payment bond

Secrets of Bonding #121: Are Court Bonds Like Fruit?

produce_manMostly we issue site, subdivision and contract surety bonds (Performance & Payment).  However, we are also an important provider of Court and Probate bonds.  We issued a number of interesting court bonds recently so here is some info on this subject.

What Are Court Bonds Are Why Are They Needed?

Generally, court bonds serve three purposes.

  1. They provide required protection for the other party in the litigation (opposite the bond applicant)
  2. They guarantee the payment of related court costs
  3. The court likes them

An Injunction Bond is a good example.  In these legal actions one party wants to limit or prevent the actions of another.  An insurance agency may request an injunction to prevent a former salesman from soliciting their clients.  The court requires the plaintiff (insurance agency) to provide a bond for the protection of the defendant (salesman) in the event it is found that (s)he has been wrongfully restrained.

A Replevin Bond is similar.  These are required when the plaintiff (a bank) wants to seize an asset (your private jet) for failure to pay your finance charges.  The bond will protect you if it is later found they wrongfully seized “Wings Over Yonkers.”  See how these work?  In different situations the bonds provide the same type of function.  The name of the bond identifies the underlying legal action.

Why Do Courts Like Them?

You may think “what’s not to like?!” That’s true. But the court may require a surety bond for a practical reason.  If the litigation involves a financial matter, they could require that an escrow deposit be placed with the court for the benefit of the other party. They would hold this money until the case is decided.

This works, but is not convenient.  Where will the funds be held?  Who is responsible for their safekeeping?  Will there be periodic accounting if the case runs for years?  Who pays the expenses associated with this?  What if the money is misplaced or stolen? 

Compare this to a surety bond: Get the bond, throw it in the folder. Done!

cherriesEven though the court may have the option to take cash in lieu of bond, they may demand the issuance of a surety bond simply for its convenience.

Other Court Bonds

When a money judgment is rendered, the defendant may want the matter heard by the Appellant Court. Let’s say Maynard sued Dobie for money and wins a $10,000 judgment.  Maynard figures “Ok here comes 10 big ones!”  However, Dobie wants to dispute the decision so now Maynard has to wait.

In order to bring the Appeal, Dobie must obtain an Appeal Bond which protects the interests of the court and guarantees prompt payment if Dobie loses again.  To get this bond, he’ll have to give his personal financial statement, his indemnity, and put up maybe $11,000 for the surety to hold.  Oh, and pay the bond premium!  Why is all this necessary?

Bond underwriters know that most defendants lose at the Appellate level.  They also know that the court will simply claim on the bond to pay off the judgement.  This means that underwriters expect full penalty claims on defendant’s appeal bonds – which is why they normally require full collateral for the judgment amount plus interest and expenses.nanners

Conclusion

Hopefully it is apparent that there is a thread of similarity between these different types of court bonds.  This can make it easier to understand them when tey are needed.

Oh, so why are court bonds like fruit?  Because they have appeal!

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision and Contract Surety Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Secrets Of Bonding #114: Offer a Concrete Solution?

This Concrete Subcontractor has a big problem.  How would you solve it?

The Facts

  • The bond applicant, we will call ‘Subby,’ is a highly experienced subcontractor who performed concrete work on a school job.
  • Subby was not required to give a Performance & Payment Bond to the GC.
  • The GC, “Gigunda Const.,” has given a P&P bond to the school district.
  • The GC claims that the concrete Subby installed has failed a critical strength test. As a result, Gigunda is demanding a 2 year maintenance bond to cover potential defects.
  • Subby has disputed this claim and feels they are in compliance with the contract.
  • Since the requested maintenance bond will run to the GC and not the school district, it appears the issue must be resolved from within the subcontract terms (not directly with the school district).
  • Subby has an ongoing relationship with a major bonding company: “Wonderful Surety.”
  • Wonderful Surety has refused to provide the maintenance bond.
  • Subby’s agent called us for help. Is it possible we may support it?

