The Miami Republican said a guaranty fund is "definitely something we are going to look at, especially since the money is already there."
In recent years, as people rushed into the mortgage industry, the state Office of Financial Regulation took in much more in licensing fees -- with a trust fund that now shows a balance of $24.7 million. The money goes to cover the agency's operating expenses.
Bruns of the AARP -- the state's largest advocacy group for seniors -- said in a written statement it was "dismaying" that state officials allowed $24 million to accumulate in a fund "that could have helped victims of mortgage fraud years ago, but did nothing."
From 1977 to 1991 Florida operated a guaranty fund, paying more than $7 million to more than 100 victims.
When the state's mortgage law came up for review in 1991, a task force recommended the victims' program be continued, but more focused on helping borrowers than investors.
However, instead of keeping the fund, regulators re-wrote the law and phased out the program -- with the last reimbursement in 1997.
RESURRECTING A PLAN
Now, a decade later, Gov. Charlie Crist and state CFO Alex Sink say they support the idea of resurrecting a victims program, but have not yet endorsed a plan.
Such plans include a guaranty fund or requiring brokers to take out a bond that insures against fraud.
If they chose a fund, there are questions about how to pay for it. Previously, a $10 fee attached to license application costs was the funding source. But some argue it's more effective to charge a fee on each mortgage transaction.
FAMB's Workman said he opposes such a scenario, saying it would put the burden on consumers.
"The bottom line is, " Workman said, "we are absolutely in favor bringing this fund back and having the industry pay for it."