Mortgage Industry Frequently Asked Questions
The Mortgage Industry FAQs page is designed to assist potential and existing mortgage licensees/registrants with common questions about the various Georgia laws and Department regulations and policies applicable to the residential mortgage industry.
What functions does your Department perform with respect to the mortgage industry?
To ensure that the citizens of Georgia have access to well-managed and properly operated mortgage service providers, the Mortgage Division of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance is responsible for supervising those who are licensed (or who should be licensed) to do business in the residential mortgage industry. Residential Mortgage Lenders and Brokers must apply to the Department and meet certain licensing standards before they may legally offer their services to the public. Monetary fines and civil sanctions can be levied if a person or company is discovered to be operating in Georgia without being properly licensed. After obtaining a license, periodic examinations of the licensee's operations are performed to monitor operating standards to assure compliance with the provisions of the Georgia Residential Mortgage Act (GRMA).
What is the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System?
The Department participates in the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), as contemplated by the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (“SAFE”) (H.R. 3221). Title V requires that each state enact minimum standards regarding the supervision of mortgage entities.
The NMLS is a multi-state licensing system that allows companies and individuals to apply for and manage their licenses with the Department and other participating states through a secure website. The NMLS was developed by and for state regulators to streamline the licensing process for regulators and the industry allowing all mortgage businesses to be licensed in Georgia and other participating states with a minimum amount of paperwork.
Legislation requiring the licensing of Mortgage Loan Originators ("MLOs") as required by SAFE was passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2009. The legislation was signed by the Governor and became effective July 1, 2009.
Please note that the NMLSR federal registration process must be utilized if you are an employee of a bank, bank subsidiary or a credit union. As required under federal law, residential mortgage loan originators employed by banks, savings associations, credit unions, or Farm Credit System institutions must register with the registry, obtain a unique identifier from the registry, and maintain their registrations. Further information regarding the registry and the registration process is available at the registry's website: http://fedregistry.nationwidelicensingsystem.org/Pages/default.aspx.
What laws and regulations do I need to be familiar with in order to meet the licensing requirements and properly operate in Georgia as a mortgage licensee or registrant?
The following sections of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) and the Regulations of Department of Banking and Finance are used in the operation and regulation of residential mortgage businesses in Georgia. You should be familiar with these in the operation of your mortgage business. Please note that the Georgia Residential Mortgage Act (GRMA) is often referred to in licensing applications and other information as ARTICLE 13.
How do I obtain a license to operate as a broker or lender in the residential mortgage industry?
Applications for a new mortgage broker/processor or lender license or registration must be made through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS). The Department will review and approve or deny your Georgia application through the NMLS.
Instructions and checklists are available through the NMLS website. Review of law enforcement agency information may extend processing time up to 10 weeks.
I have bad credit. Will my mortgage license be approved?
Bad credit will make your application very difficult to approve. Applicants should be aware of disqualifying factors concerning creditworthiness. The Department does not qualify financial responsibility on a credit score, but looks at the applicant’s overall credit report. Judgments, child support in arrears, and other factors could result in the denial of licensure. Tax liens, charge-offs or collection accounts, and foreclosures or short sales with a deficiency will also negatively affect licensing unless a payment plan is in place and at least 3 consecutive payments have been made prior to the application.
I have a criminal background. Will my license be approved?
A criminal background increases the difficulty of making a favorable finding on an application. While minor traffic offenses will not affect your chances for a license, convicted felons who do not provide documentation of the remedy provided for in O.C.G.A. § 7-1-1004(d)(2) (e.g. a pardon) will not be licensed. The Department verifies the criminal background of each applicant for a mortgage license. Omissions regarding arrests are deemed to be a serious misrepresentation to the Department and can be the basis of a denial regardless of the nature or outcome of the arrest.
I know what a "Licensee" is, but what is a "Registrant" under GRMA?