Consider the Issues

  1. The work is not covered by a performance bond.
  2. Subby’s current surety has refused to support them.
  3. If Subby ignores the problem, the GC may ultimately have a performance claim on their bond. The GC, and their surety, are responsible for the entire project, including the subcontracted work.
  4. If Subby ignores the problem, the GC may have to fix it – and will back charge them for the costs.
  5. If Subby doesn’t provide the maintenance bond, the GC will withhold the remaining money in their sub contract.
  6. Gigunda’s subcontract may have imposed the GC contract conditions automatically on to the subs (possibly including concrete strength requirements).
  7. It would be normal for the subcontract to state that Subby must protect Gigunda from claims arising from their work.concrete_truck

Possible Solutions

Which One Do You Like Best?

  1. Subby can ask a new surety to provide the maintenance bond.
  2. Subby can rip out the questionable work at their own expense and re-do it to Gigunda’s satisfaction.
  3. Subby can review the subcontract to determine what strength requirements were indicated, and if Subby is actually in violation.
  4. Gigunda can press their surety to issue the maintenance bond. (Although this would be unlikley if Gigunda is the beneficiary.)
  5. Subby could refuse to get the maintenance bond or replace the work (do nothing.)
  6. Subby could ask Gigunda for a contract amendment providing additional money to rip out / replace the questionable work.
  7. Subby could let Gigunda hold money for 2 years in lieu of the bond (the entire bond amount).

So you chose: #_____

 

Conclusion

The step we recommend is #3, “review the subcontract requirements.”

Subby is an experienced concrete company that is convinced their work product is correct. They are not aware of the strength requirements that are the basis of this dispute – but a careful legal review is needed.  

Subby should also ask the GC to cite where these strength requirements appear in the subcontract.

If the work is in violation of the subcontract, Subby will have to choose between paying to replace it now, or face the difficult task of obtaining the maintenance bond. It is possible that no surety will support this without requiring substantial collateral, or maybe even full collateral.  

Pretty tough, but the bond would offer some important advantages even if full collateral is required:

  1. Subby could totally avoid the cost of replacing the work if the concrete performs successfully. Only time will tell, and filing the bond gives them that time.
  2. The bond is better for Subby than letting Gigunda hold funds. If Gigunda concludes the concrete has failed during the 2 years, they will have to go through the surety’s claim department for recovery.  That’s better than just letting the GC use their money if they want. This type of advantage always exists for bond applicants when choosing between a surety bond or putting up cash directly with an obligee / beneficiary.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Secrets of Bonding #90: Manage Your Credit Report

Love it or hate it, you do have a credit report and potential creditors can view it.

Credit scores have always been important in the evaluation of contractors applying for bid and performance bonds. Today they are even more important because a number of bonding programs we offer use the personal credit score as a primary basis for the bond approval.

Let’s dig into this critical underwriting element, learn about the inner workings and how to manage them.

Here are the main components used in evaluating the credit status (listed in order of importance):Credit cards

  1. Payment history
  2. Amounts owed
  3. Types of credit in use
  4. Length of credit history

Dig Deeper

Each credit bureau has reporting relationships with vendors and lenders. They gather payment info from them each month. It is likely that every credit bureau receives information from the issuers of your major retail credit cards (such as department stores and gas cards.) They may not, however, know all of your creditors. Therefore it is possible that credit bureaus may show different data and credit scores.

Regarding amounts owed, the dollar amount may not necessarily lower your score. It is more detrimental if you are using a high percentage of your available credit. This is viewed as a possible indication of financial stress.

The type of credit you use is not a major factor in determining your score. However, you should refrain from opening new credit cards unnecessarily. It may also lower your score if you do not have any credit cards. Managing credit card debt responsibly helps raise your score.

Applications for new credit can lower your score, especially if you do not have a long credit history. It does not lower your score if you order your own report directly from the credit bureau.

Manage Your Credit Report

Step one is to order a free copy of your credit report and check it for erroneous information. Mistyped social security numbers and name spelling errors can result in other people’s bad information appearing in your report. This happens more often than you might think.

