In today’s unstable and unpredictable economic climate, surety bonds are extremely important for company owners who wish to ensure that the legal terms of their closed contracts and agreements are properly respected by all parties involved. The practice of establishing surety bonds dates back hundreds of years ago, when such agreements had the role to increase the safety and efficiency of long-distance trade. Nowadays surety bonds can take various forms, play a wide range of roles and are commonly used to secure the terms of major contracts. At present, surety bonds are extensively used in the construction industry, as contractors are often obliged to provide project owners a bond that guarantees the respecting of the terms stipulated in the contract. Sometimes owners are also required to provide payment bonds to ensure that the suppliers and construction teams will receive their payment in time.
According to a series of recent studies, the construction industry in the US is a 445 billion dollar business that includes around a million contractors, up to 70 national contractor agencies and associations, and more than 7 million workers. Elaborate market investigations recently conducted in the US have revealed that over 60,000 contractors in the construction industry failed to respect their agreements over the last 10 years, canceling public and private sector construction projects worth more than 18 billion dollars. In order to prevent major financial losses and an entire succession of undesirable results, increasingly larger numbers of companies nowadays consider using surety bonds when closing major deals. In the construction industry and not only, surety bonds have a crucial role, enabling project owners to minimize serious financial risks.
Surety bonds generally establish a temporary tripartite relationship between the obligee (the secured party), the obligor (the principal) and the surety (the party that is secondarily liable). Suretyships basically require the surety to undertake the debt of another party (the principal). Although many people still confuse a surety with an insurer, they are two distinctive notions. Thus, it is very important to distinguish between suretyship and insurance agreements. For instance, a liability insurer may pay a third party on behalf of the insured, in which Surety bonding case the insured is under the protection of the insurer. By contrast, in case of surety bonds, the surety guarantees the performance of a certain contractor to the owner of a project, but the surety bond protects the project owner instead of the contractor.
Since they first emerged 100 years ago, surety companies in the United States have evolved considerably, nowadays delivering reliable, efficient and high-quality services. Consequently, surety bonds have diversified considerably in the last few years, addressing a wide range of risk situations. The two main categories of surety bonds available today are: contract surety bonds (provide financial security and construction assurance on construction projects by guaranteeing to the obligee that the principal will perform the work and pay subcontractors, workers and suppliers) and commercial surety bonds (guarantee performance by the principal of the obligation stipulated in the bond). These two main categories can be further separated in a wide range of subcategories.
A popular subcategory of contract surety bonds is represented by bid bonds (provide financial assurance that the contractor intends to enter into the contract at the price bid and provide the required performance and pre-negotiated payment bonds), while a popular subcategory of commercial surety bonds is represented by contractor license bonds (contractor license bonds are imposed by state law in order to obtain a license to form a certain business).