A "Registrant" is a company that performs activities covered under the GRMA, but due to its charter and ownership structure, has been specifically exempted from licensing. Certain types of companies are exempt from the licensing provisions of GRMA. These exemptions extend to organizations such as banks and credit unions which are properly chartered by the state or federal government, and to properly licensed finance companies who restrict their lending activities to those covered by the Georgia Industrial Loan Act (GILA). Wholly-owned mortgage subsidiaries of federally insured financial institution holding companies, but not owned directly by the financial institution, qualify for "registrant" status since they are separately chartered companies subject to possible review by the primary regulators of financial institutions themselves in the holding company system. However, such indirect supervision does not qualify the entities for exemption from mortgage licensing. Application for registrant status is similar to the application for a license and must be made through the NMLS. "Registrants" under GRMA should not be confused with a "federal registrant" for the purposes of the Federal SAFE Act.
My mortgage company wants to establish a Georgia branch office. How do I accomplish this?
Submit your branch application through the NMLS. Please DO NOT submit a branch application for branches that are not physically located within the State of Georgia into the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System. Out-of-state branches do not require the Department’s approval.
Does Georgia allow net branches of mortgage licensees?
NO. Unlike some states, Georgia does not issue a separate license for each established branch. Branch offices and those individuals who are proposed to serve as branch managers must be approved, as well as any changes in managers for existing approved branch locations. Operating an unapproved office can jeopardize a license and subject the licensee to monetary fines.
I am a licensed lender and have a branch location in Georgia. Can my loan officers broker loans to other lenders from that branch without being considered a "net branch".
If the licensee is a lender, they must generally provide funding for the loans generated by that branch. It is not appropriate for a lender's branch to broker loans to other lenders.
If a lender licensee desires to allow its Georgia branches to broker residential mortgage loans on Georgia property to outside lenders, that lender licensee must have in place a comprehensive and ongoing strategic business plan that addresses brokerage activities by its Georgia branches, recognizes and acknowledges the risks involved, and provides for management of those risks and adequate supervision and control of its branches’ brokerage activities. The strategic business plan is subject to review by the Department and failure to develop and maintain the plan or failure to adequately control and supervise its Georgia branches’ residential mortgage brokerage activities can result in the loss of a lender’s license.
In all cases, the lender licensee must have consistent policies and procedures and quality control for loan origination and processing that are enforced at all the branches.
I am a licensed broker or lender located in another state. Is it possible to obtain an exemption to originate or fund one loan?
NO - There is no provision in GRMA for an exemption from licensing for originating or making a residential mortgage loan unless the person is otherwise exempt from the licensing provisions.
I hold a mortgage license. How often can I expect to have my operations examined by your Department?
The Department has the discretion to conduct examinations as often as it deems necessary and for reasons it deems necessary to determine if our licensees are conducting their operations in accordance with Georgia law and Department Rules. Examinations result from any number of reasons, but are often scheduled as a result of information provided to the Department from a consumer complaint, an industry insider reporting questionable operations, to determine if serious problems from a previous examination have been corrected, or other factors such as a company never having been examined before. This results in the Department prioritizing examinations to monitor our licensees to ensure that your operations are conducted in a manner that protects the contractual and property rights of the citizens of Georgia.
What is a "Mortgage Loan Transaction Journal"?
A Mortgage Loan Transaction Journal is essentially a list of the mortgage applications that you have had. Rule 80-11-2-.03 establishes what must be on this list, including the names of the borrower and co-borrower, last four digits of their social security number(s), date the borrower applied for the mortgage loan, name of the loan officer and their Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLSR) unique identifier, disposition of the mortgage loan application, and date of disposition. The Journal must be updated every seven (7) days.
For examination purposes, do I need to maintain all canceled checks?
Yes. Rules 80-11-2-.01 (4) and 80-11-2-.02 (1)(h) specify that all canceled checks be kept for a period of five years.
I want to become a mortgage licensee. What fees are charged by your Department?
