Surety Bonds Policy Information
Surety Bonds. Surety bonds are a type of financial guarantee that is used to protect the interests of one party (the obligee) against the potential failure of another party (the principal) to fulfill a contract or obligation.
These bonds are typically used in a variety of industries, including construction, contracting, and business licensing, to ensure that the principal will follow through with their commitments and meet all of the requirements of the contract or agreement.
There are three main parties involved in a surety bond: the obligee (the party requesting the bond), the principal (the party providing the bond), and the surety (the party issuing the bond). The obligee is the party that requires the bond as a guarantee of the principal's performance.
The principal is the party that is required to provide the bond and is also the party that is responsible for fulfilling the terms of the contract or obligation. The surety is the party that issues the bond and is responsible for ensuring that the principal fulfills their obligations.
In the event that the principal fails to fulfill their obligations, the surety will step in to cover any losses or damages incurred by the obligee. The surety will then seek reimbursement from the principal for any costs or damages incurred. If the principal fails to reimburse the surety, the surety may file a claim against the principal's bond, which will be paid out to the obligee to compensate for any losses or damages.
Surety bonds provide a financial guarantee for both the obligee and the principal, and are an important tool for ensuring that all parties involved in a contract or agreement fulfill their obligations.
Surety bonds are what contractors are talking about when they say they are "licensed, bonded, and insured," but they aren't the only ones who require them.
Surety bonds guarantee an almost endless variety of different contracts, judicial proceedings and licenses, and surety companies write hundreds of different types of bonds to meet these needs. These bonds fall into one of the following groups:
- Contract bonds (construction and miscellaneous)
- Court bonds (including fiduciary)
- Federal bonds
- License and permit bonds
- Miscellaneous bonds
- Public official bonds (including notary publics)
Surety bonds protect your business by reassuring customers they will receive your service as promised - with rates as low as $7/mo. Get a fast quote and your proof of bonding now.
Below are some answers to commonly asked surety bond questions:
- What Are Surety Bonds?
- What's The Difference Between Surety Bonds And Insurance?
- Who Requires Surety Bonds?
- How Much Does A Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $10,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $20,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $25,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $30,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $35,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $40,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $50,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $75,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- How Much Does A $100,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- What Are Surety Bond Underwriting Guidelines?
- What Does Surety Bond Cover & Pay For?
What Are Surety Bonds?
Surety bonds are a type of financial agreement in which a surety company (the bond issuer) guarantees to a obligee (the entity requiring the bond) that a principal (the entity requesting the bond) will fulfill their obligations as specified in the bond contract.
If the principal fails to fulfill their obligations, the surety company is responsible for covering any damages or losses incurred by the obligee.
Surety bonds are commonly used in industries such as construction, government contracting, and finance as a way to provide financial protection and assurance of performance.
What's The Difference Between Surety Bonds And Insurance?
Here's the biggest difference: business insurance exists to protect you. Surety bonds exist to protect your customer.
Insurance pays you when you take a loss so you can replace whatever you've lost. It is a two-party contract between you and the insurance company.
Surety bonds pay the customer if the customer has suffered a loss. They then require you to pay back the amount they paid to the customer. You can think of them as lines of credit that kick in when you can't complete a project, when one of your employees causes a problem, or when there's no way to avoid breaching a contract.
Even though bonding is not insurance, many insurance companies offer them.
