Can I Get a Pennsylvania Real Estate License with a Criminal Record?

CEO Khai Intela
Are you concerned that your past mistakes might hinder you from obtaining a Pennsylvania real estate license? While it may pose some challenges, rest assured that it is still possible to obtain a license, even...

criminal record and real estate in Pennsylvania

Are you concerned that your past mistakes might hinder you from obtaining a Pennsylvania real estate license? While it may pose some challenges, rest assured that it is still possible to obtain a license, even if you have a criminal record.

What You Need to Get a PA Real Estate License

Let's start by breaking down the requirements for obtaining a license.

Salesperson Requirements

To obtain a salesperson license (where your real estate activity is supervised by a licensed broker), you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school degree or an equivalent certificate
  • Fulfill the pre-license education requirements, which include completing 75 hours of pre-licensing education or an equivalent
  • Possess a reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, competence, and integrity
  • Be in good standing, meaning you do not have a suspended, surrendered, or revoked real estate license anywhere due to disciplinary action or unpaid fees
  • Have a clear criminal history (we'll delve into this shortly)
  • Undergo a criminal record check from the PA State Police within 90 days of submission

Broker Requirements

Broker applicants must meet all the salesperson requirements mentioned above, along with additional education and experience requirements. Refer to the image below for a detailed comparison of broker requirements with those of salespersons:

Pennsylvania real estate license requirements

How to Apply for a Pennsylvania Real Estate License With a Criminal Record

The application process is mostly the same whether you have a criminal record or not. The differences typically arise after you submit the application.

Reporting of Criminal History

If you have a criminal history, it is crucial to report it. Applicants must inform the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission about any of the following convictions, guilty pleas, nolo contendere pleas, or sentences imposed for felonies or misdemeanors:

  • Convictions
  • Guilty pleas
  • Nolo contendere pleas
  • Sentences imposed

Moreover, if you commit a crime after obtaining your license, you must inform the Commission within 30 days if you are found guilty, plead guilty, or plead nolo contendere to any misdemeanor or felony, even if it is unrelated to real estate.

The Commission will assess each case involving past criminal history, lack of good standing for a previous license, or crimes committed while holding a Pennsylvania real estate license, and decide whether or not to take disciplinary action based on the nature of the crime and the sentence.

Prepare for a Longer Review Period

Once you submit the application, it undergoes a review process. Applications that contain information about a criminal charge undergo an additional review by the Real Estate Commission, which extends the approval time for taking the pre-licensing exam.

The Commission reviews such applications during their next meeting. During the meeting, they decide whether to grant or preliminarily deny the application. If the decision is preliminary denial, you will have an opportunity to meet with the Commission.

During this informal conference, you can present your case and plead your circumstances. The Commission takes your points into consideration and re-evaluates the application. If the Commission still does not accept the application, it will be provisionally denied, and you can request a formal hearing.

Prepare for a Formal Hearing

The Commission schedules formal hearings during upcoming meetings. During these hearings, they carefully examine any evidence, documentation, and testimony provided. The Commission's decision following the formal hearing is considered final.

How the Commission Decides

Unfortunately, you won't know if a prior criminal conviction will prevent you from obtaining your Pennsylvania real estate license until after you submit the license application. By that point, you have already completed the pre-license course and passed the Pennsylvania license exam, investing time, money, and effort into the process.

To gain guidance, it is recommended to consult a knowledgeable lawyer. An experienced lawyer who has represented applicants before the Commission's Enforcement Committee may provide valuable advice.

The Commission's Enforcement Committee will interview you and make a decision regarding your licensure.

Crimes More Likely to Prevent Licensure

Certain crimes are more likely to hinder your chances of obtaining a Pennsylvania real estate license. These crimes are considered more detrimental to an applicant's ability to conduct real estate and demonstrate the required honesty, competency, trustworthiness, and integrity. Examples of such crimes include inchoate crimes (solicitation, criminal conspiracy), sexual offenses, burglary, robbery, theft and related offenses, forgery, fraudulent practices, bribery, falsification, intimidation, insurance and mortgage-related offenses, computer-related offenses, and violent crimes.

One-time offenses are less likely to prevent licensure. The Committee looks for a pattern of criminal history that suggests you may not make an honorable real estate agent. For a comprehensive list of specific offenses that can lead to license denial, refer to the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission's documentation on criminal convictions.

Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA)

Thanks to CHRIA, you do not have to report arrests without convictions or convictions for summary offenses. Summary offenses are less severe than misdemeanors and carry a maximum punishment of a $300 fine or 90-day imprisonment.

This article was updated on 4/21/2021

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