What to consider when choosing a surety bonding company
In Construction: a surety bond is a guarantee from a surety bonding company (Insurance Licensed Company) that a contractor will complete an agreement;
if the contractor does not complete the agreement, the surety is liable, with the contractor, to complete the agreed work. When choosing a surety bonding company, you need to take into consideration its reputation, experience and bonding process.
What should I consider when choosing a surety bonding company?
A surety bond is a three-party agreement between a surety company, an owner (obligee) and a principle (contractor). In this type of bond, the surety company insures the obligee that the principle will fulfill a contract. When a surety bond is used in the construction industry, it is called a contract surety bond. Business owners acquire surety bonds because they want to be sure that a contract is going to manage his enterprise well, deal fairly, perform obligations in a timely manner and keep promises. Business owners also pursue surety bonds because they provide protection in case the contractor defaults on the contract.
Surety bonding is considered a part of the insurance industry, but it shares some characteristics with the bank credit industry. However, the surety company's primary duty is not to lend the contractor money. Instead, the surety company uses its financial resources to stand behind, or back, the contractor's commitment and ability to complete a contract. The surety bond is advantageous for the business owner because it assures that the contracted work will be completed, and protection will be provided if it is not. Surety bond companies charge a premium for prequalifying or underwriting the contractor. Unlike insurance companies, surety companies do not charge deductibles based on the probability of loss, because surety companies do not expect a loss to occur.
Surety bonding companies do extensive research on the contractors that they bond. They request a list of good references from the contractor, as well as proof that the contractor has experience fulfilling the requirements of contracts. Surety bond companies will also evaluate a contractor's ability to obtain equipment necessary to carry out work, the contractor's financial ability to hire necessary employees, the contractor's credit history and the contractor's current bank relationships and lines of credit. Having this information will allows you, as a business owner, to make a good decision in hiring a contractor. A surety bond will also help convince architects, lenders and other principles on the project that the chosen contractor will complete the duties and contracts as assigned.
Because the surety bonding company plays such an important role in assuring that your contractor will complete his contract, it is important to carefully consider what bonding company you will choose. If you have never used a surety bonding company before, it will probably be a good idea to find other small business owners in your area who have used surety bonding companies and ask them who they recommend and why. Make a list of these names and do your own 'research'-find out what contractors they bond, and track down other businesspersons who have used their services.
After compiling a list of potential surety bonding companies, you will want to check with the U.S. Treasury Department or similar agency in your state to assure that the agencies are licensed for bonding. Some bonding agencies are contained within larger insurance agencies, so you will also want to find out if they have an agent to handle surety bonds specifically or if they use any agent available to draft surety bonds.
It is also important to ask your surety bonding agency what screening they perform on contractors. Do they conduct background checks? Do they gather business reference? What is the upper monetary limit of their bonding services? How long have they been in the bonding business? What are their policies if contractors default on an agreement? Are they registered with the state Insurance authorities and/or the federal Treasury Department?
The surety company is the primary risk-taker in the three-way bonding agreement, and so will want to thoroughly investigate your business plans and information about your business before bonding a contractor to do work with you. It is important to provide as much information as you can to the surety agency so they can properly underwrite the contractor and make sure you are protected from liability in case the contractor defaults on your agreement.
A good surety bonding agency will charge a premium for underwriting your contractor and project, and will publish what their premium rates are. If a surety company does not publish their premiums or rates, you should contact your state's Insurance office to assure that they are licensed and comply with all state and federal regulations.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when choosing a surety bonding company is ensuring that you have open lines of communication.
You need to choose a surety bonding agent you can talk to about your business concerns-and the bonding agent needs to be able to listen to you, and address your concerns to your satisfaction.
Again, other businesspersons will likely be very useful to you in your bonding agency search. You may also want to ask contractors who have submitted bids to you what surety bonding agencies they have used in the past.