What is a Contract Surety Bond?

What is a Contract Surety Bond? 2020-07-22T13:01:21-07:00


Watch our 6 minute animated video to learn what Contract Surety Bonds are and why they are necessary for your construction business. 

What is a Contract Surety Bond?

While Contract Surety Bonds are issued by insurance companies, surety is NOT like the insurance you get for your home, car or business…  In the world of contract surety there are two basic categories – Construction and Commercial.

In construction contract surety there are a number of bond types that may be needed. Bid bonds, performance bonds and payment bonds are the most prevalent; but, you may sometimes see: warranty bonds, maintenance bonds and subdivision bonds.

When an owner, usually a public entity… but not always, decides to put a construction project out to bid, they will provide the outline, plans and specifications for that job to either a specific list of contractors or the general public. The owner (the Obligee) will set a date and time for the bids to be turned in.

And here is a tricky fact…. Often a General Contractor (GC) who has been awarded a large contract will put parts of that same contract out to bid to subcontractors who specialize in certain trades. Since the GC is responsible for the entire job, even the parts they don’t perform themselves, the GC will want assurance that their subcontractors will perform the work to the contract specification so the GC will require their subs to get bonded as well. In this instance the GC becomes the Obligee to its subs and the sub-contractors are the principals. Most Obligees require the posting of a “Bid Security” in the form of a cashier’s check or a bid bond. The amount of the bid security is usually 10%, but can range from 5% to 25% or more. The bid bond guarantees that the lowest qualified bidder will sign the contract and provide the required surety bonds.

If an Obligee awards a job to a contractor, and that contractor does not sign the contract and provide the required bonds at the original proposed pricing, their bid security is at risk. The Obligee may use their bid security to cover the difference between that contractor’s bid and the next lowest qualified bidder. In some cases, the full penalty of the bid security may be forfeited. 

For a Contractor to qualify for these bonds, they must demonstrate to the Surety their experience, expertise, staffing, cash flow, reserves and character to manage, properly perform and accomplish the work.  The surety provides the bonds that allow you to get the job; but they do so with the understanding, as discussed in our “What is Surety” video, that their guarantee will never have to be acted upon. The number one rule in surety is that if the surety thinks that a requested contract bond (visual: Bid, Performance, Payment, etc.) might have a claim, then the surety will decline the request…. Period. The Extension of Surety Credit is Based Upon Zero Loss Potential.

All that being said, sometimes problems occur and jobs run into trouble and claims happen. Sureties understand this and expect the contractor to step up and take care of the problem, as necessary. How a contractor manages the problems says a lot about their character and once a problem is managed and resolved, the experience can even help the contractor going forward since they have shown the ability to do what is necessary to solve the problem. Often a positive result to a job problem provides the surety underwriter with a better comfort level in regards to the character of the contractor, which can help when trying to grow their surety support.

Today, there are many surety programs that have adjusted their entry level requirements to allow an easier path for contractors to get started in the world of surety bonded contracts. There are a number of “Application Only” programs that only need a completed application and possibly some limited financial information to provide surety bonds for single jobs up to around $500,000 and also support a total multi-job surety bonded program (aggregate) up to around $1 million or more. This is the industry’s effort to reach out and help contractors get some experience in public sector jobs or jobs that require surety bonds.

Have additional questions? Call our team of Contract Surety Bonding Experts: