District 24 Council Member Rory Lancman // Photo Courtesy of Rory Lancman

Lancman, Johnson Bills Require Bail Bond Transparency

By Jack Ryan

On Wednesday, the City Council passed two measures that would require the city’s bail bond companies to fully disclose all bail bond fees as well as a consumers’ Bill of Rights.

The bills were introduced by District 24 Council Member Rory Lancman and Council Speaker Corey Johnson and were voted on as part of a slate of criminal justice reform bills.

The legislation is part of an ongoing effort to make it easier for people to post bond for someone currently incarcerated.

“People desperate to get their loved ones out of Rikers Island will sign contracts, pay premiums, and put down collateral, often without realizing what laws regulate those companies or are supposed to protect them as consumers,” Lancman said. “My bill is an important step forward towards treating bail bonds as the dangerous consumer financial products they have always been and informing vulnerable New Yorkers of the laws that already protect them. The city must do everything in its power to ensure that bail bond businesses follow the rules the state has already laid out.”

The bill requires bond salespeople to post a sign that states the maximum premium or compensation that can be charged for giving bail bond or depositing money or property as bail. The sign must also state that such premium or compensation represents the maximum amounts, excluding collateral, that a bail bond agent can charge for services and that a consumer may make a complaint to the Department of Consumer Affairs or the relevant state agencies if such premium or compensation charged is in conflict with the State’s insurance law.

The law requires businesses to conspicuously post signage designed by the DCA that will disclose the maximum premium or compensation that a bail bond agent can charge for services. The signage will also note that consumers may make a complaint to DCA or the relevant state agencies if such premium or compensation charged is in conflict with the State’s insurance law. 

Another bill sponsored by Johnson would require bond agents to post a Bill of Rights in their offices. The bill would compel the Department of Consumer Affairs to create a flier that informs consumers what a bail bond business is and how the process of obtaining bail with a bail bond business works, including responsibilities the bondsman owes a consumer, how to make a complaint regarding a particular bail bond business, and explanations of commonly offered services and commonly used industry terms, such as “premium” and “collateral.”

“Bail bond businesses have a duty to be transparent; otherwise we will make sure they face the proper consequences,” Johnson said in a statement.

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