Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Licensing of Branch Offices

All states require licensing of branch offices. But, again, each state has its own procedures for licensing branch offices. You should look on the website of each state in which you need to obtain a license to see what the requirements are for that state. For example, Nevada does not permit a branch office until after the main office has been examined by the Mortgage Lending Division and received a satisfactory rating in the preceding 12 months.

Many states have adopted the Uniform Application. In those jurisdictions, you will be filling out the Form MU3 as a starter. But each state can customize the additional information and documentation that it requires for a license approval. Some states require branch manager fingerprints, other states require that the branch manager have a certain number of years of mortgage industry experience, other states permit the branch to use a different assumed business name from the principal office, others require that all offices use the same business name.

Some of the states that have adopted the Uniform Application have moved to the Nationwide Mortgage License System (NMLS), the computerized national licensing database. If the state from which you want a license is on the NMLS, you must use the NMLS to get your branch licenses.

If the state has not adopted the Uniform Application, you must obtain its branch office license application from its website and review its requirements before submitting the application.

Usually, a branch office license application has fewer requirements than the initial license application. The license fee is lower, the minimum net worth does not change, or credit reports are not required. But some states, such as Maryland and Connecticut, do not have a separate branch office license application or different requirements. Each branch office is licensed with the same requirements and documentation as the initial office. In some cases, this makes it difficult to license additional offices if the company cannot find branch managers with the requisite number of years of industry experience or cannot obtain additional surety bonds.

You are not permitted to begin operations in the branch office until it has been licensed. The regulatory agencies treat this as unlicensed activity, the same as if you had never licensed the main office and you will be subjected to disciplinary action if caught. In many states, it is expressly prohibited to license a net branch. What is a net branch? It is a branch where a different company will be paying the employees of that location, where someone other than the main licensee is paying the expenses of the branch office, where the branch manager is totally responsible for hiring and firing employees in that office, or where someone other than the licensee has signed the lease, contracted with the utilities or the vendors that supply services or goods to the office.

In states where the branch office applications are not as extensive as the original application, the review time is also streamlined. In some states, it can take as little as 2-3 weeks for an approval.

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