In the world of insurance and financial products, surety bonds play a crucial role in helping you avoid a financial loss. Since the 19th century when bonds were first introduced, thousands of bond types have emerged. Like insurance, bonds are a legal contract which binds parties together and guarantee compensation if the purchaser fails in their duties.
The Principal (Obligor)
The individual or business that purchases the bond is known as the principal (also known as the obligor). You may be required to buy a bond for several reasons. If you’re a general contractor, you may need to provide a bid bond to a client, assuring them that your bid was placed in good faith. Or, a janitorial company may ask for an employee theft bond as a condition of hiring.
The obligee is the third party to whom the money is owed. For example, you may hire a contractor to complete work on your home and require that they provide a performance bond to ensure the contract is completed in accordance with the agreed terms. If the contractor fails to meet the terms, the bond would pay your loss up to the limit of the bond.
The surety is the entity who promises to pay the obligee should the principal fail to meet their obligations. While the surety is usually an insurance company, it may be a bond company or a bank. Because bonds are meant to prevent a loss, the underwriting process is different than a traditional insurance policy and in lieu of a premium, a fee is collected.
Licensed, Bonded, and Insured
In advertisements, you’ve probably heard the phrase “licensed, bonded, and insured”. Professionals like contractors, tax collectors and notaries are licensed to show that they have passed required exams or met special requirements which provide a level of professional trust. These professionals, while their intentions may be honest, may default on a promise to provide a service. For this reason most states require that they are licensed, carry a bond and are insured as conditions for obtaining a business license.
Promises Made Daily
For every promise made, for every doubt you may have about a business relationship, there is a surety bond. With thousands of bonds to choose from, many are completely unique to the situation. An electrician may need a permit bond, ensuring that work will comply with local codes or a public official bond guaranteeing that the tax collector will perform their duties to the public. You may even be required to purchase a bond as part of your rental agreement on a home or apartment in lieu of a cleaning deposit. For any situation that requires a promise from one party to another, there is a type of bond to fit that need.
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James Russell is a risk advisor for NewFIrst Insurors, specializing in the development of risk management strategies for the oil and gas industry, construction operations, and offshore risks.