Surety bonds and insurance policies are similar but there are some very distinct differences. Besides having different contract language, they differ in the coverage they provide. The following chart identifies the most important differences:
|Principal / Obligor / Contractor||Similar to liability coverage because only the actions of the party that pays the premium can trigger a claim from the obligee.|
|Owner / Obligee||Similar to a first party insured or a third party claimant in that the insurance company compensates for covered loss. However, the only loss a surety contract pays is one where principal does not perform according to contract terms.|
|Penalty / Penal Sum.||Limits of Liability/Limits of Insurance.|
|Three-party (Tripartite) Agreement||Two-party Agreement|
|Term of Obligation is indefinite and lasts until the contractual obligation is complete. Cancellation is not an option.||Term of Obligation is for the specified policy period or term. Cancellation and non-renewal rights are part of the policy.|
|What is covered? Performance||What is covered? The perils or causes of loss listed in the policy or coverage form.|
|Is subrogation possible? The surety may subrogate against the principal for any loss paid to obligees, subcontractors, and material suppliers.||Is subrogation possible? The insurance company may subrogate against only third parties.|
|Is indemnity available to surety for loss caused by principal/insured? Yes. The surety can pursue the officers, stockholders, corporations, and affiliated partnerships on behalf of principal.||Is indemnity available to insurer caused by principal/insured? No.|
Examples Of Surety Bonds
Surety bonds are essentially contracts, and, like contracts, can be structured in a variety of different ways. For a surety bond glossary, visit: Surety Bond Definitions And Meanings. There are four broad categories of surety bonds that you may require:
Contract bonds are used in a wide variety of undertakings to guarantee the satisfactory completion or performance of an underlying contract between two parties. They are widely used in the fields of construction, repair, maintenance, and supplying of materials or equipment.
These bonds occasionally are demanded and prescribed by the person or firm that is awarding the contract. In most cases, they are prescribed by statute. Their general purpose is to guarantee that a contractor or supplier will fulfill the commitment according to specifications; therefore, many of these bonds are known as performance bonds.
Construction companies and contractors are the ones most likely to become the principal on this type of bond. It will typically outline the work to be performed, and the quality of the work expected. It will also outline the timeline in which the work is to be completed.
There are three primary types of construction contract bonds:
- Bid Bonds
- Performance Bonds
- Labor and Payment Bonds
Different bonds and different pricing are necessary because each phase of the construction process involves a different set of risks.
Contractors never know their final construction costs until their work is complete. The longer the projected completion time, the more exposure contractors face from numerous variables that can dramatically affect the final outcome.
That is why the party who tries to assess a job's full cost of labor, materials, sub-contractors, and other job-related expenses is often referred to as an estimator. The period between the estimating stage and the final "punch list" immediately before the owner accepts the job can be very long. Various obstacles may arise along the way and this is where the protection a surety bond provides enters the equation.
The surety provides contract-bonding service with two different bonds:
- The first bond assures that the contract will be performed.
- The second guarantees that proper labor and material bills for contract-related work will be paid.
Many states, cities, counties, townships, and villages follow the language within the Miller Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1935. This Act requires a separate Labor and Material Payment bond for federal public works and building contracts in addition to the Performance bond. The state and local contracts that follow the federal Miller Act contracts are commonly referred to as "Little Miller Act" contracts.
Private construction projects also use this dual bond approach because the separate payment bond minimizes the need to file labor and/or material liens against the owner's property that might encumber its title. While a lien for non-payment of labor and material bills cannot be attached to public property, it is considered good public policy to assure such payment. This practice avoids forcing material suppliers to add excessive price loads in order to address otherwise unsecured risks.
Performance bonds give the owner financial protection against contractor default, guarantee against defective workmanship or materials, and encourage adhering to the contract's provisions. An excellent by-product of the guarantee to pay labor and material bills is the elimination of possible expense, litigation, and embarrassment to the owner that arises from unpaid contractors' bills.
If a contractor defaults, the surety is usually responsible for obtaining bids from contractors to complete the job and awarding the remaining work to the successful bidder. The owner may want to participate in this process and the surety generally welcomes it doing so. However, if the owner is permitted to participate, it is nothing more than a courtesy because the surety has total control of the bidding process and it alone awards the contract for work.
Contract bonds rarely explain the specific liability of the contractor and the surety. The contract's obligations, the requirements of the plans and specifications, and the statutes that apply to the work are the controlling factors.
You may also see payment bonds, which warrant that you'll pay all of your subcontractors and suppliers. This is important to many customers because it protects them from getting a lien on their property in the event you fail to uphold your financial obligations.
License And Permit Bonds
Under state laws, municipal ordinances or other regulations, persons who apply for a license to engage in many types of business or professional activities are required to post a bond. These license or permit bonds are designed to indemnify the governmental agency against liability arising from its having issued a license to a business, professional person, artisan, etc.
