What is the SINGLE most important element that underwriters consider when reviewing a bond account? What is the ONE most relevant factor applicants must have in order to qualify for surety bonds?
Each of the financial factors is important. It’s like how much gas you have in the tank. Low or no NQ or NW means you may not go far.
Profitability is how well the engine is running. Hear a funny noise? That could be a bad sign. These are all important, but they are not the ONE most critical factor.
If you were the underwriter, if you were betting your own money, would you rather back an applicant with lots of dough or one that was absolutely trustworthy? Think of it this way:
Billy shows a strong financial position, but has a history of tax liens. Suzie has limited financial recourses, but her credit score is high.
Who do you go with? I would lean toward Suzie. Billy has the big bucks, but how do we know he’ll do the right thing with his $. Will he pay his invoices properly and avoid bond claims? Stay out of trouble with the tax collector? Do the right thing by us? Maybe he got his money by dealing dirty…
Suzie on the other hand can be trusted. She may qualify for assistance or support. Given the chance, this honorable person may succeed.
So, you could argue that the one most important element is the CREDIT REPORT. It is objective, current, third-party info that reveals the applicants character. It helps the underwriter identify trustworthy applicants, people who honor their obligations.
Without that, you have nothing.
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(Click for mood music!) You take a regular Payment Bond that provides protection downstream for providers of labor and material. Then you make it go the opposite direction to give payment protect to the project owner or GC.
“We can remove his head and point it the other way!”
What is this “Franky Bond” and when do you use it?
How do you get one?
This creature is an Advance Payment Bond. You may run into one of these because they are part of the solution for contractors struggling to deal with rising material/equipment prices and long delivery dates. The bond enables contractors/subcontractors to collect payment before the items are installed, delivered to the job site or “suitably stored.” Such payments would normally not be contractually permitted – but our Franky Bond can make it happen. This enables the “Principal” (bond applicant) to collect funds, order the product and lock in prices. It may also help assure delivery at a time when the product is needed. Sounds great, but what is the underwriting? Are these hard to get?
A Performance and Payment Bond is not considered a “strict financial guarantee,” however the Franky Bond is. It is promising the proper handling of funds, or a claim can be made to recover the payment. You have to call that a financial guarantee. Such bonds are approved based on the good financial condition of the applicant.
Even when the principal has filed a Performance and Payment Bond, the Franky Bond may be required to facilitate payment outside the terms of the contract.
So there you have it. There’s always something new in the surety business!
* Don’t call him Frankenstein, he is “Frankenstein’s monster.” * Do call uswhen you need a Franky Bond – for Advanced Payment on a construction contract.
FIA Surety: A carrier that provides A rated, T-listed Site, Subdivision and Contract Surety Bonds in all states!
Article by Tyler Dunn at Weissman PC (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Georgia law allows for those providing labor or material for a construction project to file mechanics or materialmen liens (“M&M Lien”) against the property in the real estate records for amounts claimed for that labor or material. Faced with an M&M Lien, builders often feel they have no alternative but to settle an unsubstantiated lien claim or pay to bond it off the project. A few ways to protect against M&M Liens are discussed below.
Final a Notice of Commencement
An owner can get some significant protection from M & M Liens by filing a “Notice of Commencement” and posting it at the project site. The Notice of Commencement must be filed no later than 15 days after commencement of work on the project and must contain specific identifying information prescribed by Georgia law. A copy of the Notice of Commencement must be provided to any subcontractor who requests it in writing. If a Notice of Commencement has been correctly filed and posted, a subcontractor must then provide a “Notice to Contractor” to the owner or contractor within 30 days after providing work or material, thus alerting parties that it is involved in the project and to what extent. The Notice to Contractor gives the owner/contractor the opportunity to make sure the sub-sub is paid, thereby avoiding a possible M & M Lien from that subcontractor. If the Notice to Contractor is not timely provided by the subcontractor, it’s M & M Lien rights automatically terminate.
