Whether you are a Texas real estate sales agent, real estate broker, easement and right-of-way agent, real estate education provider, or timeshare plan developer, you are subject to the authority of the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). TREC is also the agency that licensing process for all real estate professionals.
A person or business can file a complaint against you or any other real estate professional if they believe you have violated the Real Estate License Act or TREC rules. These complaints can be the source of disciplinary action against your license. Likewise, if you are convicted of or plead nolo contendre to certain criminal offenses, you can face disciplinary action from TREC. Acting quickly to get legal advice from an experienced real estate license defense lawyer can be key to successfully defending your license in these situations.
Reporting Criminal Convictions to TREC
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A common source of TREC disciplinary action is allegations of criminal conduct by a real estate agent or other real estate professionals. TREC has no authority to revoke or suspend a license holder accused of or facing criminal charges. However, once there has been a final conviction, or the license holder has pled guilty or nolo contendre to a felony or a criminal offense involving fraud, Section 1101.652(a)(1) of the Real Estate License Act gives TREC the authority to take disciplinary action.
License holders must notify TREC of these criminal convictions no later than 30 days following their final convictions or pleas of guilty or nolo contendre to felonies or crimes involving fraud, including misdemeanor offenses that involve fraud. Although all renewals of real estate licenses require a background check, you still must report these criminal convictions. Failure to report these convictions can lead to more severe sanctions against your license.
Factors that TREC Considers in Determining Sanctions
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A conviction for a felony or a criminal offense involving fraud does not automatically mean that you will lose your real estate license. Certainly, for some very serious felony offenses, revocation of your license may be inevitable. However, in other cases, you may be able to build a strong case to retain your license and minimize your exposure to any discipline.
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TREC must consider the following factors under Tex. Occ. Code § 53.023 in deciding what disciplinary action to take against your license following a conviction for a felony or a criminal offense involving fraud:
- the extent and nature of the person’s past criminal activity;
- the age of the person when they committed the crime;
- the amount of time that has elapsed since the person’s last criminal activity;
- the conduct and work activity of the person before and after the criminal activity;
- evidence of the person’s rehabilitation or rehabilitative effort while incarcerated or after release;
- evidence of the person’s compliance with any conditions of community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision; and
- other evidence of the person’s fitness, including letters of recommendation
Criminal Convictions and Your Ability to Obtain a Real Estate License
Specific criminal convictions also may impact your ability to obtain a real estate license in the first place. Fortunately, TREC provides an optional process that you can go through to determine if you are eligible for a real estate license before you even apply for a license. By requesting a Fitness Determination (FD), you can gauge your eligibility for a real estate license before going through all the time and effort necessary to get a license and then finding out that you are ineligible.
Qualifying for a real estate license requires you to meet TREC honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity requirements. Past criminal convictions can affect your ability to meet those requirements. You can obtain an FD by submitting an FD Form to TREC and any other required documentation.
Keep in mind that FD is not a full background check, so you should disclose all misdemeanor and felony offenses, no matter how old they are. You also should disclose criminal cases for which you were placed on parole, probation, community supervision, or cases that the court later dismissed.
Once TREC receives your FD Form, additional documentation, and fee, it will review your information and respond in 30 days. TREC can deny you a real estate license based on a criminal offense that is directly related to the license. TREC Rules §541.1 lists the following criminal offenses as being directly related to a real estate license, in that they relate to a person’s ability to represent the interests of another with honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity:
- Offenses involving fraud or misrepresentation;
- Offenses involving forgery, falsification of records, or perjury;
- Offenses involving the offering, paying, or taking of bribes, kickbacks, or other illegal compensation;
- Offenses against real or personal property belonging to another;
- Offenses against the person;
- Offenses against public administration;
- Offenses involving the sale or other disposition of real or personal property belonging to another without authorization of law;
- Offenses involving moral turpitude;
- Sexual offenses;
- Offenses for which a person is required to register as a sex offender;
- Felonies involving the manufacture, delivery, or intent to deliver controlled substances;
- Offenses of attempting or conspiring to commit any of these offenses;
- Offenses involving aiding and abetting the commission of an offense any of these offenses;
- Repeated violations of one criminal statute or multiple violations of different criminal statutes; and
- Felonies involving DWI or DUI
While these crimes do not automatically disqualify you from getting a real estate license, they can cause TREC to deny you licensure. The circumstances surrounding these offenses and other information that you submit to support your FD or licensing application can affect whether you ultimately will qualify for a real estate license.
We Are Here to Defend You Before TREC
When you receive a complaint from TREC that could impact your real estate license, you may be unsure where to turn first. Our professional real estate license defense attorneys stand ready to represent your interests and defend you from the allegations against you. Call us today at (512) 476-5757 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.