South Carolina’s New Licensing Law Concern for Some Bail Agents

By Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President

The recent reform package passed last year in South Carolina mandates that bail agents obtain a property and casualty license by July 1 to continue their practice. This has introduced several challenges and concerns among veteran bail agents, who attended a continuing education class organized by the South Carolina Bail Agents Association in Columbia on June 15.

Key Points from the Meeting:

1. New Licensing Requirement:
– Bail agents now need a property and casualty license to write bail.
– This change is part of a broader reform package aimed at regulating the industry more strictly.

2. Difficulty of the Exam:
– Many veteran agents, some of whom have not taken an exam in over 40 years, found the test challenging.
– The exam covers a broad range of insurance topics, many of which are not directly related to bail, adding to the difficulty.

3. No Grandfather Provision:
– There is no exemption based on age or experience; all agents must pass the exam regardless of how long they have been in the business.

4. Grace Period:
– Agents unable to pass the test and obtain their license by July 1 will have a 30-day grace period.
– During this period, they cannot write bail but have until July 31 to pass the exam and get licensed.
– Failure to meet the extended deadline means starting the licensing process from the beginning.

5. Current Compliance Status:
– As of the meeting, only 37% of currently licensed agents had passed the exam and received their new licenses.
– This leaves 63% of agents with just 18 days to comply with the new requirement.

Implications for Bail Agents:

– Increased Urgency: With the majority of agents yet to pass the exam, there is significant pressure to prepare and succeed within the given timeframe.
– Operational Disruptions: Agents who fail to meet the initial deadline will face a temporary halt in their ability to write bail, impacting their business operations.
– Long-Term Adjustments: Those who miss the extended deadline must navigate the entire licensing process anew, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Advice for Bail Agents:

1. Intensive Preparation: Given the broad scope of the exam, agents should focus on comprehensive study sessions covering all lines of insurance, not just bail.
2. Seek Resources: Utilize study guides, practice tests, and consider attending additional preparatory courses if available.
3. Monitor Deadlines Closely: Be aware of both the initial and extended deadlines to avoid further complications.

The reform aims to ensure higher standards and better regulatory compliance within the bail industry, but it also places significant demands on existing practitioners to quickly adapt and comply.

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