Surety: Definition, How It Works With Bonds, and Distinctions (2024)

What Is a Surety?

A surety is a promise or agreement made by one party that debts and financial obligations will be paid. In effect, a surety acts as a guarantee that a person or an organization assumes responsibility for fulfilling financial obligations in the event that the debtor defaults and is unable to make payments. The party that guarantees the debt is referred to as the surety or the guarantor. Sureties can be made by issuing surety bonds, which are legal contracts obligating one party to pay if the other fails to live up to the agreement.

Key Takeaways

  • A surety is a promise that financial obligations will be met if one party defaults.
  • A surety is made by a person or party that takes responsibility for the debt, default, or other financial responsibilities of another party.
  • Sureties are used in contracts in which one party’s financial holdings or well-being are in question and the other party wants a guarantor.
  • Surety bonds tie the principal, the obligee (often a government entity), and the surety.

How Sureties Work

As noted above, a surety is a guarantee or promise that assures payment through a legally binding contract. Under the agreement, one party promises to fulfill the financial obligations if the second party (the debtor) fails to pay the third party (the creditor).

The surety is the company that provides a line of credit to guarantee payment of any claim. They provide a financial guarantee to the obligee that the principal will fulfill their obligations. A principal’s obligations could mean complying with state laws and regulations pertaining to a specific business license or meeting the terms of a construction contract. An example of such a contract would be when a surety company vets and hires an administrator to handle a will or estate.

If the principal fails to deliver on the terms of the contract entered into with the obligee, then the obligee has the right to file a claim against the bond to recover any damages or losses incurred. If the claim is valid, the surety company will pay reparation that cannot exceed the bond amount. The underwriters will then expect the principal to reimburse them for any claims paid.

A surety is most common in contracts in which one party questions whether the counterparty in the contract will be able to fulfill all requirements. The party may require the counterparty to come forward with a guarantor to reduce risk, with the guarantor entering into a contract of suretyship. This is intended to lower risk to the lender, which might, in turn, lower interest rates for the borrower. A surety can be in the form of a surety bond.

The claim amount in a surety is still retrieved from the principal, either through collateral posted by the principal or through other means.

Special Considerations

A surety is not a bank guarantee. Similarly, it is not an insurance policy. Where the surety is liable for any performance risk posed by the principal, the bank guarantee is liable for the financial risk of the contracted project.

The payment made to the surety company is paying for the bond, but the principal is still liable for the debt. The surety is only required to relieve the obligee of the time and resources that will be used to recover any loss or damage from a principal.

Surety Bonds

A surety bond is a legally binding contract. It is used as an assurance that the issuer will pay any debts if the other party fails to do so. Surety bonds are entered into by three parties:

  • The Principal: This party is responsible for obtaining the bond and fulfilling the obligation.
  • The Obligee: This party is the one who needs the guarantee by the principal. This can be a company, a government agency, or an individual.
  • The Surety: The guarantor of the bond. This party ensures that the principal makes payment.

Here's how it works. The principal is responsible for securing the surety bond, which must abide by certain conditions, including the total amount owed. If the principal defaults or breaks the contract, the obligee, who is owed the money, can file a claim seeking restitution. The surety (or the party issuing the bond) can review the claim and make a determination. If the claim is paid, the surety can then seek financial compensation from the principal. This includes interest and fees on top of the principal balance.

Surety bonds can be used in a number of different circ*mstances. The table below outlines some of the most common types of surety bonds:

Types of Surety Bonds
Commercial SuretyCommercial sureties are needed by licensed businesses. Governments issue these sureties to make sure business owners follow codes and regulations.
Contract SuretyThis type of surety ensures that contractual agreements are met. Contract sureties are commonly used for construction projects.
CourtSuretyCommonly used in civil cases, these sureties provide a form of protection against court losses.
Fidelity SuretyThis type of surety is used by companies to protect against theft and employee misconduct. Fidelity bonds aren't mandatory for business but are used as risk management tools.

What Is the Purpose of a Surety?

A surety is the guarantee of the debts of one party by another. This is intended to lower risk to the lender, which might, in turn, lower interest rates for the borrower.

What Is a Surety Limit?

A surety bond protects an obligee against losses, up to the limit of the bond. The bond amount is the monetary limit up to which the obligee requires the bond to be issued.

What Are the Benefits Available to a Surety?

