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California Real Estate Licensing Law Firm – The Gold Standard!

May 31st, 2016 | By | Category: Real Estate Broker Law

California Real Estate Licensing Resource Center
real estate license lawyer


Our law firm is a LEADER in real estate broker law in California.  We have handled a massive number of legal cases from Sand Diego to Los Angeles up to Fresno and throughout San Francisco and Sacramento areas.  We have been around the block, built many professional relationships and we believe we are the “gold standard” when it comes to California real estate broker and licensing law.  We have the experience, credentials, passion, references and reviews that few law firms can match.  We have been through it all from commission disputes and Realtor ethics issues, to subpoena response, advance fee agreements, removing restrictions, surrendering real estate license, accusations, investigations, audits (ex. property management) and more.  When it comes to broker and agent issues, there is simply no substitute for experience. This page will provide a great resource for agents, brokers, licensees (whether DBO or BRE, formerly DRE) to refer to where any broker management or licensing issues arise.

Who is Attorney Steve?

Steve Vondran, Esq. is a former real estate professional having experience in residential and commercial real estate sales, and mortgage loan brokering.  He currently holds a real estate broker’s license in both CA and AZ and our firm represents clients on both states.  “Attorney Steve” is also licensed as a lawyer in both California and Arizona.  Our firm represents clients before both the DRE in AZ and the BRE in CA.  He is a member of the Urban Land Institute, and the Phoenix Realtor’s Association and Orange County Association of Realtors.  He was appointed by Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton to sit on the prestigious Camelback village planning committee (where all new real estate developments rezoning projects must come through for approval).

Vondran Legal was a leader in the homeowner foreclosure arena appearing on Fox News three times.  He has obtained over 60 “advance fee agreements” for real estate brokers, defended numerous clients in real estate “cite and fine” and “accusation” cases as well as broker “statement of issues” and real estate licensing cases.  This does not even touch on the substantial number of state and federal court lawsuits filed and defended involving real estate, adversary proceedings, and more.  Simple put, we believe we are the “Gold Standard” when it comes to hiring a passionate and committed real estate law firm.

SOCIAL MEDIA:  To learn more about us check us out now at:

Youtube: AttorneySteveLaw

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Videos to watch

Here are a few videos that might serve as a good starter if you are seeking your real estate license with prior convictions.  Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our channel by clicking on the Red “V” for Victory!!

real estate license with criminal conviction

This is a basic video that discusses the issue in general.

2911 rehab factors

This video discusses “rehabilitation factors” that the BRE will consider in determining whether to grant or deny a license.

CALBRE licensing attorney

This video talks about failing to disclose your criminal convictions on the licensing application.  The CalBRE can consider this to be “procuring a license by fraud or misrepresentation” which can cause you problems initially, and even years later if they find out.

Disclosure obligations on BRE apps

Here is another video that talks more directly about failing to disclose all criminal convictions (even the ones you forgot about and the “expunged” crimes)

How long do I have to wait to seek reinstatement of my real estate license if it was revoked?

DRE license revoked reinstate

This video answers a common question about how to get your license back after the DRE has revoked it.  The process is not always easy, but we can help guide you through to success.

What does it mean to “surrender” my license?

Surrender real estate license

This video discusses what it means to “surrender” your real estate license.  There are times when you might want to retire from the profession (often times this happens after receiving an accusation).  We can help prepare the petition for you.

What is the process for removing restrictions on my broker or salesperson license?

restricted real estate license

This video talks about what you need to do to REMOVE YOUR LICENSE RESTRICTIONS so that you can get your “due process” rights back.  Without due process rights, if you do ONE THING WRONG the BRE commissioner can take your license without a hearing (even if the allegations are false).  We can help you remove restrictions from your license.

I just finished an audit and think an Accusation will follow what can I expect?

Accusation process in CA

If you are facing an accusation for missing trust funds, comingling, broker fraud, misrepresentation, failure to supervise licensed activity (“rent-a-broker“), failure to respond to a subpoena or keeping records (10148), or 10177 sections contact us to discuss your rights.  You have to submit a timely NOTICE OF DEFENSE or your could lose your right to a hearing.  We are experienced and we can help!

What is the “statement of issues”?

Statement of Issues lawyer

 When you get a statement of issues it makes your stomach drop a bit.  But don’t worry, before you call anyone else call us to discuss.  We have been successful settling many of these cases and we can help you navigate the real estate licensing maze with the California Bureau of Real Estate.