Please refer to our Mortgage Fines and Fees page - http://dbf.georgia.gov/mortgage-fines-and-fees/.
Does your Department ever fine its licensees?
Yes. Fines are imposed to insure that licensees operate as specified by the GRMA and the rules promulgated by the Department (the Code and Regulations). Fines provide the Department an option other than license REVOCATION OR SUSPENSION in order to insure compliance with GRMA. Those licensees who operate in a professional manner and strictly observe the provisions of the Code will probably never be fined. Those who violate the provisions of the Code or who commit prohibited acts will likely pay thousands in fines.
I already have a mortgage license. What will happen when it is time to renew my license?
Renewals are submitted through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS). Applications must be filed NO LATER than December 1st of each year. There is a substantial fine for late filing of a renewal application, and renewal of a license will not occur until all outstanding fines are paid. Applicants complete the application and pay all outstanding fees and fines, and in order to avoid being fined for late renewal, licensees must complete their application and payment by the December 1st deadline. Licenses expire annually on December 31st.
All other outstanding business or administrative issues with our licensees will be settled at renewal time. No renewal applications will be approved until all outstanding issues have been resolved.
I am a mortgage licensee. What reports must I file with the Department each year?
License Renewal Applications must be filed no later than December 1st each year to avoid a fine/late fee.
Pursuant to Rule 80-5-1-.04, the "GRMA Per Loan Fees Reporting and Payment Process" is due twice each year: one report is due September 1 (covers all mortgage loans from January 1 through June 30 of that year); the second report is due March 1 (covers the period of July 1 through December 31 of the previous year).
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 7-1-1011(b)(2), the $10 fee shall be imposed on the closing of every mortgage loan subject to regulation under this article which, as defined in Code Section 7-1-1000, includes all mortgage loans, whether or not closed by a mortgage broker or mortgage lender licensee or registrant, a fee of $10.00. The fee shall be paid by the borrower to the collecting agent at the time of closing of the mortgage loan transaction. The collecting agent shall remit the fee to the department at the time and in the manner specified by regulation of the department. A change to a security instrument made solely for the purpose of correcting a clerical error will not be subject to a $10.00 fee. Mortgage licensees and registrants that act as the collecting agent (including brokers who table fund and collect the fee) must submit the fees and file the fee statement before the deadline to avoid fines and possible administrative action.
"Letter Form" reports must be made anytime an employee is suspected of criminal activity.
Amendments to the existing record of the licensee must be posted through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). Frequent changes requiring reporting include the following.
- Change in Control - File for approval and pay applicable fees before acquisition;
- Changes in Management - File for approval prior to placement;
- Change in Business Structure - (generally involves change in control or new EIN);
- Establishment of a new in-state Georgia Branch Office & Manager - Prior approval & fee payment required;
- Change in approved Branch location's Manager - File for approval within 15 days of placement;
- Material change in the financial statement - File notice within 30 days of change;
- Main office or an approved branch relocation - File notice within 30 days of change;
- Mailing address change;
- Closing of a branch office;
- Changes in company contact information (company or complaint contact);
- Changes in registered agent;
- D/B/A changes or additions.
I am a mortgage broker or lender licensee. What is a Mortgage Call Report and how do I file it?
Under the requirements of the Federal SAFE Act, all state mortgage licensees must submit a report of condition as required by NMLS. The NMLS Mortgage Call Report (MCR) was developed by state regulators to meet this requirement.
The MCR is required to be completed by (1) all state licensed companies and (ii) companies employing state licensed mortgage loan originators (MLOs). Companies must submit at least their application and origination activity information on a quarterly basis.
If you held a state license or employed state licensed MLOs during a reporting period, you must complete the NMLS Mortgage Call Report, even if you had no origination activity during the period.
What telemarketing activities require a license for a company that solicits and sells mortgage leads?
The requirement for a license depends on the information taken, which might be an "application" for state licensing purposes. The following information applies to "telemarketing" - whether the information is obtained via standard phone solicitations, or through internet lead generation.
