California Real Estate License With Criminal Record

Photo by Brian Babb on Unsplash

Applicants for a real estate license in California must meet the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) standards for eligibility. DOJ and FBI criminal background checks are performed on all applicants to ensure that the applicant is able to function as a real estate broker or sales agent.

A further investigation into the CalBRE’s criminal screening process is warranted to identify the illegal behavior that results in the application being denied and what conduct does not cause ineligibility for a real estate license.

Disclosure of Your Convictions

The disclosure of all prior convictions and pending criminal charges is required for all real estate license applicants. Convictions include:

  • a guilty verdict by judge or jury;
  • a guilty plea;
  • a nolo contendere (no contest) plea; and
  • bail forfeiture within any court system (state, commonwealth, possession or country).

To ensure that every applicant does not have a criminal record that conflicts with the duties of a licensed real estate professional, the CalBRE conducts a detailed background check against DOJ and FBI records via Live Scan Fingerprinting. [Cal Bus & Prof Code §10177(b)]

What Crimes Will Cause My Application To Be Denied

The CalBRE lists the following convictions that commonly result in the application being denied:

  • assault with intent to commit rape;
  • bribing a public officer or employee;
  • burglary;
  • criminal conspiracy;
  • embezzlement;
  • extortion;
  • filing false police or fire reports;
  • forgery;
  • fraud;
  • grand and petty theft;
  • murder;
  • obtaining money by false pretense;
  • perjury;
  • sexually related conduct affecting a non-consenting observer or participant;
  • possession of drugs for sale or transport;
  • soliciting a lewd act from a minor or non-consenting adult; and
  • tax evasion.

CalBRE’s Criminal Background Review & “Substantial Relationship”

Each conviction is carefully considered by the CalBRE before the decision is made to approve or deny the application. A broad recommendation to deny an applicant occurs when the applicant:

  • has a felony or misdemeanor conviction substantially related to one’s performance as a licensed real estate professional;
  • had a business/professional license against which a state or federal government agency took administrative action; or
  • failed to disclose any criminal charges or disciplinary action against them.

Denial of an application based on a criminal record requires that the convictions or actions are substantially related to the fitness to practice as a real estate professional [Cal Bus & Prof Code §480].

A substantial relationship is used to define criminal activity that demonstrates a lack of fit between the applicant and the role of a real estate agent. This relationship exists when the criminal activity includes:

  • fraudulently taking or appropriating another person’s funds or property;
  • counterfeiting, forging or altering an instrument or making a false statement;
  • willfully attempting to gain financial benefit through nonpayment of government taxes, assessments or levies;
  • bribery, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
  • sexual conduct affecting a non-consenting observer or participant;
  • willfully violating or failing to comply with laws controlling professional real estate licenses;
  • willfully engaging in business activity without obtaining a license or permit required to carry out the activity;
  • committing an unlawful act for financial or economic benefit, or with the intent of harming another person or property;
  • willfully failing to comply with a court order;
  • conduct that demonstrates a repeated disregard for the law; or
  • two or more convictions involving alcohol consumption or drug use when at least one of the convictions involves driving under the influence. [CalBRE Regulations §2910]

In summary, the screening process is to identify criminal activity demonstrating a dishonest and unethical behavior that conflicts with the typical duties of a real estate agent or broker.

My Criminal Activity Took Place A Long Time Age, I Have Changed.

The CalBRE does look at each crime separately. If the applicant has taken steps to rehabilitate themselves or other legal steps within the court system, the criminal record may not cause the application to be denied.

Rehabilitation efforts and the severity of each crime, are considered by the CalBRE. Rehabilitation is demonstrated when the applicant’s activities include:

  • payment of restitution to injured party;
  • expungement of sex offender registration;
  • enrollment in or the completion of an economic self-improvement course(s);
  • the discharge of debts; and,
  • if two years have passed since the most recent criminal conviction. [CalBRE Regs §2911]

Legal steps within the court system to clear your record, such as a certificate of rehabilitation or expungement, will certainly help your chances of having your real estate license application approved.

A pending charge or arrest cannot be the basis of the denial of an application. [Cal Bus & Prof Code §10177(b)] A real estate application/license shall not be denied solely on:

Will Delinquent Taxes or Back Child Support Affect My Application?

The CalBRE is required to reject an applicant that:

  • has outstanding tax obligations, to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) or State Board of Equalization, over $100,000; or
  • failed to comply with court-ordered child support payments.

Child Support Arrears: If the applicant meets all other qualifications, except for being current with child support payments, the CalBRE may issue a license that is valid for 150-days. This allows the applicant to pay any back child support payments. To avoid license revocation, clearance from the Department of Child Support Services must be received by the CalBRE within the 150 days. The applicant’s cost for processing the temporary license is $95. [CalBRE Regs §2716.5]

Delinquent Taxes: If the only reason for the applicant being denied is outstanding tax obligations, the CalBRE may issue a license that is valid for 90-days, within which the debt is to be satisfied. The CalBRE must receive confirmation from the FTB or BOE that the applicant is paid in full else the license will be revoked.

Applicants are not entitled to a refund of application fees. [Cal Bus & Prof Code §494.5(g)(3)]

Even though delinquent tax or child support payments are not considered by the CalBRE to indicative of being unfit for licensure, these delinquencies cause an automatic block to application approval.

Illegal Aliens and Non-Citizens

Since January 1, 2016, citizenship or immigration status is no longer used by the CalBRE as a basis to deny an application.

Further Reading

The complete regulations of the California Real Estate Commissioner (CalBRE Regs)

Originally published at on March 9, 2019.



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Stephen Kinzey, Ph.D.

Stephen Kinzey, Ph.D.

Solution based life coach and speaker committed to motivating and inspiring single parents to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of their dreams.