If you do find inaccuracies, write to the credit bureau, provide an explanation and evidence (such as proof that a disputed account was settled) and demand a correction.

Other tips:

  • Set up payment reminders
  • Reduce the amount of debt you owe
  • Pay your bills on time
  • Talk to creditors if you are having difficulty making payments

Conclusion

Your credit score matters for bonding and other purposes. It is worth taking the time to manage, and maximize it.

Disclaimer: We are not credit counselors and are not providing financial advice! We are Surety Bond Specialists.  If you need a credit counselor, contact one.  If you need a bond, call us!

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Secret #86: Exoneration Nation – Why Get Off Performance Bonds?

When it comes to performance bonds for contractors, the emphasis is always on getting them. They are normally required on public work. If you cannot bond the job, being a well-qualified low bidder is not enough. Once a contractor gets the performance bond, work commences and they may think they are done with the bonding company.  Actually, every bond has its own life cycle.  Issuance is the birth – but when and how does it end, and why should the contractor care? 

After a project is bonded, the surety may not require any further paperwork from the contractor. Sometimes the obligee wants the surety to provide a Consent to Final Payment or Consent to Release of Retainage. In such case the underwriter may ask for documentation regarding the health and status of the project. But absent that, the contractor may not think it is necessary to communicate with surety at the conclusion of the job. Why is doing so beneficial?

  1. Each bonded contract represents partial use of the contractors’ aggregate capacity. By officially closing out the project the surety capacity is restored. This is obviously important to enable the pursuit of new work.
  2. From the surety’s standpoint, any coverage for the warranty does not commence until the work is accepted and the performance bond is released. It is beneficial for both the contractor and the surety to start, and promptly conclude, the warranty obligation. While outstanding, the warranty is a risk for both.
  3. The third reason involves the payment bond. The recognition claims by suppliers of labor and material is affected by the last date of their supply or performance on the project. Officially closing the contract and performance bond creates one point of reference for evaluation of such claims.

Closing out the bond file is also important for the surety. It enables them to book any remaining unearned premium and concludes their liability. Both the contractor and surety are exonerated from the risk/obligation.

ex·on·er·ate   verb
past tense: exonerated; past participle: exonerated
– to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship
– to clear from accusation or blame

“The results of the DNA fingerprinting finally exonerated the man, but only after he had wasted 10 years of his life in prison.”

How to Close the Bond File

At the end of the project, whether requested by the surety or not, the contractor should obtain a letter from the obligee stating that the contract has been completed / accepted and the surety bond is released. The contractor retains a copy and sends this evidence to the bonding company. It’s just that simple.

Contractors should assume the responsibility for this action because not all sureties are diligent in requesting closure evidence for their files. It is true that in every case, it is beneficial for the contractor to submit this information to the bonding company.

Exoneration Nation: Be part of it!

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

Secret #82: Who’s On First? Understand Surety Bonding Terms

The world of surety bonding may seem mysterious and complex. Let’s face it, it’s not like insurance. It’s actually more similar to banking. No wonder the subject is not well understood by the very people who need to know.

abbott-and-costelloIn this article we will cover some of the basics such as who the parties are and what they do so the subject does not seem so foreign.

Who is the “insured”?  The insured is the party buying insurance. Therefore, in bonding there is no insured, instead there is a “principal.”  This is the party whose actions the bond concerns.   If a construction company needs a bond, it is the principal, the bond applicant.

The intermediary who assists the contractor may be a bond producer, a bonding agent, or an insurance agent. In every case, the person is licensed by the state to process surety bond transactions.

The firm the agent works for is called an insurance agency or bonding agency. This entity provides the channel between the principal (bond applicant) and the surety, the bonding company, the provider of the bond and party holding the risk.

In the world of bonding, the term “company” is used to describe the bonding company. The agent and the agency would not be referred to as “the company” even if the name of the firm was the ABC Local Insurance Company Inc.