- Telemarketers who accept applications for loans on their own initiative from consumers and without a contract from a licensee for sale of the contact to licensees are required to be licensed under the Act.
- Telemarketers who contact Georgia consumers and generate a list of potential residential mortgage contracts under a written contract from a licensee are not required to be licensed, provided:
- The telemarketer makes it clear that they are contacting the consumer on behalf of (a) specific licensee(s);
- The fee for the service is on a "flat-fee" basis, not a "per-loan" basis or a closed loan fee basis;
- The company must be in the telemarketing business and not perform other mortgage related functions for the licensee; and
- The company may only gather minimal contact and non-specific property or income information. Information gathered which is sufficient to verify credit, employment, income, date of birth etc. cannot be gathered. This is considered application information and the telemarketer must then have their own license.
What is a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO)?
A MLO is someone who takes a residential mortgage loan application, offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan, or assists a consumer in obtaining or applying to obtain a residential mortgage loan. Mortgage loan activity includes, but is not limited to soliciting, negotiating, originating, processing, underwriting, funding, servicing, purchasing and offering loan modification services.
I am an originator and have changed employers. Can I still be compensated for loans that were in the pipeline when I left my previous employer?
The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance will interpose no objection to originators who have left the employment of a lender or broker being compensated for the work that they performed before changing jobs. Consequently, unless your employment contract contains language to the contrary, it is permitted for an originator to be compensated for these loans. As a practical matter, however, many brokers or lenders will not continue to compensate individuals who have left their employment. You should remember that the loan files remain the property of the employer and taking those files to a new employer may be considered theft. To avoid any misunderstanding on this issue, make sure that you operate with an employment agreement which specifies your rights and responsibilities as an employee. Should your borrowing customer wish to follow you to your new employer, they would have to contact your former employer and request a withdrawal of that application. They would then be free to apply elsewhere.
If I am a loan processor or underwriter, do I need a MLO license?
If you are an exclusive W-2 employee of a licensed broker or lender and you do not assist borrowers in applying for or negotiating the terms of a loan, you do not have to hold a MLO license. However, if you ever venture into the activities described in the definition of a MLO or advertise such services, you must seek and obtain licensure.
I am a Loan Originator. Do I have to obtain a MLO license?
Yes. If you fall under the definition of a MLO, you must obtain a MLO license, unless you are specifically exempt from MLO licensing. The most common exemption from licensing is for depository institution loan originators. Applications should be made through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS). Originating a Georgia residential loan without a MLO license will subject the MLO and his/her employer to administrative action and fines.
How do I know if I am exempt from MLO licensing?
If you are a loan originator employed by a bank, a subsidiary of a bank, a credit union or an institution regulated by the Farm Credit Administration, you do not have to obtain a loan originator license from the Department. However, those individuals do have to be registered with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLSR). Read more about federal registration on the NMLSR website. Processors, underwriters, and real estate agents who do not engage in MLO activity and loan originators who only work on commercial mortgage loans are exempt from MLO licensing.
If I work for a company that is exempt from being licensed as a broker or lender in Georgia such as a non-profit organization, does this exempt me from MLO licensing?
No. As long as you are performing duties spelled out in the definition of a MLO, you must be licensed as a MLO. The only exceptions are noted in the previous answers.
I only work part-time. Is a part-time loan originator subject to the same licensing requirements as a full-time loan originator?
Can I be paid on a 1099 in connection with a residential mortgage loan?
Georgia Law and Department Rules have not changed regarding this matter. The only way to be paid on a 1099 is for a licensed company to get paid on a 1099 in the company’s name, or an individual licensed as a broker or lender to get paid on a 1099 in the individual’s name. All other work as an “independent contractor” is prohibited from being compensated via 1099.
I own a licensed mortgage company, but I do not originate loans. My loan originators are the only people at my company that originate. I serve only in an administrative role. Do I have to have a MLO license?