Some license bonds are written on a broad basis, giving third parties the right to recover in their own name for loss or damage caused by breach of obligations of the principal. Most license bonds are filed for a specific term concurrent with the license that they support.
License bonds required by the federal government are generally considered as a separate section of the bonding business, under the classification federal bonds.
There are literally hundreds of License and Permit bonds. The number of these bonds increases regularly because new forms are developed after nearly every meeting of state legislatures and other legislative and regulatory bodies.
License and Permit bonds fall into three general categories:
- Code Observance and Good Behavior Bonds: This category of bonds applies to businesses such as plumbers, electricians, sewer installation, and retail liquor establishments. These bonds guarantee that the principal will comply with applicable health or safety laws or regulations. They are the most freely written and least hazardous bonds because their primary purpose does not involve paying money.
- Tax or Money Remittance Bonds: Examples of this category include gasoline tax bonds, most federal liquor, beer, and wine bonds, milk dealer bonds, and commission merchant bonds. These bonds guarantee that the principal will pay money due to others and are considered financial guarantees. Coverage is underwritten carefully because of the financial guarantee. Most sureties want to write only experienced and financially responsible applicants.
- Property Damage and Personal Injury Bonds: Examples in this category are blasting bonds, permit bonds for hauling or storing explosives, fireworks display bonds, and certain motor vehicle bonds. Most sureties require that the applicant be experienced and financially responsible. In many cases, they require underlying and excess liability insurance coverage as a safeguard.
An interesting characteristic of modern business is its virtually unlimited variety, ranging from simple and basic business enterprises to huge multinational corporations. Despite the many differences between the various types of businesses, each must meet two underlying requirements in order to operate:
- A license or a permit that a federal, state, county, or municipal governmental entity issues in order to conduct operations in general and/or to exercise a special privilege.
- A corporate Surety bond to support the license or permit.
Licenses or permits are interchangeable terms. They are required when the public interest demands regulating certain types of business in order to protect its citizens and/or public and private property. A license or permit that is issued is considered a special privilege. The licensee must justify the privilege by complying with the terms of codes or standards of conduct outlined by law, ordinance, or regulation. The codes and standards are usually designed to prevent abuse of the privilege to the detriment of others.
License and Permits bonds are issued every day for a variety of activities. As a result, a comprehensive listing of all of them is not practical. The following is a brief list of some of the more common License bonds available:
- Airport Permits
- Athletic Contests
- Automobile Dealers
- Beauty Parlors
- Blasting Permits
- Bowling Alleys
- Building Permits
- Business Schools
- Certified Public Accountants
- Cigar and Cigarette Manufacturers
- Cold Storage Warehouses
- Collection Agencies
- Contractors (All Kinds)
- Dealers of Motor Fuels
- Driver Schools
- Electrical Contractors
- Employment Agencies
- Fishing Licenses
- Fruit & Vegetable Dealers
- Funeral Directors
- Garbage Collectors
- Gasoline Filling Stations
- General Contractors
- Heating Contractors
- Highway Permits
- House Trailer Permits
- Insecticide Applicators
- Insurance Agents or Brokers
- Junk Dealers
- Laundry or Dry Cleaners
- Liquor (all applications)
- Livestock Auctions
- Masonry Contractors
- Mortgage Brokers
- Motor Vehicle Dealers–New and Used
- Moving Permits
- Oil and Gas Leases and Well Drilling
- Paving Contractors
- Plumbing Contractors
- Private Schools
- Processing Plants
- Public Adjusters
- Real Estate Brokers
- Retail Merchants
- Roofing Contractors
- Secondhand Dealers
- Securities Dealers
- Sewer Contractors
- Sign Hangers
- Specialty Contractors
- Storage Companies
- Street Obstruction
- Towing Operators
- Trailer Dealers
- Transportation Brokers
- Tree Trimmers
- Used Car Dealers
- Vocational Schools
- Warehouses and Grain Elevators
- Water Well Drilling
- Window Cleaners
- Wrecking Operations
This type of bond assures the obligee that the principal will comply with any regulations required by their state licensing board. This protects the obligee from liability in the event that the principal fails to do so.