2. Obtain Lien Waivers
Statutory interim and final lien waivers should be signed by potential M & M Lien claimants when interim and final payments are made to them. It is essential that correct waiver forms be used since other types of forms are generally ineffective and unenforceable. The valid forms of interim and final lien waivers in Georgia were revised in 2021 and these current forms must be used. Ideally, interim and final lien waivers should be obtained from all subcontractors and suppliers. Further, when the final payment for the project is made, the general contractor should sign a “Final Affidavit and Lien Waiver” stating that all subs and sub-subs have been paid.
3. Consider Contracts with Subcontractors
Written subcontracts between builders and their subcontractors can also protect against M & M Liens. While not the norm, these contracts can protect builders by including provisions that directly address M & M Liens. To ease the task, a builder can sign a master subcontract applicable to all projects with each of the customary subcontractors.
(Note from Golia: Florida is one example of a state with similar requirements. Look up “Florida 2021 Statutes, Title XL, Chapter 713” for details.)
Does YOUR state have similar requirements for lien filers? Let me know and I’ll add your comments below. “email@example.com“
FIA Surety: A carrier providing T-listed, A rated Contract, Site and Subdivision bonds in all states!
A large subcontract has been awarded and no Performance & Payment Bond was stipulated. The sub commenced with the work but their major vendor is holding up the entire project – they want their purchase order (PO) “bonded.”
What are the possible solutions?
More details: The subcontract is for $4 million and the vendors purchase order is $600,000, about 15% of the subcontract.
What is your solution?
Issue a $600,000 Performance Bond on the purchase order or maybe a Payment Bond
Provide a P&P bond on the entire contract, or just a Payment Bond
Use Funds Control to assure the vendor that their payments will be processed smoothly, without interruption.
Use Joint Checks to assure that the sub cannot divert the vendor’s payments.
Issue a new contract equal to the purchase order and provide a Payment Bond to the vendor.
#2. Bonding the purchase order would be a financial guarantee obligation (pay money at a future date), very tough. Underwriters might want collateral.
#3. This is an impractical solution because the PO is such a small percentage of the subcontract – makes it appear extremely expensive (premium based on the contract amount.)
#4. Could work although the vendor has no recourse if the payments are held up.
#5. Same problem with joint checks.
#6. If the contract owner will agree to make these adjustments, it could be the best solution. A Payment Bond would be issued on the new contract and furnished to the vendor.
Was YOUR solution on the list? Let me know if you have one to add: firstname.lastname@example.org
FIA Surety, your best carrier to solve “thorny problems.” Call us for T-listed, A rated Contract, Site and Subdivision bonds in all states.
Steve, This may touch upon your solutions #2 and/or #6, but I was thinking along the lines of issuing a $600,000 Advance Payment Bond covering the PO contract between the Sub (Principal) and Supplier (Obligee). A new supply contract covering the PO would likely need executed between those 2 parties, but not necessarily impact the existing contract between the GC and the Sub.
OK, yes, good thoughts!
Couple of issues: While the advance payment bond would help the vendor, it would be priced and underwritten as a financial guarantee (tough) b/c the principal is paying the obligee, not the other way around (as on a P&P bond.)
A supply contract bond will have the vendor as the principal, so that will not satisfy their need.
Pretty thorny, right? Actually this exact situation comes up from time to time. If the PO amount is substantial in relation to the contract, issuing a Payment Bond on the entire contract could be the economical solution, then you just give a copy of the bond to that one vendor. They should be happy to hold a bond that is for more than their PO amount.
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Full or Part Time available
The Full or Part-Time Surety Bond Underwriting Assistant works to execute and process Surety Bond business in our Morris Plains office, providing administrative and underwriting support for our Surety Underwriting team.
– Use Surety systems to process new business through data entry
– Applying knowledge and understanding of rating scenarios and producing error free work through strong attention-to-detail. This includes but is not limited to prepare and execute new bonds, riders, enter rates and code new business, renewals, and cancellations.
– Provide underwriting support to Surety Underwriting team (Underwriters, Bond Manager, Office Manager, CEO, etc.) and exemplary service to customers, including agents and clients.