The BRE will look at whether the prior crime is “substantially related” to the duties, qualifications and functions of the real estate profession in deciding whether to grant or deny a real estate license.


Click here to listen to Attorney Steve explain these factors on Vondran Legal Hour!

In California, if you have been convicted of a crime, the California Bureau of Real Estate (“BRE”) has the discretion to deny your license application (as well as suspend or revoke your license) if you were convicted of a crime that is “substantially related” to the functions, qualifications or duties of a real estate licensee.  But what does this mean?  Section 2910, Title 10 of the California Code of Regulations specifies the following crimes that bear a “substantial relationship” and are cause for denial of your license application (my comments are noted in red):

(1) The fraudulent taking, obtaining, appropriating or retaining of funds or property belonging to another person (this is your theft crimes, shoplifting, larceny, etc.);

(2) Counterfeiting, forging or altering of an instrument or the uttering of a false statement (ex. forging a deed of trust or will);

(3) Willfully attempting to derive a personal financial benefit through the nonpayment or underpayment of taxes, assessments or levies duly imposed upon the licensee or applicant by federal, state, or local government;

(4) The employment of bribery, fraud, deceit, falsehood or misrepresentation to achieve an end (ex. obstructing justice or lying to a police officer);

(5) Sexually related conduct affecting a person who is an observer or non-consenting participant in the conduct or convictions which require registration pursuant to the provisions of Section 290 of the Penal Code; (these are sex crimes such as rape, or statutory rape).

(6) Willfully violating or failing to comply with a provision of Division 4 of the Business and Professions Code of the State of California (scroll down to Division 4);

(7) Willfully violating or failing to comply with a statutory requirement that a license, permit or other entitlement be obtained from a duly constituted public authority before engaging in a business or course of conduct; (ex selling securities or mortgages without a license)

(8) Doing of any unlawful act with the intent of conferring a financial or economic benefit upon the perpetrator or with the intent or threat of doing substantial injury to the person or property of another; (this could be assault, battery, false imprisonment etc.)

(9) Contempt of court or willful failure to comply with a court order; (ex. failure to appear in a court case following an order to do so)

(10) Conduct which demonstrates a pattern of repeated and willful disregard of law (this could be anything, like repeatedly convicted of shoplifting, or vandalism, or drunk in public, disorderly conduct, breaching the peace, etc.)

(11) Two or more convictions involving the consumption or use of alcohol or drugs when at least one of the convictions involve driving and the use or consumption of alcohol or drugs. (this is where some of your second and third DUI”s can come into play);

If you have any crimes such as those in RED above, the crime may be deemed to be substantially related to the duties, functions and qualifications of a real estate license, and your license can be denied or revoked (if you had to report the crime to BRE).  The BRE can also deny an application if said conviction was an attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the above.

Importantly, if the crime or act is “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions or duties of a licensee of the DRE, the context in which the crime or acts were committed shall go only to the question of the weight to be accorded to the crime or acts in considering the action to be taken with respect to the applicant or licensee.  See § 2910, Title 10 of the California Code of Regulations.

Its important to know that merely being “substantially related” is not a 100% grounds for denial or revocation.  It simply means you have an uphill battle and better be prepared to make your case, and show the “rehabilitation factors” (see below).  We excel at helping make the case for our clients.

Can you get a real estate license with TWO or THREE DUI”s?

Drunk driving consequences on real estate license

VIDEO: This video discusses what happens when you have DUI’s for drunk driving and need to get your real estate license.  These can be tough cases but we have been successful in the past.  Past successes are no guarantee of future success.  Watch the video and if you need help call us.  Click on the Red “V” to subscribe to our legal channel.

What are the “rehabilitation factors” that the BRE will consider when reviewing an applicant for a license?

Here is a great blog we wrote that outlines what the rehab factors are the CalBRE commissioner and their legal counsel will be looking at.  We can help make sure you admission package addresses these critical points in a professional manner.

California case law dealing with real estate licensing (as it relates to prior criminal convictions)

Here are some of the cases that may be of interest if you are seeking your real estate license.

(1) What if My Crime or Act has been dismissed and I am back on the right path?

If your crime or act has been dismissed for a host of reasons, and your license application has been denied or by the DRE, you may be able to appeal the decision.

Key CasePieri v. Fox, 96 Cal.App.3d 802, 806 (Cal. Ct. App. 1979).


An applicant for a California real estate broker’s license was convicted of a misdemeanor of making a false written statement to obtain unemployment benefits.  He successfully completed a one-year probation, and the conviction was set aside and dismissed.  Upon completing probation, the applicant was granted a California real estate salesman’s license.  For three years, the applicant worked as a real estate salesman and became highly regarded in the profession.  Upon applying for a broker’s license, he was denied.