Some of the commercial bond subtypes may surprise you. For example, if your business uses a lot of electricity the electric company might require you to get a utility bond promising you'll pay all of your bills. If you're in a state that has a sales tax, the state may require a bond stating you'll pay all of your sales taxes on time.
This type of bond protects the customer from financial loss in the event that you or one of your employees commits fraud, or steals from them. This type of bond is a great idea for any company who is sending employees to a customer's location.
In many states, having a fidelity bond goes hand-in-hand with acquiring a business license. You'll need to check your state laws to find out if this applies to you.
In almost every proceeding conducted in a court of law or equity, some form of bond is required by the court. There are two types of court bonds; fiduciary and litigation.
The court bond is usually a brief instrument that merely recites the obligation or court action being undertaken and binds the fiduciary or litigant and the surety to the court. The form of bond is usually prescribed by the court or by statute, and the actual forms are obtained from the court.
Penalty of Bond – The penalty (amount) of the bond is determined by the court. Frequently, the court demands a bond with a penalty of twice the amount of the estate being handled or the amount at risk. The bond may be written for an open penalty, with no top limit to the surety's liability, but this is unusual.
Term of Bond – Court bonds are continuous instruments and remain in force until the obligation is fulfilled or the litigation is closed. These bonds are not subject to cancellation, except with the consent of the court.
While the term of a court bond is continuous, premiums are payable annually. The initial premium is a minimum retained premium and no refund is made even if the case is closed before the end of the year. If the bond continues after the first year, a renewal premium is charged that is equivalent to the full first year's premium. If the bond terminates during the second or any subsequent year, the surety refunds the unearned premium on a pro rata basis, subject to a minimum premium for the year in which cancellation takes place.
Litigants in legal actions or court proceedings are required to have court bonds. These bonds enable them to pursue a remedy in court.
Determining whether a specific bond is an acceptable risk involves considering a number of different factors. They include (but are not limited to) the type of legal action, the details of the guarantee required, the principal's financial responsibility, the nature of the property involved, and the nature and degree of counter replevin available.
Note: Replevin is an order the court issues to allow the plaintiff to take possession of property before a final judgment is rendered.
Court bonds are guarantees that are either required by law or by a rule of the court. They must be filed in connection with litigation. They permit participants in a lawsuit to pursue certain legal remedies in court and are required of one party to an action at law for the benefit of the other party. Once they are filed, a vested interest in them is established that the obligee (the party in whose favor the bond runs, such as the party protected from loss under the bond) cannot be deprived without its consent.
For this reason, Court bonds do not have a cancellation clause or a statutory provision to release the surety. They are irrevocably binding on all parties until all parties agree to terminate them or until the court case is settled and the principal (the party whose honesty, fidelity, or ability to perform is guaranteed) performs all obligations imposed on him or her.
Court bonds protect the rights of individuals whose property is in dispute while a remedy is being pursued in court.
You're probably already familiar with the concept of a bail bond. Bail bonds are quintessential surety bonds: you make your court date, or you pay the price.
Bail bonds aren't the only type of court bond. For example, pre-existing contracts may require plaintiffs to take out this kind of bond in the event that they sue the obligee. The contract would then require the plaintiff to pay the defendant's court costs and losses if the defendant loses.
Who Requires Surety Bonds?
Large corporations, government agencies, and municipalities almost always require a surety bond before agreeing to do business with a company. Some state laws and regulations require certain business types to carry bonds as well. For example, in many states you must have commercial and fidelity surety bonds to run an auto dealership.
Sometimes it will be a good idea to set up a surety bond even if nobody requires you to have one. If you're forced to issue a refund to a client or customer having a line of credit in place to help you deal with the problem could come as a god-send.
Always Uphold Your End Of The Agreement
Some problems are unavoidable, but your goal should always be to fulfill your obligations to the letter so your customer has no cause to make a claim against the bond.