A reference to “the paper” relates to the bonding company.  “Whose paper is the agency using?” means “Who is the bonding company?”

Since the bonding company holds the exposure on the bond, it is their employee who makes the decision to approve or decline it.  This person is called a surety underwriter or bond underwriter.

It is true that insurance agencies may employ individuals with underwriting expertise, and their title may be “underwriter.” They may even have some decision-making authority that has been delegated to them by the bonding company (referred to as “having the pen.”)  But the fact remains that the the bonding company is responsible for the underwriting decisions.

When a contractor is asked “Who is your bonding company?” sometimes they give the name of their bonding agency. Now you know the difference!

Other areas of confusion: The owner of the construction company is not the applicant for bid and performance bonds. In the eyes of the surety, the construction company is the primary applicant because that is the name on the bonds.  The underwriting process is primarily focused on the company, its history and capabilities. The personal factors surrounding the business owner are considered secondarily.

We cannot overstate the importance of our bonding agent. The agent plays a critical role in gathering, shaping, and presenting the file for review by the underwriter – and they guide the process forward as bonds are needed. 

OK, now it’s time for one of our famous Pop Quizzes!  Choose the most appropriate word in each case:

  1. When Elmer the contractor realized he would need a bond, he got right on the phone and called his (Principal / Agent).
  2. Morty the underwriter had a few more questions and sent them to the (Surety / Bond Producer).
  3. The (Surety / Bonding Agency) was not willing to hold any additional risk on the account.
  4. Surety bonds (are / are not) insurance policies.
  5. LaFawnduh, the (Underwriter / Agent), knew it was time to arrange for a new surety.
  6. Thor, the Bonding Specialist, only used quality (Pens / Paper).

7. Bonus Question (Extra credit!): When all else failed, Moonbeam knew it was time to file a bond claim with the (Carrier / Insured).

Answers:

  1. Agent
  2. Bond Producer
  3. Surety
  4. are not
  5. Agent
  6. Paper
  7. Carrier

FIA is a bonding company (carrier) that has served contractors and their agents since 1979.  We are flexible and creative surety bond experts.  Call us for Bid and Performance Bonds.

Call us for Site and Subdivision Bonds – our specialty!

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.  856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company, Morris Plains, NJ

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Secret #80: Substitute Final Bonds

Secret # 22 covered the bonding of started projects.  Secret # 73 is about Substitute Bid Bonds. In this article we will look at cases where the contract was already secured with a surety or cash bond, but a new bond is under consideration.

Consider a number of scenarios:

  1. We are currently working on a case where a client put up full collateral (cash bond) because they did not have a bonding relationship. They contacted us to provide a surety bond that will enable them to recover their cash.
  2. A bonded project could unexpectedly require a replacement bond if the original is nullified by legal or administrative action. (This has happened!)
  3. Similarly, an otherwise valid bond may be deemed unacceptable if the surety’s A. M. Best rating drops below the obligee’s requirement.
  4. We have seen cases where a contractor wishes to voluntarily replace a bond because their new surety offers significantly better terms. (Only advantageous under certain circumstances, such as? Answer below. *)

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These are all legitimate reasons to issue a performance and payment bond on a project that is underway – and already bonded. So how does the underwriter approach these opportunities?  How can the contractor and agent prepare for this process?

The first question for the underwriters is whether they are subjected to adverse selection.  There could be physical or financial problems on the project that make a bond claim likely.  A thorough investigation will ensue.

Assuming there is no adverse selection, the underwriter’s first task is to determine the status of the project.

  1. How far along is the work?
  2. Has it been performed correctly and to the obligee’s satisfaction?
  3. Is the contractor up to date paying for labor and materials?
  4. Is the job on schedule?
  5. Does the project owner know of any disputes, delays or problems of any kind?

Will the obligee go on record stating that so far, everything is OK? The underwriter will require such a letter in order to proceed.