Procedural Posture

The applicant appealed the decision of the California Department of real estate, to deny him the broker’s license, to the Superior Court of San Diego County.  The trial court found “substantial evidence” to deny the license due to the applicant’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor violation of Unemployment Insurance Code section 2101 – making a false written statement to obtain unemployment benefits.

He appeals the trial court’s decision to the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.  The Appeals Court reversed the trial court’s decision, rejecting the trial court’s finding of a substantial relationship between the conviction and the applicant’s qualifications as a broker.


“Before an applicant’s license could be denied, substantial evidence must be produced to support a finding that the crime he or she committed must be substantially related to his or her qualification for a real estate broker’s license.”

The Court of Appeal noted:

Business and Professions Code section 480 provides in part:

“(a) A board may deny a license regulated by this code on the grounds that the applicant has one of the following:

(1) Been convicted of a crime; or the board may deny a license pursuant to this subdivision only if the crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of the business or profession for which application is made.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, no person shall be denied a license solely on the basis that he has been convicted of a crime if he has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation under Section 4852.01 and following of the Penal Code, and if his probation has been terminated and the information or accusation has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.”

Since the Legislature rewrote in chapter 1321, Statutes of 1974, the provisions of law governing denial, suspension, revocation of a business or professions license “even a conviction can no longer support a denial or revocation of a license unless the crime is ‘substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of the business or profession’ in question.  See Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 480, subd. (a) and 490.”

Because “substantial evidence” is required to support whether a prior conviction is “substantially related” to the applicant’s qualification for a broker’s license, there must be evidence introduced to support the decision to grant or deny the license.


Here, like the Brandt case (see below), only positive aspects of the applicant’s work and reputation as a real estate salesperson were on the record.  The evidence showed that the applicant was granted a California real estate salesman’s license and performed his duties in all respects satisfactorily.  Additionally, he was highly regarded by other brokers in his profession.  Overall, there was a total lack of evidence to support the finding that the misdemeanor offense committed 4 years before the applicant’s application for a broker’s license was substantially related to his qualifications as a real estate broker.

Another case discussing the substantial evidence requirement is the Brandt v. Fox case.

In Brandt v. Fox, 90 Cal.App.3d 737 (1979), the applicant was convicted of a crime involving distribution of cocaine.  For four years after the conviction, the applicant worked as a real estate salesman and had an exemplary record of service and enjoyed a positive reputation in the community.  The Appeal Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the applicant’s petition for appeal by the decision to deny his broker’s license application.  The Appeal Court would not “condone” his conduct, but could not find any evidence to support that his conduct subsequent to the conviction rendered him unfit to engage in real estate sales.  Thus, it was an isolated incident, and his license application was granted.

(2) What about prior crimes involving “moral turpitude”?

Key Case: Golde v. Fox, 98 Cal.App.3d 167, 176 (Cal. Ct. App. 1979).


In 1974, a California real estate broker pled guilty to possession of marijuana.  The applicant, also a private pilot, had landed a small plane in Merced County, CA containing 800 – 1,000 pounds of marijuana from Mexico, with a street value of $256,000.  He was placed on felony probation after serving one year in county jail. After a hearing, his broker’s license was revoked.  Additionally, it was recommended to him to seek a real restricted salesman’s license.

Procedural Posture

The Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco denied the applicant’s petition for a writ of mandate to compel the Real Estate Commissioner to set aside his decision revoking the broker’s license and substituting a restricted salesman’s license.  The trial court found that the broker’s conviction was for a felony involving moral turpitude and that the offense was substantially related to his qualification to serve as a real estate broker.

The Court of Appeal affirmed.  The record supported the finding that the crime involved moral turpitude and bore a substantial relationship to the broker’s qualifications to serve as real estate broker.


The Court of Appeal noted:

Section 490 of the Business and Professions Code reads in part as follows:

“A board may suspend or revoke a license on the ground that the licensee has been convicted of a crime, if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the license was issued.”

Section 10177, subdivision (b) provides: “The Commissioner may suspend or revoke the license of any real estate licensee, or may deny the issuance of a license to an applicant, who has done any of the following:

(b) Entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, or been found guilty of, or been convicted of, a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, and the time for appeal has elapsed or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, irrespective of an order granting probation following such conviction, suspending the imposition of sentence, or of a subsequent order under the provision of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code allowing such licensee to withdraw his plea of guilty and to enter a plea of not guilty, or dismissing the accusation or information.”

