Reviewed by our Subject Matter Experts, Updated on Sept. 23, 2019
Starting a bail bondsman company is an attractive investment considering the increasing demand for bail bonds (5% annual growth), as well as the low rate of risk you may take when it comes to defaulting or defendants not showing up on their court date. A bail bondsman in New York who handled his business well saw as little as 1% of his defendants not show up to court.
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How do bail bondsman make money?
A bail bonds business earns roughly 10% on every transaction which is non-refundable to the borrower. This is the primary way a bail bondsman makes money. If the defendant does not show to court, the bail bondsman has to pay the bond to the court. In order to make this a viable business, bondsmen proactively set agreements for collateral in case the defendant does not show for court. The collateral often comes in the form of cars, cash, or property.
As a bail bonds business, you need to protect yourself and have strong agreements in place that will provide security in case the defendant does not show. You will not make any money as a bail bondsman if you don’t protect yourself from these risks.
Some bail bondsmen have their defendants visit them on a weekly basis to sign in and ensure things are still on track. If a person is missing prior to the court date, the bondsman can then proactively seek out help from friends, family, and whoever signed for the collateral to ensure there are no surprises on the court date. To be a successful, high-income bail bondsman, you will need to use the right amount of oversight for each person you bailout. Some individuals will need more frequent check-ins and a stable circle of friends and family. You will also want to bring a few bail recovery agents, or bounty hunters, into your network to ensure you have resources if someone jumps bail.
Bail Bondsman Education and License Requirements
Laws and regulations vary by state and it’s important to review your state’s terms. Typically, the bail bonds business needs to have $50,000 of assets to write bonds or enough value in the property to ensure they can payout on the bonds in case the defendant doesn’t show. The great thing is that bonds don’t need to be paid to the court upon the defendant’s release from jail, instead the sum is typically paid out only if the defendant does not show to court.
Certain states may have requirements around apprenticeship working for an existing bail bonds business, and/or Continuing Education Credits prior to obtaining a license. The education typically consists of 8-20 hours of state-accredited bail bondsman instruction, upon which you can then apply for the license.
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Costs for Bail Bondsmen
Bail bondsmen are licensed by the state in which they conduct business, and each state has its own pre-licensing requirements and regulatory bodies. On top of the pre-licensing requirements that are set by each state, there are also licensing fees. The initial licensing including all courses and miscellaneous application fees can be quite costly, but it varies from state to state. In some states the initial license may cost several hundred dollars, however, the pre-licensing education, application fees, exam fees, and miscellaneous costs can easily add up to over $1,000.
Remember these costs are just to get licensed and don’t include the overhead a bondsman incurs when printing business cards, advertising, leasing office space, and hiring employees.
Some states, such as Virginia, require bail bondsmen to maintain an insurance license as well as a bail bonds license. The insurance license comes with its own associated costs as well.
After becoming licensed, bondsmen are required to take “continuing education” courses yearly or every other year, just like many other licensed professions. In addition, many states require bondsmen to renew their license at the same interval, and are charged a fee for doing so.
A bounty hunter is hired by a bail bondsman to locate and arrest a person who does not show to court as agreed in their bail bond agreement. Bounty hunters are sometimes referred to as bail recovery agents.