Typically, when the new bond is issued, it will cover the entire project back to inception.  If the original contract is the subject of the new bond, it will cover the entire dollar amount of the project including the completed portion.  As a result, the contractor may have to pay two bond fees.

The only way to avoid this is to draw up a new contract for just the remaining work.  In most cases, this is not an option.

It may seem that bonding a partially completed project is attractive. After all, part of the risk has been eliminated! In reality, due to the fact that all aspects of the completed work are guaranteed by the new bond including the prior materials and workmanship, the new underwriter faces nearly the entire risk.

When you add the possibility that the underwriter may be subjected to adverse selection, most sureties are cautious when issuing a substitute final bond.

* The timing must be right. If the purpose of filing a replacement bond is to pay a lower bond fee, the greatest advantage is at the beginning of the contract when a full refund may be provided by the incumbent carrier.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

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Secrets of Bonding #78: The Single Most Important Key to Obtain Bonding

Underwriter: “Tell me about your job cost records.”
Contractor: “I’ve been doing this for so long, I know just where I am on every job! I keep it all up here.” (Pointing to head.)

Underwriter: “Do you produce mid-year financial statements to track your progress?”
Contractor: “No, I have a bookkeeper do my taxes at the end of the year. That’s when I find out how I did.”

Underwriter: “Have you been profitable the last few years?”
Contractor: “Sure, but why give it all to the government? I bonus out the earnings to keep my taxes low.”

This is not an atypical conversation. Is this contractor a good applicant for Bid and Performance Bonds? Will the company be able to qualify? Mmm… Probably not! Let’s look at the decision making process used by bond underwriters to understand why.

You know the normal routine.  Many pieces of information are required:  Questionnaire, financial statements on the company and owners, resumes, a bank reference letter, work in process schedules, tax returns, etc. Why do bonding companies ask for all this? The info is needed to reveal where the company has been, the current status, and where it’s headed. This evaluation will determine if the company is approved for bonds.

All bonding companies are looking for successful, well-managed firms that require bonding in their normal course of business.  Remember: All sureties are risk averse. They are not looking for desperate contractors who need a bonding company to rescue them from impending failure. Sureties are “for profit” operations that issue bonds for the sole purpose of making money.

Now that we understand the underwriter’s viewpoint, think about that opening dialogue. Did the company appear to be successful, well-managed and headed in the right direction? Would the answers make you confident to back them with your money?

The simple fact is that regardless of how financially successful business owners may be, if their companies do not appear to be successful in the eyes of third-party analysts, bonds will not be forthcoming.

The contractor who carries the books in his head, takes out all the profits, and has a minimal financial presentation does not have a means of proving the company is viable to outsiders.  The single most important key to obtaining bonding is for the company to demonstrate a level of success and good management. Contractors who have not been successful and those who cannot prove their strengths will have great difficulty obtaining bonds.

The guidance we provide to specific contractors depends on each applicant’s circumstances. The company may need to develop better management practices or accounting methods. Some need to build up their track record of completed projects.

For companies that have never been bonded, the simple answer is that they must demonstrate that they have operated profitably/successfully on non-public work. This is the critical steppingstone to bonded work.

Surety agents make money by delivering bonds to contractors. They will always attempt to provide bonding even if applicants are minimally qualified.  However, all bond agents know that the best applicants are companies that have thrived on private work and now wish to pursue public contracts. These firms can show elements of success that bonding companies expect to see.

The essence of qualifying for bonds is to demonstrate the past success, solid management and future business plans that make surety underwriters enthusiastic supporters of the firm.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

(Don’t miss our next exciting article.  Click the “Follow” button at the top right.)

Secrets of Bonding #74: Twofers

A Basic Question

 Talk to the experts, and you may get different answers to this extremely basic question: “What is the maximum potential loss for the surety on a Performance and Payment Bond?”

If you have experience producing surety bonds, you know that a 100% Performance Bond (equal in amount to the contract) is priced based on the contract amount. If the bond rate is 2.5% of the contract amount on a $100,000 project, the Performance Bond cost would be $2,500.

