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New Law Changes Criminal History Policy for Professional Licensure Boards

by Wayne Crawford, Esq. on

The state General Assembly passed several criminal justice reform bills over the past few weeks, including Senate Bill 637 (Disanto, R-Dauphin) that will have an impact on real estate licensing for applicants with a criminal history. SB637 unanimously passed both the Senate and House and was signed into law by the governor as Act 53 of 2020.

Act 53 clarifies that conviction of a crime does not automatically preclude someone from being issued a state professional or occupational license. The state licensing boards/commissions must first determine if the applicant’s particular criminal offense is directly related to the duties, functions and responsibilities of the license applied for, and then must conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant.

The law also requires the boards/commissions to begin issuing preliminary licensure determinations, whereby individuals with criminal convictions may ask whether their criminal history precludes licensure prior to obtaining the education required for issuance. Each board/commission is required to establish a list of the criminal offenses that may constitute grounds for denial.

The Department of State has 180 days to develop and publish a best practices guide for applicants with criminal convictions, and the commissioner has 180 days to publish a schedule of convictions specific to each board/commission that would be grounds for denial or revocation.

PAR will be reaching out to both the State Real Estate Commission and Board of Appraisers to learn how they intend to implement this new application process, and we will continue to communicate with members as we receive additional information.


Criminal conviction Pennsylvania State Real Estate Commission
Comments (4)


  • David Dean    July 13, 2020 | 10:54 am

    Wow. Okay. I’m not sure why this swiftly passed in Harrisburg and other more pressing matters languish but I’ll just say that I never heard boo about this from anyone and I’m not sure this gives the public more confidence in the professional and fiduciary backgrounds of real estate agents. I can’t see how any criminal background makes the public feel safe working with an agent who has one and other than jaywalking or spitting why do we want criminals as agents? Thanks PA for lowering an already low bar even lower.

    Reply to David Dean
    • Lerner, Hank    July 13, 2020 | 6:05 pm

      The thrust of the new law is that a licensing body must be clearer about the types of violations that it MIGHT consider as disqualifying, and that it must provide an effective individualized review of each license candidate who may have something in their background. For example, a licensing body might say that DUI would be a potential problem, but a candidate with a single DUI 15 years ago would likely be treated differently than one who is on his 3d DUI in the last 5 years.

      In many ways this actually reflects some of the current practices already in place when the Commission reviews new applicants, but it may be more of a change for other licensing bodies. One very positive outcome here is that each licensing board will have to create a pre-review process where a potential applicant can get a read on their ability to get a license before working on the education or other prerequisites. For example, right now a potential salesperson licensee would have to take the pre-license and apply for the exam before the Commission would make a decision on issuing a license. Under the new process this can be handled in advance so candidates will know whether they’re able to move forward or not.

      Reply to Lerner, Hank
  • Mary Lynne Deets    July 13, 2020 | 1:04 pm

    As a Fundaments instrutor for 30 years this is long overdue. I have students with minor offences ask me if they should continue to try to get a license and I had no definite answer since there has never been any true guidelines.
    I am also upset with the lack of decision making in general over the years. We definitely need to look at the commission overall . Changes need to be made and the place to start is with PAR goverment affairs committee.
    I am well aware of how long it takes to get anything changed by our goverment in this state. 10 years to change license law is totally unacceptable when other states can pass new laws in a year or so.

    Reply to Mary Lynne Deets
  • Chris Rader    July 15, 2020 | 8:29 am

    As an instructor for pre-licensing in PA, I’m very happy to see this! I have had students in my classes that never would be eligible to receive a license or possibly might not be able to, but didn’t know that ahead of time. They paid for the course, spent 10 weeks coming to classes, to find out that they can’t or might not get a license. I think it’s important to have those guidelines given to the public ahead of time, so they know if they are eligible or not, prior to taking classes. I absolutely believe we should hold high standards regarding licensure, it just needs to be clear

    Reply to Chris Rader

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