If you're a realtor or applying for your realtors' license in Pennsylvania, you know what a position of trust you can hold in the community. That's why our state regulates real estate licenses and holds applicants to such high standards. Unfortunately, one mistake can sometimes keep you from pursuing your career in real estate, particularly if you have a past criminal conviction. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, you may have the option to expunge or seal a criminal record so you can become a realtor.
Licensing for Pennsylvania Realtors
In Pennsylvania, the Real Estate Commission safeguards the interests of the public by granting and renewing real estate licenses only to those with a “good reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, and competence to transact the business.” When you apply for a real estate license in Pennsylvania, you'll need to inform the Real Estate Commission about any:
- Criminal convictions
- Sentences imposed by a court
- Guilty pleas
- No contest pleas
If convicted of a crime after you have your license, you'll need to inform the Real Estate Commission within 30 days of any felony or misdemeanor conviction, guilty plea, or no contest plea. In either case, the Real Estate Commission will decide whether to deny your application or revoke or suspend your license based on the severity of the crime and sentence.
The crimes most likely to prevent you from obtaining a Pennsylvania license or to result in disciplinary action from the Real Estate Commission are those that demonstrate a lack of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, and competency. These crimes include:
- Inchoate crimes like conspiracy or solicitation
- Violent crimes
- Insurance or mortgage-related offenses
- Any theft-related crimes
In some cases, a single offense may not prevent you from holding a real estate license in Pennsylvania, depending on the severity of the crime. The Real Estate Commission is looking for a pattern of criminal conduct or deceptive behavior. However, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania expungement attorney to determine your best options for the future.
Criminal Background Checks for Realtors in Pennsylvania
As part of your licensing in Pennsylvania, you'll need to undergo a criminal background check. However, this won't happen until after you've submitted your application, completed the pre-licensing real estate course, and passed the real estate licensing exam. Meaning you won't find out if your criminal history will disqualify you until after you've already put in many hours of work and study to become a realtor. That's why it's a good idea to consult an experienced expungement attorney before you begin this process.
Under Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act, you don't have to report arrests that don't result in a conviction or convictions for summary offenses, which are offenses less serious than misdemeanors or felonies. Summary offenses carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and up to a $1,500 fine.
Who Can Expunge a Criminal Record in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, in addition to the lowest summary offenses, there are also more serious misdemeanors and felonies. While summary offenses can result in up to 90 days in jail, typically, a conviction will only result in a fine. However, misdemeanors and felonies can result in more serious jail time and hefty fines. Felonies are the most serious criminal convictions.
While Pennsylvania law has progressed with respect to expunging criminal records in recent years, you can still only expunge an offense in limited situations. You can expunge:
- A conviction for a summary offense if you haven't been arrested or prosecuted in five years
- Non-convictions, such as crimes where the police charged you but dropped the charges, or a court dismissed the charges, found you not guilty, or disposed of the crime “nolle prose,” meaning the prosecutor agreed not to pursue the charges
- DUI convictions that happened before you were 21 if you are now over 21 and served your entire sentence
Juvenile offenses aren't officially considered part of your criminal record. But for teens and those adjudicated delinquent of violent crimes, the records may be publicly available. If this applies to you, you should consult an attorney to see if you'll need to disclose these convictions.
If you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction, you can't typically expunge it from your record. That means that some crimes that can disqualify you from getting a real estate license can't be expunged in Pennsylvania. However, you may be able to seal these records in some situations. To determine whether you're eligible for expungement of a criminal conviction, you should consult a Pennsylvania expungement attorney right away.
Who Can Seal a Criminal Record in Pennsylvania?
Even if you can't expunge a misdemeanor or felony before applying for a real estate license, sealing your record may also be an option for some non-violent crimes, including drug convictions, under Pennsylvania law. See Act 5 of 2016. While expungement is a court order that requires the state to destroy records related to an arrest or conviction, sealing a record doesn't destroy your existing records. Rather, sealing your records removes them from public view.
Under Pennsylvania law, you can seal records if:
- You don't have any convictions more serious than a second-degree or third-degree misdemeanor on your record
- You haven't been arrested in the last ten years
- You don't have any felony, first-degree misdemeanor, or second-degree misdemeanor simple assault convictions
- You completed your sentence, including serving any time, paying your court costs, and paying your fines
- You have more than four misdemeanor convictions
Pennsylvania law mandates that the state seal some criminal records automatically under the Clean Slate Act of 2018. The state will automatically seal records for:
- Any charges with a not guilty verdict
- Any arrest that didn't end in a conviction
- Any non-violent criminal convictions after ten years
- Any misdemeanor offenses for fewer than two years in prison
After sealing your records, the state removes them from public view. As a result, many routine background checks won't show sealed records, and you won't be legally required to disclose them in most cases. While routine background checks, like those run by potential employers or landlords, won't reveal sealed records, any background check that includes a criminal FBI background check will. Moreover, law enforcement agencies will still have access to these records.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Expungement Lawyer
Deciphering Pennsylvania law regarding expungement and sealing criminal records can be difficult. If you're concerned about applying for or retaining your Pennsylvania real estate license, you don't need to figure this out alone. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Pennsylvanians with expungement and sealing issues for years, and he can help you too. Call Joseph Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation or contact them online today.