How much would it be for a Performance and Payment Bond? It seems logical that if you add to the exposure, you must charge more – but the cost is the same. Surety rules typically say that the Payment bond is provided at no additional charge. Is this because the surety is being generous, or is the exposure amount not actually increased?!

Surety Practices

We have established that bonding companies do not charge twice as much for a P&P bond.

When it comes to the use of the contractors bonding capacity, they use “1 x” here too.  For the contract in our example, $100,000 of capacity is consumed by the P&P bond, not $200,000.

Combined Bond Forms

Look up New Jersey law “N.J.S.A. 2A:44-147” and you will find it stipulates a combined Performance and Payment Bond form for public work in the Garden State. The penal sum (maximum dollar value of the bond) is stated once in support of a two-headed obligation. This may lead the reader to conclude that the single bond penalty is shared by the surety’s two legal obligations. That would justify not making an additional charge when including a Payment obligation with the Performance Bond.

Bond Specifications

On public work, such a federal, state and municipal contracts, the bonding requirement may indicate “100% Performance Bond and 100% Payment Bond” or “100% Performance and Payment Bond.” In the context of this article, the implications may be obvious, but it appears contract officers use them interchangeably.

Federal contract officers, on other other hand, can be quite specific on this point and expect the surety to assume a 200% exposure for the 1 x bond fee.

Federal bond forms require a separate instrument for Performance and another one for Payment, each with its own penal sum.  The Surety may attach them both as a single document and even give them one bond number.  But the government clearly is buying a guarantee with a combined value of 200%.

Twofers

The reality is that, despite the pricing methods and handling procedures used by sureties, the bonding company IS responsible for 200% if they issue two instruments each stating a 100%  obligation. This is the twofer that sureties willingly offer. You can have Performance only, or get Performance and Payment, twofer the price of one!

The Irony

Surprisingly, obligees may not position themselves to obtain maximum value and protection from the bonds they buy, and sureties may give away coverage rather than charge for it. fia_surety_logo

 

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company
2740 Rt. 10 West, Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Office: 973-541-3417
Visit us: www.fiagroup.com
We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN, FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

Secrets of Bonding #73: Substitute Bid Bonds

substitute teacher

Remember how much fun it was to have a substitute teacher? Well, this is a little less exciting…

In Secret #49 we talked about bidding with a check.  This is a related topic. Substitute bid bonds are an odd part of what we do as surety professionals.  Here’s how you may run into one.

It is common for project specifications to offer a number of methods to provide the bid security that accompanies a contractors project proposal.  The options may include a check made out to the obligee, or a bid bond.

A substitute bid bond may be issued after bid security has already been given with the contractor’s proposal.  This bid bond will replace, or be substituted for the existing security – thus the name.

This may arise when the contractor has no surety at the time of the bid.  They bid with a check.  Now, with a surety in place, their first request is “How about helping us get our cash back?  It’s tied up with that bid.”

What a great way to start off by helping the new client. However, sureties are not always in favor of issuing these, and some refuse to do so under any circumstances.  Why?!

1. Bid Spread: In this case, the contractor is the low bidder, but they are too low. (Read Secret #16 to learn about unacceptable bid spreads.) The contractor may be in line for the project, but the surety does not want to issue the performance bond (aka final bond).  If the bonding company provides the substitute bid bond, they become obligated to issue the final bond or face a bid bond claim (two bad options!) “Sorry, we are not able to provide a substitute bid bond for that project.”

The fallout is that the contractor may blame the surety when they lose their bid security for failing to deliver the final bond. They will also lose the expected income from the project – pretty ugly.

2. Final Bond Optional: The specs may indicate that a Performance & Payment bond is not mandatory. It is optional at the obligee’s discretion. This amounts to adverse selection against the surety.  If the obligee thinks the contractor looks capable: No bond.  If there is some doubt about their ability to perform or the adequacy of the price, better pass the risk over to the bonding company.