No. If you do not originate loans or otherwise directly affect the loan process (i.e., you serve only in an administrative / operational capacity), you do not have to obtain a MLO license. However, your loan originators will have to obtain MLO licenses.
I am a Branch Manager of a mortgage company. Do I have to have a MLO license?
In most situations, yes. If you originate loans or even assist consumers in applying to obtain a residential mortgage loan, then you must have an MLO license.
So now that I have my own MLO license, am I considered a mortgage broker? Can I originate loans on my own?
Not unless you are also licensed as a mortgage broker or lender. The MLO license is a license that is separate from the broker and lender licenses issued by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. A MLO must be a supervised, exclusive, W-2 employee of a licensed mortgage broker or lender, or you must have your own mortgage broker license in addition to your MLO license.
Do I need a MLO license to perform loan modifications?
Yes. Unless you are specifically exempt from MLO licensing, you must be licensed.
Where can I find more information about the national and state specific tests?
The NMLS website is the best resource for this information. Information regarding testing can be found here: http://mortgage.nationwidelicensingsystem.org/profreq/Pages/default.aspx.
Why are you checking my credit? Will my credit history affect the Department’s decision to license me as a MLO?
An MLO applicant must be aware of disqualifying factors, including criminal history and creditworthiness. The Department does not qualify financial responsibility on a credit score, but looks at the MLO’s overall credit report. Judgments, child support in arrears, and other factors could result in the denial of licensure. Tax liens, charge-offs or collection accounts, and foreclosures or short sales with a deficiency will also negatively affect MLO licensing unless a payment plan is in place and at least 3 consecutive payments have been made prior to the application. (Payment plans will be checked at renewal for continuation.)
I am applying for a MLO license. Do I have to get my own bond?
A licensed or registered broker or lender must cover its MLO employees under the company’s surety bond.
After I obtain a MLO license, what are the Continuing Education requirements for MLOs?
MLOs will have to obtain 8 hours of Continuing Education through an educational provider approved by the NMLSR. At least 1 hour must be related to GA specific laws and rules. Education must be completed by October 31st of each year.
What period of time will the MLO license cover and when is the renewal period?
Licenses expire on December 31st of each year. The renewal period is from November 1st – December 1st of each year, with licenses being renewed for the following calendar year. MLO renewal applications received after December 1st will be subject to a $100 late fee.
What is a NMLSR Unique Identifier?
Upon signing up with NMLSR, you will be given your own NMLSR Unique Identifier. When you pass the federal requirements for licensing, your Unique Identifier will become effective (Upon meeting state requirements, you will also receive a MLO license number that is specific to individual states in which you get licensed). This unique identifier must appear on individual advertisements, business cards, and on the Mortgage Loan Transaction Journal kept by your employer.
Will my NMLSR Unique Identifier be made public?
Yes. After you become licensed, your name, NMLSR Unique Identifier, and the name of your sponsoring company will be made public on the NMLS website to identify you to the public as an individual who is licensed to engage in residential mortgage business.
As a MLO, can I be examined/fined/revoked by the Department?
Yes. You are responsible for abiding by the laws and rules just like mortgage companies are. You must abide by the Georgia Residential Mortgage Act and the Mortgage Division Rules. You are responsible for maintaining a current Mortgage Loan Transaction Journal. The amount of time that you are required to keep these records is 5 years.
What laws govern the MLO licensing process and detail the actions we must take to stay in compliance?
- Title V of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (H.E.R.A.), A/K/A Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (S.A.F.E.)
- The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 7-1-1000 et seq., A/K/A Georgia Residential Mortgage Act (GRMA)
- Georgia Department of Banking and Finance Mortgage Division Rules.
- O.C.G.A. § 7-6A-1 et seq., A/K/A Georgia Fair Lending Act (GAFLA)
Who can I contact for help regarding mortgage licensing or other mortgage-related questions?
Applicants or existing licensees that have general questions may submit them to email@example.com.