Mortgage bankers band together

Disrupted lending practices, increasingly byzantine regulations and heavy incidence of fraud have led to a turbulent time for mortgage bankers. The industry has stepped up lobbying efforts and banded together — both to better understand the new laws facing the industry and to work toward restoring its reputation.

The topics were covered today at the newly formed Mortgage Bankers Association of South Florida’s inaugural meeting today at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables. The MBA of South Florida replaces the Mortgage Bankers Association of Greater Miami, which had dissolved in the past few years, and represents one of the ways mortgage bankers are starting to deal with the foreclosure crisis.

The MBA of South Florida, a new chapter of the MBA of Florida and the Mortgage Bankers’ Association of America, looks to increase networking among bankers locally and to coordinate lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington.
“Up until the last two years we haven’t had a voice,” said member Ruben Padron, an attorney in Miami. He said that the national MBAA had picked Florida as its target market for legislation, especially on laws relating to fraud, and that the MBAA has 12 different bills related to foreclosure that are beginning to be scheduled for hearings at different levels of government. “A lot of legislation is starting, and this is the base point for it.”

Padron noted that Miami does not have the best reputation in regard to mortgage fraud. It’s precisely that perception that makes these meetings integral, said Claudine Claus, president of the MBA of South Florida.

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“Unfortunately, there’s been some abuse in our industry,” said Claus, CEO of the Home Financing Center in Coral Gables. “There are some bad guys out there. But we’re the good guys and we need to stick together and have our voices heard. We need to get the word out and improve the reputation of mortgage bankers again. If we’re not out there lobbying for our industry, we could really get left behind.”

Anthony Britto, senior FHA account liaison at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Miami field office, spoke today about a number of instituted changes to FHA policies in recent months, including HUD’s ability to terminate the underwriting authority of lenders who have high rates of early defaults and claims. Where the default claims exceed both the national rate and 300 percent of the FHA field office rate, FHA has terminating authority; the 300 percent threshold represents a temporary number, and Britto said the number will be lowered back to 200 percent at the end of the year.

While none of these changes were unknown, banker Marta Callava, who was a member of the former MBA of Greater Miami and a new member of the South Florida chapter, said the meetings still provide a valuable resource.

“It’s helpful — these organizations have always kept their members informed and up to speed. The reason the old group dissolved was because the mortgage industry was so busy — we didn’t have time for these kinds of meetings.”