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Can I apply for a Florida Real estate license if I have a criminal record?

by Kacie Goff on 2019-09-26 3:25pm

Can I Get a Florida Real Estate License With a Criminal Record?

If you’re interested in becoming a real estate agent in the state of Florida but you have a criminal record, you might be feeling a little concerned about the application process. There’s no need to be too worried, though. While there are a few specific types of felonies that bar you from getting your license, not all felonies are a deal-breaker. It all comes down to the specific crime or crimes you committed, how much time has passed, and how the state perceives your character now. 

Want the specifics? Here’s a guide on how to get a real estate license in Florida, even with a criminal background. 

Why does a criminal record matter for real estate agents?

First things first, let’s get clear on why the state of Florida even cares if you’ve committed crimes in the past. It all comes down to the job you’ll be doing. As a real estate agent, you’ll probably have keys to peoples’ homes. You’ll have access to private spaces and will often be in houses alone with people who don’t know you. 

On top of that, you’re going to be dealing with large sums of money. For most people, buying and selling a home is one of the biggest money moves they’ll make in their life. They want to know they can trust the people handling this transaction, so a history of financial misdealings is a major problem. 

In short, the state wants to protect people against any issues by ensuring the real estate agents they work with are of good moral character. And the way they determine if you have good moral character is by looking at your background. Crimes, especially crimes related to the mishandling of money, are a problem. 

How will the state know I have a criminal background?

If you’re thinking you can just not mention your criminal record on your Florida real estate license application, think again. They have a few safeguards built in to ensure they get a true look at you as a person. And that can be good news for you. If you have a criminal record but it’s been years since your last offense and you can show good moral character now, you have a much higher likelihood of getting your real estate license. 

So how does the state know about your background? They have two ways to check. First, when you fill out your initial sales associate application, they have a whole section dedicated to background questions. They specifically ask you if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. And to encourage truth-telling, they make you sign your application right after giving a big, bolded reminder that falsifying information on it could result in a criminal penalty. 

But that’s not all. When you send in that application, you have to include your electronic fingerprints. And the state runs them through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database and FBI databases. So lying on your application definitely doesn’t serve you. In fact, it will almost definitely result in your application being denied. 

Will my application be rejected if I have a criminal background?

Not necessarily. It all depends on the specific crimes on your record and how much time has passed since them. If you have a capital or first-degree felony, for example, your application will be denied. But if you committed a felony like tax evasion or breaking and entering and it’s been 15 years, your application might get approved. You can get an idea of which felonies are dealbreakers and which ones have waiting periods on Florida’s Chief Financial Officer’s website

If you have a misdemeanor on your record, your application will most likely be approved. Either way, you won’t know until you send in your application and get an answer. 

When you submit your application, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) gathers your background report. They then make a recommendation about you to the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC), which makes the final decision about whether or not to approve your application. 

In some cases, the FREC will schedule a hearing with you about your criminal offenses. This is your opportunity to plead your case and explain why you should still be able to get your real estate license. You can bring legal representation to help, too. The FREC approves the majority of the people with whom they schedule these hearings, so don’t panic if they ask for a hearing with you. 

My application was approved. Now what?

If your application gets approved, it’s time to move onto the next steps in the licensing process. Here’s a quick overview of your to-dos to meet the Florida real estate license requirements: 

  1. Complete your Florida real estate license course: In order to become a real estate sales associate, you need to complete 63 hours of Florida real estate school. You can take the required Florida sales associate license course online, meaning you can take your classes whenever and wherever it is convenient for you. And the best Florida real estate license school options double as exam prep for the Florida real estate exam. So by the time you’ve finished your hours, you’ll be ready to pass your exam with flying colors.
  2. Pass the real estate exam: Florida works with a company called Pearson VUE to administer the three and a half hour exam all real estate agents have to take. Schedule your exam on their website. Then, try not to stress. You only need to score 75% to pass.
  3. Find a broker to hire you: Once you’ve passed your exam, the final piece to activating your Florida real estate license is the last application. You need to get the broker or company that hires you to sign it. Once they have, send it in and you’re ready to start working as a real estate agent. 

 

Not all criminal offenses disqualify you from working as a real estate agent in Florida. The only way to know if the Florida Real Estate Commission will approve you for a license is to send in your application and wait for their answer. Good luck!