– Assists with customer service inquiries and questions, as well as input new bond transactions. Prepare and verify documents for accuracy prior to entering.
– Assist with billing, premium and commission discrepancies upon request.
– Use excellent written and verbal communication skills to engage with clients, claims professionals, and additional internal and external clients.
– Ability to process transactions within appropriate systems with high level of accuracy
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Construction delays come in various forms as do the potential for damages arising from them.
BY DENISE M. MOTTA AND SETH C. WISEMAN
DELAY CLAIMS IN the construction industry occur when the work on a construction project has not proceeded pursuant to the project’s work schedule. These delays often arise from circumstances that were unanticipated by the parties when they entered into their contracts and often result in the construction work being extended or, alternatively, accelerated to get the project schedule back on track. As a result, delays often add an additional layer of difficulty and frustration for parties involved in the modern, complex construction industry. Thus, it is important for all parties involved to understand delay claims and damages to save valuable time and money on their respective projects.
Excusable Delays v. Non-Excusable Delays
All construction delays can be categorized as either excusable or non-excusable. Generally, excusable delays are those that are: (1) beyond the control of the contractor; and (2) unforeseeable to the contractor. Simply put, for a contractor to have a right to be compensated for delays, the contractor cannot be responsible for the delays. Generally, the remedy for excusable delays is the grant of a time extension to the contractor. Specific examples of excusable delays are often enumerated in contract documents and examples of such events are owner changes, strikes, acts of God, fires, and floods.
Delays are non-excusable when the delay results from an act or neglect of the contractor, or its subcontractors or suppliers at any tier, or is the result of a risk assumed by the contractor pursuant to a contract. Because these delays may be caused by negligence or poor performance of the contracting parties, they are controllable. Non-excusable delays are usually rooted in at least some of the following causes: improper scheduling, ineffective site management, incorrect methods of construction, delayed performance in overall activities, and poor monitoring and control.
Compensable Delays v. Non-Compensable Delays
After determination that a particular delay is excusable or non-excusable, one must determine whether the delay is also compensable or non-compensable. If a delay is compensable, the contractor is entitled to an extension of time and additional money as compensation for the delay. In general terms, a delay is compensable to a contractor only if the delay is caused by the owner (or the owner’s agents) and the claimant has not waived its right to compensation in the contract. For example, if a contractor is delayed by unusually severe rain showers, it would be a non-compensable, excusable delay, leaving the contractor with a time extension, but no compensation. However, if the owner failed to provide a contractually required cover that would have allowed the work to proceed despite the weather conditions, then the delay becomes compensable because the owner had control over the potential delay. The delay in the latter example is occasioned by the conduct of the owner, as opposed to the weather, and therefore is compensable.
A contractor can waive its right to compensation for owner-caused delay in a “no damage for delay” clause or waiver of consequential damages. Additionally, most contracts will include classes of delay which are compensable, such as changes required by the owner.
Common Breakdowns of Delay Damages
Damages from delay can come in various forms. Impacts include increased labor costs, increased material and equipment costs, overhead, and loss of efficiency or productivity. When asserting a delay claim, it is important to adequately track any direct costs (labor, material, or equipment) with appropriate backup when a project is delayed.
1. Labor Costs
Extended or additional labor costs impact nearly every party in connection with project delay. Delays to a project can force the contractor to perform work out of sequence, under different labor conditions, or at a later time. Each of these will impact the work and result in an increase in labor costs. For example, a delay that pushes work into a later period can result in stacking of trades, disruption of trades, and slower progress. If pushed to a later time, work that previously had no shortage of trained labor could face shortages or unrest as labor agreements are impacted. Not all labor costs, however, should be considered part of damages due to delay. Rather, the damages are for the labor actually impacted by the delayed work.
2. Material and Equipment Costs
Courts, such as the one in Colorado Environments, Inc. v. Valley Grading Corp., 779 P.2d 80, 84 (Nev. 1989), have determined equipment standby damages usually “take the form of lost opportunities to rent idle equipment to others or the plaintiff’s inability to use the equipment at an earlier date on another job.” Such losses—when foreseeable—are “a natural consequence of the delay, and are, therefore, compensable.” Courts may award the plaintiff its lost profits and unavoidable costs (namely, its equipment leasing costs). The court will examine the damages to place the plaintiff in the position it would have had if the delaying party performed the contract.
