Mortgage brokers and companies in Florida now have until March 31, 2011 to renew their mortgage license before it expires, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation said Wednesday. Director of the agency Tom Cardwell said the FOFR understands the current economy is challenging for the housing industry and that's why it is granting an extension. "Our goal is to remain business friendly while also protecting Florida's consumers," Cardwell said. Applications for a new license must be filed in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System by the original deadline, Dec. 31, but components such as a criminal background check do not need to be in by that date. Brokers must file an application by Dec. 31 or their Floridian license will expire, the FOFR said. Individuals who have an active license and have filed an application must complete the licensing process by March or their license will expire and they will be forced to discontinue origination activity. The FOFR reported that only 14,010 of the 42,664 licensed mortgage brokers in the state have applied for a new license. Only 1,628 of 6,957 mortgage companies have applied, and 925 of 3,115 mortgage company branches have applied. Florida is requiring brokers and originators to get new licenses because it joined the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System in October. The system is the legal system of record for licensing in all participating states. Florida is the latest state to announce its participation. Write to Christine Ricciardi.