Are you thinking about a career in real estate, but wondering what the background check requirements are for a real estate license? If you’re considering starting a new career as a real estate agent, a real estate broker, a mortgage lender, a property manager, a leasing agent, or a property appraiser, you’ll need to get your real estate license. The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) sets criteria for licensing. You will have to complete the education requirements, fill out an application, take a test, and—gulp—pass a background check.

What sorts of things will the DRE look for when determining whether to issue you a real estate license? Let’s go right to the source and see what the DRE says about background checks.

The DRE says that it uses “Criteria of Substantial Relationship” to determine whether an applicant’s criminal history would disqualify them for a real estate license. That means that it looks at whether the prior crime is “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee.” Essentially, you have to think about what duties a real estate licensee performs, and figure out whether the crime you were convicted of would pose a risk.

Which Crimes are “Substantially Related” for a Real Estate License?

First, we need to look at what sorts of things real estate licensees do. They handle money, if their clients give them a deposit for a down payment on a property. Also, they might drive clients around to show them different available properties. In addition, a real estate agent would also have access to vacant properties through a lock box.

Starting with those key job functions, we can get an idea of what the DRE will be looking for. A real estate licensee has to be trustworthy. Convictions for theft, embezzlement, or things of that nature would probably disqualify you. The DRE isn’t going to trust you with clients’ money if you have a record as a thief. Likewise, the DRE probably wouldn’t trust you with lock box access to a property if you’ve been convicted of theft. If you were going out of town, you wouldn’t leave the keys to your house to a thief, would you?

A real estate licensee also has to be a safe driver. A prior misdemeanor DUI conviction might disqualify you. A felony DUI conviction would likely be an even bigger problem. Most vehicular issues are infractions, which probably wouldn’t have a huge impact on your license. But if you’ve got some more serious violations that arose to the misdemeanor or felony level, that could be a real hurdle.

Another thing the DRE will probably be thinking about is public safety. As a licensed real estate person, you might be spending one-on-one time with clients. The DRE might worry about whether a client would be safe with you, alone, in an empty house or car. Previous convictions for assault, battery, or domestic violence could be a real problem.

What if I Have a Conviction in One of Those Areas? Is There Anything I Can Do to Clear My Record?

Now you should have a general idea of the background check requirements for a real estate license. Think about your own criminal history. Is there anything on your rap sheet that might pose a problem? If so, you have a few choices.

One, you can abandon your dreams of a career in real estate. That’s depressing. And that can cost you a lost of money in lost income over the rest of your lifetime.

Two, you can apply anyway, and hope for the best. On your real estate license application, you have to disclose all misdemeanor and felony convictions. That’s your best chance to try to explain the circumstances of your conviction and to put them in their best light.

Or three, you can try to get your problematic convictions expunged. Will it make a difference on your real estate license application? Unfortunately, the DRE doesn’t give any clear answers for that. But the general consensus is YES, that an expungement can make a big difference.

Why Would Getting My Record Expunged Help Me Get a Real Estate License?

Let’s be clear: even if you expunge your convictions, you will need to disclose them to the DRE. The DRE will see everything on your live scan report, including expunged convictions. If you don’t disclose an expunged conviction, the DRE will probably deny your application based on dishonesty.

So if you’re disclosing your convictions to the DRE anyway, why would an expungement make a difference? Because an expunged conviction tells the DRE a few things. First, it says that you did your time. You completed your sentence and fulfilled all of the conditions of your probation. You can’t get an expungement if you haven’t done all of that.

Second, an expungement tells the DRE that the courts consider you to be rehabilitated. Not everyone can get an expungement. You have to meet certain criteria. And ultimately, a judge has to approve it. Judges are just people, but they are people in a very important position. They’re generally smart, educated, and in a very respected position of authority. Getting the sign-off from someone in a black robe is meaningful.

The DRE isn’t required to accept a judge’s determination that you’re rehabilitated. However, you can see why the agency would give it a lot of weight. If you have convinced a judge that you’ve learned your lesson, odds are really good that the DRE will agree with the judge’s determination and grant you your license.

How Do I Go About Expunging My Record?

So now you know the background check requirements for a real estate license, and you know what convictions might affect your ability to get your license. How do you expunge those convictions from your record?

Well, you could try to expunge your record yourself, if you like. We don’t really recommend that you try it yourself because it can be pretty complicated. If you want to read about how to do that and decide whether it’s something you want to tackle, click here.

If you don’t feel comfortable expunging your own record, contact us. We can evaluate your case and help you determine if expungement is right for you.

Call us today at (949) 252-2634 to get started!