3. Direct and Indirect Overhead
“Unabsorbed overhead” may be recoverable as part of delay damages. In Yacht West, Ltd. v. Christenson Shipyards, Ltd., 464 Fed. Appx. 626, 629 (9th Cir. 2011), the court held that, “[i]f the delay prevented the contractor from obtaining contracts during the delay period that would have ‘absorbed’ the ongoing overhead expenses,” the unabsorbed overhead is recoverable.
4. Loss of Efficiency/Productivity Claims
In Wunderlich Contracting Co. v. United States, 173 Ct. CI. 180, 198 (1965), the court held that—in construction delay claims—disruption can be compensable when it results in: (1) a loss of productivity; (2) caused by a change in working conditions; (3) for which the owner is responsible. Whether a contractor is entitled to recover the increased costs of disruption depends on the nature of the disruption, the cause of the loss of productivity, and the terms of its contract as interpreted in the light of industry practice. Of particular note, timing factors are common causes affecting project productivity and efficiency. Examples are acceleration, out-of-sequence work, schedule compression, and simultaneous operations.
Disruption is a separate and distinct phenomenon from delay, as courts have noted. Although the two claim types often arise together on the same project, a delay claim involves the time and cost of not being able to work, while a disruption claim involves the cost of working less efficiently than planned.
THE CRITICAL PATH CAN BE DEFINED AS THE SERIES OF ACTIVITIES WITH THE LONGEST EXTENDED DURATION REPRESENTING THE SHORTEST TIME WITHIN WHICH THE PROJECT CAN BE COMPLETED IF THE CONSTRUCTION PROCEEDS AS PLANNED
The Critical Path Method
The Critical Path Method (CPM) is the most widely accepted method for evaluating project delay claims. The critical path can be defined as the series of activities with the longest extended duration representing the shortest time within which the project can be completed if the construction proceeds as planned. Any one day of delay in a critical path activity will delay the completion of the project by one day.
A CPM schedule analysis can establish: (1) the duration of the project; (2) the earliest and latest that project activities can start and finish without delaying the project; (3) which activities are “critical,” meaning they must be completed on schedule, or else the entire project will take longer; (4) which activities are not critical, meaning they can be performed simultaneously with other work and/or other activities do not depend on their completion; and (5) whether or not it is cost effective or possible to accelerate the completion of a project. Although there are numerous ways to approach a delay claim analysis, they tend to all be after-the-fact, based on a combination of historical data, assumptions, and estimates.
Importance of Expert Testimony in Proving Delay Claims
Courts generally require the testimony of a properly qualified expert witness to prove the amount or impact of lost productivity. The experts will typically examine the CPM and determine the cause and length of the construction delay and the damages caused by the delay. The failure to use an expert has resulted in many courts finding the claimant unable to meet the required burden to prove inefficiency.
Furthermore, scheduling is not an exact science. Experts’ opinions can be challenged and discredited in various ways. Thus, the selection of a scheduling expert can be critical to a claim’s success. Therefore, the expert should have the credentials and the practical experience to understand and properly analyze the project schedule and the cause of the delay.
Practical tips to consider when met with delays include the following: (1) conducting a critical path delay analysis to determine the party responsible for the delay; (2) retaining a delay expert to consult regarding schedule issues; (3) being mindful of deadlines set forth in the contract for requesting change orders, including requests for time extensions; (4) requesting a time extension when impacted by delays; (5) including additional days for completion of change orders in each change order; (6) tracking all labor, material, and equipment expenses with a separate job cost code; and (7) keeping supporting backup for all expenses organized by expense.
Unfortunately, delays on construction projects are commonplace. Understanding delay claims and proactively monitoring the project schedule, as well as enlisting legal counsel and delay experts early in the process, will assist in development of proof to prove (or defend) delay claims.
Published with the permission of the authors.
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