Surety bonds provide a defense against false claims and act as clear-cut representation when claims occur. Because surety bonds also lower risk for lenders, they can reduce interest rates for borrowers.

The Bottom Line

A surety is a person or party that takes responsibility for the debt, default, or other financial responsibilities of another party. A surety is often used in contracts in which one party’s financial holdings or well-being are in question and the other party wants a guarantor.

Surety bonds are financial instruments that tie the principal, the obligee—often a government entity—and the surety. In the case of surety bonds, the surety is providing a line of credit to the principal so as to reassure the obligee that the principal will fulfill their side of the agreement.

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  1. Suretybonds.com. "What is a Surety Bond?"

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Surety: Definition, How It Works With Bonds, and Distinctions (2024)

FAQs

Surety: Definition, How It Works With Bonds, and Distinctions? ›

The party that guarantees the debt is referred to as the surety or the guarantor. Sureties can be made by issuing surety bonds, which are legal contracts obligating one party to pay if the other fails to live up to the agreement.

What is a surety on a bond? ›

A surety bond is a three-party written agreement by which one party (the surety) guarantees another party (the obligee) that a third party (the principal) will perform according to the bond, statute, contract or other obligation.

What is the legal definition of surety? ›

Introduction. A surety is traditionally defined as a person or entity who agrees in writing to answer for the debt or default of another.

What is a surety quizlet? ›

A debtor or principal obligor is a party that owes the obligation to the creditor. Surety. A surety is a person who agrees to be primarily liable for the obligation of another. Guarantor. A guarantor is a person who guarantees performance of an obligation or payment of a debt in the event that the debtor defaults.

What is the primary purpose of a surety bond? ›

Surety bonds provide financial guarantees that contracts and other business deals will be completed according to mutual terms. Their primary purpose is to protect consumers and government entities from loss due to poor workmanship, malpractice, theft and fraud.

What are the risks of a surety bond? ›

Potential Default by the Obligee. While it's less common, there's also a risk of default by the obligee. For instance, an obligee might wrongfully declare a principal in default and make a claim against the bond. Such scenarios can lead to unnecessary complications and financial strain for the principal and the surety.

What are the rights of a surety? ›

A surety is entitled to the benefit of every security which the creditor has against the principal debtor at the time when the contract of suretyship is entered into, whether the surety knows of the existence of such security or not; and if the creditor loses, or, without the consent of the surety, parts with such ...

Who is the person who gives the surety? ›

The person who gives the guarantee is called the "surety"; the person in respect of whose default the guarantee is given is called the "principal debtor", and the person to whom the guarantee is given is called the "creditor". A guarantee may be either oral or written.

What is a surety bond also known as? ›

In finance, a surety /ˈʃʊərɪti/, surety bond, or guaranty involves a promise by one party to assume responsibility for the debt obligation of a borrower if that borrower defaults.

Why do people buy surety bonds? ›

A surety bond makes sure that a contract is completed if a contractor defaults.

Why do we need surety? ›

A surety is an assurance of one party's debts to another. A surety is an entity or an individual who assumes the duty of paying the debt in the event that a debtor fails or is not able to make the payments. The party which guarantees the debt is called a surety, or the guarantor.

What are the three types of surety bonds? ›

The three most common types of contract surety bonds are bid bonds, performance bonds, and payment bonds. Bid bonds require that contractors enter into a contract if their bid for a project has been accepted by the obligee.

What does it mean to be bonded under a surety bond? ›

“Bonded” means that you have purchased a surety bond to protect your business against claims of shoddy, incomplete work, or allegations of theft and fraud. A surety bond has three parties: Principal, which is the business buying the bond. Obligee, which is the client requesting the bond.

Why would someone be a surety? ›

A surety is a person or party that takes responsibility for the debt, default, or other financial responsibilities of another party. A surety is often used in contracts in which one party's financial holdings or well-being are in question and the other party wants a guarantor.

What is an example of a surety? ›

There are two main categories of surety bond: Contract Bonds and Commercial Bonds. Contract bonds guarantee a specific contract. Examples include Performance Bonds, Bid Bonds, Supply bonds, Maintenance Bonds, and Subdivision Bonds. Commercial Bonds guarantee per the terms of the bond form.

What does getting surety mean? ›

: a formal engagement (such as a pledge) given for the fulfillment of an undertaking : guarantee. b. : a basis of confidence or security. 3. : one who has become legally liable for the debt, default, or failure in duty of another.

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