Major creditors of the failed real estate partnerships established by Equity Programs Investment Corp. (EPIC) moved yesterday to start an investigation of the company that insured many of EPIC's mortgages.

The creditors asked a bankruptcy judge in Alexandria for authority to conduct an examination of the financial affairs of Ticor, whose mortgage insurance unit stands to lose $166 million as a result of the collapse of EPIC, the real estate subsidiary of Community Savings & Loan of Bethesda.

The financial health of Ticor is considered crucial to developing a successful bailout plan for the more than 350 EPIC partnerships that filed for bankruptcy last month. The group of creditors, headed by David O. Maxwell, chairman of the Federal National Mortgage Association, has developed a plan that would require mortgage insurance companies like Ticor to contribute millions of dollars for paying off thrifts and other institutions that own more than $1 billion in EPIC mortgage debt.

William Perlstein, an attorney representing the creditors group, said yesterday that Ticor has balked at joining the plan because it says it cannot meet the financial obligations called for. He said the group's motion seeks court authority "to put them to the proof."

A spokesman for Ticor said the company had no comment on the creditors' motion.

Ticor's troubles have been steadily mounting since news of its extensive exposure at EPIC became known in late August. The California insurance commissioner has barred the company's mortgage unit from issuing any new policies, after questions were raised about Ticor's ability to pay off both EPIC and non-EPIC claims. Industry sources have said the state may also decide to take over the company.

In addition, Ticor moved in September, with state approval, to separate its mortgage insurance unit from its title insurance unit, the nation's leading title underwriter. The company has contended that this move effectively insulates Ticor Title Insurance Corp. from any of the problems at its mortgage insurance affiliate, although the creditors' filing yesterday questions this assumption.

As part of the proposed examination, the creditors seek the right to information about Ticor's reorganization. They say, in their court filing, that they wish "to determine whether there is a basis for the creditors to reach the assets of the other Ticor Companies" in the event of a default by the mortgage insurance company.

The creditors' court filing yesterday also raises concern and asks for information about the close ties between EPIC and Ticor. Mortgage industry analysts have questioned the wisdom of Ticor's extensive involvement with EPIC, with estimates that as much as 40 percent of the mortgage insurance on EPIC property was issued by Ticor.

In addition, several former Ticor executives went to work at EPIC, and Ticor's local office in the area shares the same address as EPIC in Falls Church.