Honesty and truthfulness are two qualities deemed by the Legislature to bear on one’s fitness and qualification to be a real estate licensee. If appellant’s offense reflects unfavorably on his honesty, it may be said to be substantially related to his qualifications. (See Ring v. Smith, 5 Cal.App.3d 197 (1970); Rhoades v. Savage (1963) 219 Cal.App.2d 294, 299 (1963).”

Court’s Analysis

Here the Court held that “illegal possession and transportation by airplane, in a well-planned and thought out manner, of a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of marijuana, admittedly for the purpose of personal gain, “is clearly an illicit act of deceit and dishonesty in a fundamental sense.”  The crime here, of course, does not relate to the technical or mechanical qualifications of a real estate licensee, but there is more to being a licensed professional than mere knowledge and ability. Honesty and integrity are deeply and daily involved in various aspects of the practice.”

The Court noted that in view of the nature of the felony conviction of appellant, the quantity of marijuana involved and the motivations of appellant-all findings of fact made by the Commissioner-it was reasonable and proper for the Commissioner to conclude that the crime of appellant demonstrated a lack of honesty and integrity (moral turpitude) in his character. Accordingly, the Commissioner properly found that appellant had violated section 490. That is, that appellant had been convicted of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.  License denied.

(3) Two other cases dealing with moral turpitude:

A.  In In re Higbie, 6 Cal.3d 562 (1972), a lawyer was involved in marijuana smuggling after he was engaged in a conspiracy to smuggle a large quantity of marijuana into the U.S. by conspiring with a friend.  The court concluded that this act was “moral turpitude,” as it was misconduct committed without excuse, or as a “dishonest or immoral” act.  Additionally, because he gave advice to his friend to place himself in jeopardy of the law and to engage in an unlawful act, it created a significant degree of public harm.  License denied.

B.  In Morrison v. State Board of Education, 1 Cal.3d 214, 218-19 (1969), a teacher lost his teaching certificate for participating in a “limited, non-criminal physical relationship…of a homosexual nature….some six years in the past.”  His record was otherwise virtually spotless.  The court concluded that the Board of Education cannot “abstractly characterize the conduct as immoral, unprofessional, or involving moral turpitude,” unless the conduct indicates that the teacher is unfit to teach.  License granted.

(4)  How broad is the CA Dept. of Real Estate’s (“DRE”) discretion to Deny or Revoke a License?

Key CaseDonaldson v. Department of Real Estate, 134 Cal.App.4th 948, 969 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005).


In 1992, the DRE issued a real estate salesperson’s license to Donaldson.  In 1999, Donaldson engaged in sexual relations with his wife’s 16 year old sister.  He pled guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor, a felony.  In 2001, the court reduced the felony conviction to a misdemeanor.  Subsequently, the Commissioner of the DRE filed a disciplinary accusation alleging that Donaldson had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, and crimes which are substantially related to the qualification, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.  Further, the Commissioner recommended that his license should be revoked or suspended.

Procedural Posture

Licensee Donaldson filed a petition for administrative writ of mandamus in superior court. He argued that the Commissioner overreached her authority in ruling that the victim could not “legally consent” due to lack of evidence other than solely her age. Further, he argued that his conviction was not substantially related to his professional qualifications as a real estate salesperson.  The trial court granted the petition on the ground that the weight of the evidence did not support the Commissioner’s finding that the intercourse was nonconsensual, and the matter was remanded to the Commissioner for reconsideration.  On reconsideration, the Commissioner again revoked Donaldson’s license.  She held that “regardless of whether the victim’s involvement in the unlawful sexual conduct was consensual, the victim was a protected minor and was not capable of legal consent.” Further, she concluded that Donaldson “understands that she was not old enough to legally consent.” These convictions were “for crimes involving moral turpitude that are substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.  This decision was appealed and reversed.

The Appellate Court noted:

“Licensing authorities do not enjoy unfettered discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a given conviction is substantially related to the relevant professional qualifications. Business and Professions Code section 481 requires each licensing agency to “develop criteria to aid it to determine whether a crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession it regulates.”


The judgment of the trial court was reversed. Donaldson’s license revocation was set aside.  Overall, it was determined that the DRE overreached its’ authority to interpret whether the facts in his case were for crimes involving moral turpitude that were substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.

(5)  Does the BRE have to establish BOTH moral turpitude AND that the crime is substantially related qualifications as a real estate licensee to suspend, revoke, or deny my license?