Every time a customer makes a successful claim your costs go up. Too many claims can make it impossible to get a bond, which can vastly restrict your opportunities, or even put you out of business. High-risk bonds do exist, but you'll want to avoid them if you can.
Still, surety bonds fulfill a vital function. They provide you with more protections against risk, and offer you the resources to deal with major issues as they arise. In some cases, bonds can be a lifesaver for businesses who might otherwise have gone under after something went wrong.
How Much Does A Surety Bond Cost?
The cost of the surety bond will usually be a percentage of the bond amount, and premiums usually range from 1-15% of the total bond amount.
For example, if you get quoted a 5% rate on a $10,000 bond, you will pay $500 for your surety bond.
The actual bond amount, and the percentage, will vary depending on your industry, your company's reputation and credit rating, and even the surety company's assessment of your ability to uphold your end of the agreement. The length of the bond matters, too.
How Much Does A $10,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $100 to $300 per year.
- Average Credit: $300 to $500 per year.
- Bad Credit: $500 to $1,000 per year.
How Much Does A $20,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $200 to $600 per year.
- Average Credit: $600 to $1,000 per year.
- Bad Credit: $1,000 to $2,000 per year.
How Much Does A $25,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $250 to $750 per year.
- Average Credit: $750 to $1,250 per year.
- Bad Credit: $1,250 to $2,500 per year.
How Much Does A $30,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $300 to $900 per year.
- Average Credit: $900 to $1,500 per year.
- Bad Credit: $1,250 to $2,500 per year.
How Much Does A $35,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $350 to $1,050 per year.
- Average Credit: $1,050 to $1,750 per year.
- Bad Credit: $1,750 to $3,500 per year.
How Much Does A $40,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $400 to $1,200 per year.
- Average Credit: $1,200 to $2,000 per year.
- Bad Credit: $2,000 to $4,500 per year.
How Much Does A $50,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $500 to $1,500 per year.
- Average Credit: $1,500 to $2,500 per year.
- Bad Credit: $2,500 to $5,000 per year.
How Much Does A $75,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $750 to $2,250 per year.
- Average Credit: $2,250 to $3,750 per year.
- Bad Credit: $3,750 to $7,500 per year.
How Much Does A $100,000 Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $1,000 to $3,000 per year.
- Average Credit: $3,000 to $5,000 per year.
- Bad Credit: $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
How Much Does A Surety Bond Cost?
- Good Credit: $200 to $600 per year.
- Average Credit: $600 to $1,000 per year.
- Bad Credit: $1,000 to $2,000 per year.
What Are Surety Bond Underwriting Guidelines?
The surety underwrites the risk based on the three Cs: Capital, Character, and Capacity. Most grantors of surety credit, commercial bank loan providers, and many other firms that extend credit as a normal business risk use these credit evaluation standards.
Many grantors of credit use a fourth C, Collateral, to support unusually hazardous surety obligations. Collateral is also routinely used with extending many commercial bank loans. The additional support that collateral provides for a credit risk does not necessarily challenge the credit worthiness of the bond principal or the party that seeks a loan. However, under contract suretyship, the requirement for collateral by standard surety markets (defined as conventional underwriters usually affiliated as members of or subscribers to the Surety and Fidelity Association of America) is highly unusual. One situation when such requests are made is when a contractor previously defaulted in performing bonded work.
Surety obligations (and contract bonds in particular) frequently depend on the officers and directors of a corporation to personally indemnify the surety against any loss it may sustain by reason of executing the bonds on behalf of a corporate principal.
The surety's and lender's respective means of recourse against default is similar. An unsecured lender has essentially the same legal remedies available to it against its defaulting borrower in civil proceedings as the surety does against its defaulting principal. In the surety business, this is known as the right of equitable subrogation. If the lender had a guarantor or co-maker supporting the borrower on its security instruments, these third parties are the equivalent to the surety's part as the guarantor to the obligee on a bond.
The law of large numbers is a key integral component to most primary insurance lines of coverage. This law anticipates collecting sufficient premium from all policyholders to cover the losses of the few. Pooling premiums to respond to injury or damage sustained by certain members of that pool is how insurance works.
