About Mortgage Loan Originators

A mortgage loan originator is an individual who, for compensation or gain, or in the expectation of compensation or gain, takes a residential mortgage loan application or offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan.

A residential mortgage loan means any loan primarily for personal, family or household use that is secured by a mortgage, deed of trust, or other equivalent consensual security interest on a dwelling which contains 1 to 4 residential units. Dwelling includes an individual condominium unit, cooperative unit, mobile home and trailer if it is used as a residence.

Any person who provides services as a mortgage loan originator (MLO) in California under the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) or the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA) must apply for and receive a mortgage loan originator license. The MLO must also be employed by and sponsored by a Department of Business Oversight licensee under the CFLL or CRMLA.

The laws and regulations for MLO are contained in CRMLA and CFLL:

    California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA) is contained in Division 20 of the California Financial Code, commencing with Section 50000. The regulations are contained in Subchapter 11.5 of Chapter 3 of Title 10 of the California Code of Regulations, commencing with Section 1950.003 (10 C.C.R. §1950.003, et seq.).

The California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) is contained in Division 9 of the California Financial Code, commencing with Section 22000.(Financial Code § 22000 et seq.) The regulations are contained in Chapter 3, Title 10 of the California Code of Regulations, commencing with Section 1404 (10 C.C.R. §1404, et seq.).

The California Department of Business Oversight accepts and manages filings though the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). NMLS, developed through the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators (AARMR), will allow companies and mortgage loan originators to conveniently manage their license(s) in an electronic format through a secure website.

Historically, states have adopted their own systems for licensing and regulating residential mortgage lenders in their respective states. These systems have varied greatly from regulating individuals to entities and from requiring background checks, testing and education on the one hand, to only requiring background information for licensing on the other. Some regulate all of their residential mortgage lenders under one agency and others have separate agencies for different types of lenders, similar to California. Until recently, a central depository in which to maintain mortgage lender information and make it available to other state regulators and the public did not exist. In 2008 the NMLS was created. This system is now the depository for the lender information to be collected under the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement Mortgage License Act (SAFE Act).

The California Department of Business Oversight Licenses:

  • Residential Mortgage Lending Act License
  • Residential Mortgage Lending Act License (Branch)
  • Finance Lenders Law License
  • Finance Lenders Law License (Branch)
  • Mortgage Loan Originator License

To find out your Licensee information, please check the Department's Licensee Listing


The Bureau of Real Estate Licenses:

  • Real Estate Broker License Endorsement (Sole Proprietor - Company)
  • Real Estate Corporation License Endorsement
  • Branch Office License Endorsement
  • Real Estate Salesperson License Endorsement
  • Real Estate Broker License Endorsement (Individual)

Please visit the Bureau of Real Estate's website for more information

Please check the California Real Estate & Financial Services License Status Check so see which department you are licensed under.


Who is Required to Obtain a Mortgage Loan Originator License?

Any person who originates residential mortgage loans must apply for and receive a mortgage loan originator license from the Department of Business Oversight. All licenses are applied for and maintained through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). The license must be renewed annually between November 1 and December 31.

A mortgage loan originator is an individual who, for compensation or gain, or in the expectation of compensation or gain, takes a residential mortgage loan application or offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan.

A residential mortgage loan means any loan primarily for personal, family or household use that is secured by a mortgage, deed of trust, or other equivalent consensual security interest on a dwelling which contains 1 to 4 residential units. Dwelling includes an individual condominium unit, cooperative unit, mobile home and trailer if it is used as a residence.

All MLOs employed by finance lenders/brokers under the California Finance Lenders Law (CFLL) or residential mortgage lenders/servicers under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (CRMLA) must be licensed. MLOs may apply for a license by submitting a Form MU4 to the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS).

Mortgage loan originator does not include:

  • An individual who performs purely administrative or clerical tasks on behalf of a person meeting the definition of a mortgage loan originator. The term “administrative or clerical tasks” means the receipt, collection, and distribution of information common for the processing or underwriting of a loan in the mortgage industry and communication with a consumer to obtain information necessary for the processing or underwriting of a residential mortgage loan, to the extent that the communication does not include offering or negotiating loan rates or terms, or counseling consumers about residential mortgage loan rates or terms.
  • An individual who solely renegotiates terms for existing mortgage loans held or serviced by his or her employer and who does not otherwise act as a mortgage loan originator, unless the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or a court of competent jurisdiction determines that the SAFE Act requires that employee to be licensed as a mortgage loan originator under state laws implementing the SAFE Act.
  • An individual that is solely involved in extensions of credit relating to timeshare plans.
  • An individual licensed as a mortgage loan originator pursuant to the California Real Estate Law and the SAFE Act.
  • A registered mortgage loan originator who is an employee of a depository institution, a subsidiary that is owned and controlled by a depository institution and regulated by a federal banking agency, or an institution regulated by the Farm Credit Administration.