For this reason, substitute bid bonds may be declined if a final bond is not mandatory.  Remember, final bonds are where sureties make their money.  Bid bonds are usually free.  The contractor will not lose anything as a result of the refusal to issue the substitute and they are already eligible to win the contract.

3. Not Low Bidder: This is similar to Number 2. Here the contractor is second or third bidder. The common practice is for obligees to hold the bid security of the second and third bidders in case they need to give them the project (maybe the low bidder can’t get their final bond issued?) The bid checks could be held for months!

From the surety’s perspective there is no question about the adequacy of the second or third bidder’s number.  This may be a well-priced contract. The problem is that they are unlikely to issue a final bond.  (Projects are rarely awarded to the second or third bidders.) This has even less chance of making money for them than a normal bid bond request.

To the contractor, a substitute bid bond may seem like a great idea. For the surety, the only desirable situation is when their client is low bidder with an acceptable bid spread and a mandatory final bond. Absent that, don’t be surprised if the surety only wants to get involved after the contract award takes place and the final bond is needed.

fia_surety_logo

FIA Surety is your go-to market for Site & Subdivision bonds.

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company
2740 Rt. 10 West, Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Office: 973-541-3417
Visit us: www.fiasurety.com
We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

Secrets of Bonding #61: Solve This Problem

A key vendor / supplier is demanding that a GC provide protection for their purchase agreement. However, the project owner did not stipulate a Performance and Payment bond on the contract and none was provided. The work has started and the contractor needs to get materials delivered from the reluctant vendor.

What are the possible solutions that may satisfy the vendor?

Q. Can we issue a Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement?
A. A vendors purchase agreement is not the same type obligation as a construction contract. A bond guaranteeing payment of the purchase agreement would be considered a Financial Guarantee Bond (Why?  See below *) They are more difficult to obtain than a Payment Bond, so that may not be the best solution.

Q. So what about issuing a Performance & Payment Bond on the Purchase Agreement?
A. This is also not an option due to the differences between the nature of a purchase agreement and a construction contract.  (Details below *).

Q. Can we bond the contract in a normal way (100% Performance & Payment)? That Payment bond would cover all vendors, so it would cover the one in question.
A. Bonding a started project is always a red flag. The underwriters initial question is “Why do they want a bond now?” It does seem suspicious, like there may be a problem with the performance of the construction work or the owner received some negative info on the contractor. The contractor could have a problem and the work may be in jeopardy.

Another issue is the cost. If a bond was not originally required, the bond cost was not included in the contract price. This means a bond purchased subsequent to the execution of the contract will be paid for out of the contractor’s profit margin. The Principal / GC will be looking for the most inexpensive solution possible.

Keep in mind that the purchase order amount is less than the contract price, so bonding the contract would result in a bond higher (and more expensive) than actually needed.

Q. Can we issue just a payment bond on the contract?
A. This too will be viewed as a red flag by the underwriters. Who asks for a payment bond but doesn’t want a Performance Bond? That would be unusual.

Summary
We have concluded that it will be difficult to retroactively bond the contract, the amount of the contract is more than the purchase order and only a financial guarantee bond can be issued on the purchase agreement, so a bond may not be the solution at all!

Our Solution

In this case, we offered Funds Administration instead of a bond. This was an inexpensive alternative, and provided an assurance for the vendor that bills would be paid in a routine manner. (The project owner pays the Funds Administrator who directly pays the vendor.)

Keep in mind, however, that the Funds Administrator has no obligation to the vendor. If there is an unexpected event, such as termination of the contract, the Funds Administrator does not guarantee to the vendor that they will be paid appropriately.  A bond would, if one had been written.

*The nature of purchase orders is different from construction contracts. When issuing a P&P bond on a contract, the surety depends on the fact that the obligee / beneficiary is paying for the work, and that money may be the key to solving any claim or default.

When bonding a purchase order, the obligee / beneficiary (vendor), is not paying – they are receiving payment. That is why a Financial Guarantee Bond must be used, and is why they are harder to obtain.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

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