Key Case: Robbins v. Davi, 175 Cal. App.4th 118 (Cal. Ct. App. 2009)


Robbins, a licensed real estate broker, attorney, and owner/manager of apartments had been convicted of about 50 municipal building code violations that occurred between 1986-1995. In January 2001, he pled nolo contendere and was convicted of three misdemeanor violations of the fire protection and preventions provisions of the Los Angeles Municipal Code — unlawful obstruction of buildings, failing to test a fire signal system, and failing to inspect fire extinguishers.

In March 2003, the BRE filed an accusation alleging that Robbins’ convictions would justify suspension or revocation of his broker’s license due to the crimes involving moral turpitude which were substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee.

After a hearing by an administrative law judge, a decision was issued revoking Robbins’ license.  He concluded that a substantial relationship between Robbins’ convictions and qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee.  Additionally, cause existed for suspension or revocation because the crimes involved moral turpitude (health and safety of apartment inhabitants was at risk).

Procedural Posture

Robbins sought to compel the BRE commissioner to set aside the decision revoking his license, and applied for a stay of the decision, however, the stay and petition to set aside the decision were denied by the trial court.  Robbins’ motion for reconsideration was denied. He filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 8. His main argument was that the BRE was required to, and failed to prove both moral turpitude and a substantial relationship.

Court’s decision

The Court disagreed that BOTH moral turpitude AND substantial relationship had to be proven under the BURDEN OF PROOF. The Court held:

“Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude alone is insufficient for revocation of a license (See also Arneson v. Fox 28 Cal.3d 440 (1980)). The court observed that a statute can constitutionally bar a person from practicing a profession only for reasons related to his fitness or competence to practice that profession” (substantial relationship).

The Court also noted other important factors particularly that the code violations which Robbins was convicted arose from his ownership/management of a profitable apartment rental business.  Further, his convictions stemmed from the “failure to take care of health and safety requirements for the tenants of the apartments.”

Although Robbins argued that this conclusion by the administrative law judge did not involve “honesty or truthfulness and did not impair his performance of professional duties to his clients in an honest and faithful manner,” the court reasoned that because Robbins had an extensive history of code violations, the scope of the violations spoke to Robbins’ lack of integrity.


Robbins’ convictions for municipal code violations, viewed in the context of his extensive history of code violations (repeated violations of law), met the requirement of finding a substantial relationship.  Thus, his license remained revoked.  The morale of the story is that overall, if you were convicted of a crime, the BRE does not need to show that the prior crime or act involved moral turpitude in order to deny, revoke, or suspend your California real estate license.  The BRE needs to only show that the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.

Conclusion (as to the above example cases)

A prior conviction or act, on its face, does not necessarily disqualify an applicant for a real estate salesman or broker’s license.  Substantial evidence must be introduced to support a finding that the crime committed is “substantially related” to the applicant’s qualification as a real estate salesman or broker. 

As a final note, ultimately, all this is required to find a substantial relationship between a crime and the qualifications of the licensee is the “doing of any unlawful act with the intent of conferring a financial or economic benefit upon the perpetrator or with the intent or threat of doing substantial injury to the person or property of another.” (Cal.Code Regs, tit. 10, § 2910, subd. (a)(8)).

Contact a California Real Estate Licensing Law Firm

If you have ANY issue relating to obtaining, defending, protecting or surrendering your real estate license, give us a call.  We are proud to offer (what most law firms will NEVER offer) flat rate legal fees for many of our cases.  To discuss your case with us call us at (877) 276-5084.  We look forward to helping you or your company as we have helped so many others over the past 12 years.

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We are a business and civil litigation firm with a focus on copyright infringement cases involving illegal movie downloads (torrent cases such as London Has Fallen, ME2 Productions and Malibu Media defense), software audits (ex. Microsoft audits, SPLA, Autodesk audit notification letter, Siemens PLM defense, SIIA, Adobe and Business Software Alliance defense) and other software vendors threatening piracy and infringement. We also handle cases involving internet law, anti-SLAPP, media law, right of publicity, trademarks & domain name infringement, and we have a niche practice area handling California BRE licensing disputes, accusations, subpoena response, statement of issues and investigations. We have offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, San Diego & Phoenix, Arizona and accept federal copyright and trademark cases nationwide. All content on our website is general legal information only and not a substitute for legal advice, and should not be relied upon. Decisions to hire counsel should not be based on advertising alone. Blogs, videos and podcasts are authored by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise noted. We can be reached at (877) 276-5084.

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