a video we did on this point.  Make sure to Click on the Red "V" to subscribe to our legal channel. We post a lot of great videos to keep you in the know, and thus, in the dough!!

11.  Can you gurantee success?

Just like when you get your real estate license, there is no guarantee of success.  However, we have a very strong track record of success and we will do everything possible to help you get your license so you can take your professional life to the next level.

For more infromation, including California case law regarding obtaining a real estate license when you have a prior criminal record, visit TheLicenseLawyer.  To speak with a real estate attorney now call us at (877) 276-5084.

We hope you enjoyed this blog.  Feel free to share it on your social media networks.

- Attorney Steve - 







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Steve Vondran

IP & Real Estate Lawyer
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