How to Avoid Trouble – Part 2
16 Dec 2014
In Part 1, I addressed the first step, ‘Research Your Client Prior to Posting Bail’, in the four-step process that will help a new bail agent avoid the trouble and risk of losing their business. In this blog, I will share the best way to ‘interview’ a potential client before you write a bond. If you follow this process, you will find that you have a substantial amount of information about the defendant and the co-signer to help you make a better decision.
Ask the Right Questions to Get the Right Answers
Your due diligence will only be as effective as the questions you ask a new client – defendant and co-signer. So, let’s look at a few typical questions you should ask:
- Where do the defendant and co-signer live and for how long? Is it a house or an apartment?
- Where do most of their family members live and for how long?
- Where are the defendant and co-signer employed, and for how long at their current employer and current industry?
- What are the assets of the defendant and co-signer? Do they have proof of anything they own: car, house, etc., which could be used as collateral without asking for any yet?
- Does the defendant or co-signer have a past criminal record? If so, what are the details?
- What is the situation and details behind the defendant’s arrest?
As you can see with these questions, you’re getting basic yet pertinent information about the defendant and co-signer. Asking ‘open-ended questions’ is important when first evaluating a new client. These questions require more than just a “Yes” or “No” answer because you would learn very little with one word answers. A question like, “What do you do for work?” would tell you if the client has a reliable job or not.
Once you have the answers to these important questions, you should have almost enough information to make an educated decision. But, don’t forget to complete your due diligence by verifying the information you’ve received. The defendant and the co-signer could lie about their background just to get bailed out of jail. Play it safe and protect your risk before writing that bond.
Consider that the defendant and co-signer might be lying about their personal and family information, but one question the co-signer would probably be truthful about is, “What if the defendant was to skip town, how would you pay off the bond?” This question is like throwing a curve ball at the co-signer and catches them off guard. It will make them stop and think. It’s like a dose of reality because there is more to posting bail than they realize – it’s called the law and they will be responsible for paying it off to the court.
If the co-signer says they would offer their house as collateral, you will then have to ask the right questions about the property, like: “How much equity is in your home, and what is the approximate value of the home?” Regardless of the answers, you will absolutely want to research all collateral offers to be sure of the following:
- What is the value of this house compared to similar properties in the same neighborhood today?
- Ask for a copy of the deed to confirm the co-signer actually owns the house.
- If the house value is not enough, or just enough to cover the bond, ask for more collateral to be sure you have at least 15% to 25% more than the actual bond amount for your own security.
In the end, before you write that bond, be sure you are completely confident that you won’t get burned if the bond is forfeited. You have a safety net, so use it to protect yourself and your business. It’s called due diligence.
Look for: How to Avoid Trouble – Part 3