Southwest House Federal Credit Union has been liquidated by the National Credit Union Administration because defaults and delinquencies in its loans had reached the astounding level of 39 percent.

Of a total loan portfolio of $377,148, some $148,420 was in loans that were 60 days or more overdue or uncollectable. By contrast, the national delinquency rate for federal credit unions is 2.6 percent.

The NCUA called for Southwest's liquidation last spring. It could not be merged due to the dearth of similar credit unions in the District. Southwest finally acceeded to the regulators' wishes on Sept. 24. All the depositors got their money back within a week. A notice published by the NCUA in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post gave creditors who have not already filed claims against Southwest four months in which to do so.

Southwest, which was located in Waterside Mall, was one of seven community credit unions founded in the late 1960s. Only two remain: People's United Federal Credit Union at 18th and Columbia Road, and Hospitality Community Federal Credit Union on H Street NE.

Most of those that disappeared were located in low-income areas. Several were closed by federal authorities when they failed to transfer funds from the sale of food stamps to the government.

Southwest, on the other hand, was located in the high-rent part of Southwest. Its members included residents of Harbour Square, a fashionable cooperative, and government employes.

The credit union was once located in the Environmenal Protection Agency building, but moved about five years ago to Waterside Mall. This marked the beginning of its downfall, according to its president, Larry Herrmann. Higher costs in the new quarters were not matched by anticipated growth. Unable to meet expenses, the credit union stopped paying interest on accounts about two years ago, with the result that depositors took their money elsewhere. Assets, which had once stood at $1 million, had dropped to half that amount at liquidation.

Increased expenses also meant fewer personnel to monitor loan delinquencies. A collection agency was not brought in until too late. Almost all of the loans were uncollateralized signature loans under $2,500; a few were car loans.