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How to apply for California real estate license with prior criminal convictions

Feb 10th, 2015 | By | Category: Real Estate Broker Law

General Tips to help you apply for your California real estate license following conviction of a crime.

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When you are convicted of a crime in California (or other state) and you have served your time, paid your fees, and rehabilitated yourself, getting your real estate license may be something that pops up on your radar.  When this happens, you feel excited about a new career in mortgage lending, residential or commercial real estate, property management or some other aspect of real estate law (such as business opportunities).  At the same time, you also wonder if your prior criminal conviction is going to hold you back and cause a denial of rights to an original real estate license.



Determining whether your prior criminal conviction is “substantially related” to real estate duties, functions and qualifications.

For past crimes and criminal convictions that are substantially related to the Duties, Qualifications, and Functions of a real estate professional, you might have to wait more than two years before applying.  We have discussed these types of crimes on our blog regarding not pleading guilty to a crime when you have a real estate license.

For all other crimes (ex. criminal software copyright infringement), applying for the real estate license after two years would be a possibility.  Another problem area with real estate licensees is having two or more DUI’s.

So this first step is to decide what type of crime you were convicted of.  You will have to disclose your conviction details on your application.  For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume you had a prior criminal conviction that you can adequately explain you have been rehabilitated from.

Steps to apply for the license with the DRE

1.  Pull down the DRE RE 216 license checklist.  This will give you a good guide to go on.

2.  If you have already passed your salesperson exam, you will be sent a RE 202 Salesperson license application.

3.  If you are applying for the examination you can fill out the RE 435 form.  This form allows you to apply for the examination, and submit your application materials all in one.

4.  You will need to have your fingerprints taken (LIVE SCAN) and a $49.00 processing fee has to be paid (on top of fees to get fingerprinted).  This allows the BRE to run your criminal background check.  Check out form RE 237 live scan.

5.  Fill out RE 205 (proof of legal presence) and submit the form that establishes your US Citizenship or alien status.

6.  Prepare the proper filing fees ($60 exam fee / $245 application fee).  You can pay by check, or credit card.  For credit card payments use form RE 909.

These are the basic forms you will need to fill out.  Part of the 435 from will ask you to disclose your prior criminal convictions.  Disclose EVERYTHING.   If you fail to disclose, your chances of getting a license go down significantly and could cost you a chance at obtaining the California real estate license.  You will need to disclose all your prior convictions, PLUS, show the BRE rehabilitation factors.  Se RE Form 222

Important factors to put into a cover letter

  • Own up to the crime.  There is nothing worse than someone who is still in denial and claiming they weren’t actually guilty (after they have already agreed to a plea deal).  While this technically may be true, it is time to move on from being defensive and move to being remorseful.
  • Be specific about the detail of your crime.  Tell your story.  Crime stories are actually very interesting, and telling your story will help the investigator understand your case.
  • Take full responsibility for your actions.  As a real estate professional, you will need to take accountability for your actions.  You need to show the BRE that you can be trusted to deal with the public in real estate transactions, and you do this by accepting responsibility for your past actions.
  • Make sure to submit ample character reference letters.  The BRE will want to see that you have friends, acquaintances and business associates who will vouch for your good character (get letters from friends, family, pastor, counselors, neighbors, and those you have done business with).
  • Point out in detail your volunteer activitities.   If you are not engaged in any, go sign up for some voluntary activities.  You will usually find you will get personal satisfaction from giving back, but your reference letters and volunteer activities will have a strong impact on your real estate application.
  • Go into details on the 9211 rehabilitation factors.  They investigator reviewing your application will want to see your remorse, your maturity, and your changed attitudes.

In short, your cover letter is very important.  This is your time to shine.  Take some time and get it right with all the attachments, letters, and supplements you need.

ATTORNEY DOCUMENT:  Go to our Attorney Steve Legal Docs page.  We offer a sample letter to apply for a real estate license with past criminal convictions with the Department of Real Estate.  This is a great letter to save you time.  There may be additional requirements not mentioned above to obtain a real estate license as qualifications, procedures, and processes are subject to change without notice.

Expunged criminal convictions must be reported

Click on the picture above to learn more about our real estate licensing legal services.  Don’t forget, if you are in real estate, make sure to click on the RED “V” to subscribe to our business & real estate youtube channel!  Great video legal news!

BRE Resources

1.  BRE Guide to applying for real estate license in CA

2. Qualifications and requirements to obtain a real estate license in California

3. Tips to avoid denial of CA real estate license

Have a California real estate attorney put your package together

While you can always prepare and submit your own materials and letters of explanation and rehabilitation, frankly speaking, we believe our BRE Defense Lawyers write better letters and submit a better “package” to the Bureau of Real Estate than you can.  We are objective and persuasive, and we seek to make sure we capture all the important points and cite any relevant case law that need to go into your submission package.  To help out, we offer low flat rate fees to get you started. For more information, contact our real estate licensing hotline at (877) 276-5084 or fill out the contact form below.  We will have one of our attorneys or friendly contact you to discuss your case, normally within the hour.





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