Criminal Convictions and Real Estate Licensure

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Consider this: you make the financial investment and commit the time necessary to take all of the courses in order to obtain a real estate salesperson license. Next, you complete the formal application to sit for the examination. On the application, you disclose a decades-old criminal conviction. You think, certainly, this is not disqualifying for licensure, right? Who knows? Unfortunately, if your application is denied, because of the conviction, you cannot recouple the time and money you’ve already spent toward the enterprise. Considering the investment to obtain licensure, wouldn’t it be helpful to know first whether your criminal conviction is disqualifying?

Beginning April 4, 2019, individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense can make application to the Ohio Division of Real Estate for a preliminary determination on whether the conviction disqualifies the individual from obtaining a professional license. This measure is not just limited to real estate but includes any profession that is regulated by an Ohio licensing authority or any occupation or profession that is regulated by a political subdivision. The new law will afford individuals the opportunity to determine before they spend time and money to qualify for the license, whether their conviction is disqualifying.

The law requires applicants to file an application with the licensing authority, detail the nature of their criminal conviction, and pay up to a $25 fee. The licensing authority then has 30 days to review the application and inform the individual whether the criminal conviction disqualifies the individual from obtaining a license. There is a caveat. The licensing authority is not bound by its decision if you did not fully disclose the nature of the conviction. Last, the licensing authority is required to display on its website a list of those convictions which will disqualify an individual from obtaining licensure.

For real estate licensees, once licensed, you have an affirmative obligation to self-report to the Superintendent any felony conviction or misdemeanor conviction for a crime or moral turpitude. Generally, crimes of moral turpitude include sexually oriented offenses and offenses of violence. Recently an Ohio court found a crime of moral turpitude to include:

  • Conduct involving an intent to defraud either a person or society
  • Convictions involving underlying conduct establishing dishonesty or falsification
  • Misdemeanor convictions involving egregious sexual misconduct

The licensee must self-report within 15 days of the conviction. If the licensee fails to self-report, the Superintendent can automatically suspend the license without any preliminary process or hearing. If the licensee timely self-reports, the Superintendent will determine whether to initiate an enforcement action against the licensee. During the Division’s investigation, the licensee can remain licensed and practice.

There are avenues for individuals to practice chosen occupations, even with a criminal conviction. First survey your options and take advantage of the processes to determine whether the conviction is disqualifying. Second, once licensed, be sure to follow your occupation’s procedures for self-reporting any convictions. Understanding how your licensing authority treats criminal convictions will aid in assuring you are compliant with admission and disclosure requirements.