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By Elias Magers 

A real estate license background check decides if you qualify to become an agent in California.

The Department of Real Estate (DRE) requires all California license applicants to take one. This is because they want to maintain the integrity and safety of the industry.

So, what happens when you want to get your real estate license but have a criminal history? Does this mean it can’t happen?

Wrong! Even with a criminal background, you can still qualify for a license in California.

In this article, you will learn what will disqualify you, how background checks work, and how you can submit a real estate live scan.

What Disqualifies You From Getting a Real Estate License?

Outside of not fulfilling the basic requirements, there is one thing that disqualifies you from a license. That is your criminal background check.

A real estate license background check occurs when the DRE reviews what crimes (if any) you have committed. Depending on the crimes, the DRE will stop you from practicing real estate in California.

But, the DRE doesn’t disqualify you for any crime you have committed. According to § 10177(b) of the Business and Professions Code, the DRE will disqualify applicants based on crimes “Substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.”

In other words, they only disqualify license applicants based on how relevant that crime is to your career as a real estate agent.

Can You Get a Real Estate License with a Felony?

Can you still get a real estate license if you have a felony? The answer is: it depends. If your felony relates to the work or duties of being a real estate agent, then the DRE will disqualify you from getting your license.

This rule goes for any type of crime, whether it be a felony or misdemeanor. But, it does not pertain to infractions.

At the end of the day, the DRE determines what crimes relate to being a real estate agent.

Note: The DRE cannot solely deny applicants based on a pending criminal conviction. The issuance of a license cannot get denied while they are charged with an indictment, arraignment, or similar charging procedure. 

Should You Still Apply to Get a Real Estate License if You Have a Felony?

You can still apply to get a real estate license even if you have a felony. But, there is no guarantee that you won’t get disqualified. The best course of action, if you want to become a real estate agent and you have a felony, is to be transparent.

Contact the DRE to see if you are still qualified. Don’t try to sweep anything under the rug when you do. You want to learn if the DRE will disqualify you based on your true past actions. Also, the DRE performs an extensive background check. So, you will get caught hiding the truth.

How Does a Real Estate License Background Check Work?

A real estate license background is required to become an agent in California. This is something that every applicant must do. 

Applicants must complete a fingerprint live scan. Police departments, notary offices, and other private businesses can conduct a live scan. You can find a state-approved list of California live scan locations by clicking here.

After completing your live scan, you must submit your classifiable fingerprint to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Then, the DOJ will inform the DRE of your past criminal convictions and arrests. 

The DOJ will put your fingerprints into their database so they can notify the DRE if you get convicted of a crime or arrested in the future.

How Far Back Does a Real Estate Background Check Go?

The background check returns information on an applicant’s entire history. This is why we recommend all real estate license applicants, with a criminal history, are honest and transparent.

Keep in mind, the DRE works with the DOJ to perform your real estate license background check. So, this is as thorough and complete as it gets.

What is a Real Estate Live Scan?

A live scan is an electronic scan of a person’s fingerprint used for identification purposes. Live scans are the industry standard to perform background checks on anyone applying for their real estate license.

The processing and recording of a live scan can take upwards of 72 hours to complete. The DOJ shares the fingerprint with law enforcement agencies to record all criminal activity committed by a person. 

Once committed, the DOJ contacts the DRE about the crime. Then the DRE carries out disciplinary actions to the license carrier. 

How to Fill out a Real Estate Live Scan Form

Let’s cover how you can fulfill the live scan part of your license application.

First, you download the RE 237 form from the DRE website, which you can find by clicking here. Once completed, you should print 3 copies of this form.

Second, fill out the 3 forms as much as possible. Some sections of the form need the live scan service provider to fill out.

After you have filled out all 3 RE 237 forms, the live scan service provider has filled out their sections, and the fingerprint has been taken, you can mail the forms. 

The fingerprint service provider will take one of your copies. You will hold onto one of the copies. Then, you will mail your final copy to the DRE at the following address:

Department of Real Estate
P.O. Box 137002
Sacramento, CA.
95813-7002
Attn: Fingerprint Desk

How Much Does a Real Estate Live Scan Cost?

The cost of a real estate live scan varies from service providers. Typically, you will spend no more than $50. But, every provider will have 2 separate fees:

  • A processing fee
  • A service fee

The provider, on the DOJ’s behalf, collects your fingerprint processing fee. 

The service fee is charged by the service provider for taking the electronic fingerprint. This is typically the fluctuating cost, depending on the provider.

Final Thoughts on Your Real Estate License Background Check

The real estate license background check is a DRE requirement. This is to ensure the integrity and safety of all California real estate agents.

A criminal history can disqualify you from becoming a real estate agent. But, this depends on whether the crime relates to the duties and responsibilities of being an agent.

Applicants with a criminal history should always be honest about their past. Transparency can work in an applicant’s favor. But, nothing is guaranteed and ultimately comes down to whether the DRE decides how the past will affect the future.


Every week, we release in-depth videos to help viewers become successful real estate agents on our CA Realty Training YouTube Channel. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article, we would love if you could share it with a friend who you think would get something out of it.
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