However, that approach does not necessarily apply to corporate suretyship. The premium for any type of surety bond is not treated as an amount that can be held in reserve to make payments. On the contrary, it should be considered as a fee for the bond. When losses occur, they are paid out of the surety's assets, surplus investment income, and contingency reserve.
After the surety fulfills its obligation, it assumes the principal's rights, because it has already handled the principal's financial responsibilities. Once an obligee receives a surety bond, that bond is valid, even if the principal never pays for it.
The surety bond does not have any cancellation provisions for non-payment of premium. In addition, the rights of the obligee cannot be invalidated unless the bond has an express provision that permits it.
What Does A Surety Bond Cover & Pay For?
Surety bonds are a type of insurance that protects against financial loss in case of default by the principal. When a claim is made against a surety bond, the surety company may step in to pay damages or otherwise fulfill the obligations of the bond. Here are a few examples of surety bond claims and how surety bond insurance can help pay for them:
Construction project default: A contractor fails to complete a construction project according to the terms of the contract, leaving the owner with unfinished work and losses. The owner can file a claim against the contractor's surety bond to recover the costs of completing the project or hiring a new contractor. The surety company may pay the claim up to the bond amount, and then seek reimbursement from the contractor.
License and permit violations: A business owner fails to obtain the required licenses or permits for their business, resulting in fines or penalties from the government. If the owner has a surety bond, the government agency can make a claim against the bond to recover the costs of the fines or penalties. The surety company may pay the claim up to the bond amount, and then seek reimbursement from the business owner.
Employee theft or dishonesty: An employee of a company embezzles money or commits other acts of dishonesty, causing financial losses to the company. If the company has a fidelity bond (a type of surety bond), they can file a claim against the bond to recover the losses. The surety company may pay the claim up to the bond amount, and then seek reimbursement from the employee.
Probate bond default: A person appointed as a guardian or executor of an estate fails to fulfill their obligations or commits fraud, causing financial losses to the estate or its beneficiaries. The surety bond can be used to make a claim against the defaulting party and recover the losses. The surety company may pay the claim up to the bond amount, and then seek reimbursement from the defaulting party.
Overall, surety bond insurance can help pay for lawsuit damages or financial losses caused by defaulting parties, up to the bond amount.
Surety Bonds - The Bottom Line
Bonding underwriting guidelines are complex, and will require you to provide the surety company with a great deal of information. Your insurance agent can help you navigate the process, and can help you choose the right surety bond for you.
Additional Resources For Fidelity & Surety Bonding
Learn about surety and fidelity bonds which are types of insurance that are used to protect against damage or loss in commercial transactions.
Surety bonds are financial agreements that provide protection for a party in a business transaction. They are often used in construction projects, where a contractor may be required to obtain a surety bond to guarantee that they will complete the work as agreed upon in the contract.
There are three parties involved in a surety bond: the principal, the obligee, and the surety.
- The principal is the party that is required to obtain the bond and is responsible for fulfilling the terms of the agreement.
- The obligee is the party that requires the bond and will be protected by it.
- The surety is the financial institution that issues the bond and provides the financial backing for the principal's obligations.
If the principal fails to fulfill the terms of the agreement, the obligee can make a claim against the bond to recoup any losses. The surety will then investigate the claim and, if it is found to be valid, will pay out to the obligee up to the amount of the bond. The principal will then be required to reimburse the surety for any funds paid out.
Surety bonds are typically used in situations where there is a high level of risk involved, such as in construction projects where there is a potential for delays or other issues that could cause financial loss to the obligee. They provide a level of security and protection for both parties involved in the transaction.
Fidelity bonds are a type of insurance that protects businesses from financial losses caused by the dishonest or fraudulent actions of their employees. These bonds are often required by law for certain types of businesses, such as financial institutions and government agencies, as a way to ensure that employees are acting in an honest and trustworthy manner.
Fidelity bonds provide coverage for a variety of employee-related risks, including embezzlement, theft, and forgery. They can also provide coverage for cybercrime, such as data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information.