Surety Bonds
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Surety bonds

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Surety bonds

Surety bonds act as a contract between a business, a client, and an insurance company. They guarantee the insurer will reimburse the client if the business fails to deliver contracted services.

Why are surety bonds important?

Larger clients and government agencies often require proof of a surety bond before they'll work with your business. State laws also mandate bonds for certain professions.

Even the most reliable business could suddenly lose a valuable employee, or run out of needed materials due to a supply chain disruption. Surety bonds provide a guarantee that your client won't lose money if your business unexpectedly can't fulfill its obligations. It's a key part of risk management when small businesses take on big projects.

Even when it’s not required, a commercial surety bond is a way to prove your small business is reliable. It may give you an edge over non-bonded competitors, which could mean the difference between winning or losing a project.

Man hits statue with mop while cleaning.

You may need a surety bond to:

  • Sign a client contract
  • Sign a federal government contract
  • Get licensed in your profession
  • Conduct specialized work, such as pesticide application
  • Bid on a project
  • Comply with state laws

What do surety bonds cover?

A surety bond guarantees that your client will receive financial reimbursement in the event your business fails to complete a project or fulfill the terms of a contract. They also help small businesses obtain necessary licenses and permits.

Specifically, surety bonds often provide coverage for:

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Failure to complete a project

If a commercial builder takes on a large construction project, but supply chain issues delay some of the parts they've ordered, they may not be able to finish the project by the agreed upon deadline.

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Failure to comply with standards or regulations

If an inspection reveals that wiring installed in a home by an electrician isn't up to code, a surety bond can reimburse the property owner for the cost of hiring another contractor to do the rewiring.

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License and permit requirements

Some professionals may need license or permit bonds to comply with state licensing laws or to get a permit for a certain type of work. For example, state laws require general contractors in California to carry a $25,000 surety bond (also called a contractor license bond), while Illinois cannabis dispensaries must have a $50,000 surety bond for each business location.

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Employee theft

A type of surety bond called a fidelity bond reimburses clients for employee theft. For example, if an employee at a financial planning firm conducts an illegal electronic funds transfer to their own account, a fidelity bond can reimburse the client for the amount that was stolen.

How much do surety bonds cost?

Women considering costs of surety bonds.

The cost of a surety bond is $8 per month for Insureon customers, on average. Construction companies typically pay a higher rate.

Factors that affect the cost include:

  • Bond amount
  • Type of bond
  • Industry risks
  • Your credit score
  • Financial history

Who needs a surety bond?

Surety bonds protect professionals in many different industries, and there are different types of bonds for the unique risks they face. You may need a bond to bid on a project, get a license, or obtain a work permit, depending on your industry and the type of work you do.

Here are a few examples of the top professions that rely on surety bonds or are required to carry them.

Construction businesses

Construction companies and contractors typically need construction bonds and insurance, and in some locations, general contractors must carry a bond to obtain a license. The amount of the bond is specified by state law or the client.

The construction industry has several types of surety bonds, such as:

  • Bid bonds guarantee the business will fulfill a contract as outlined in a bid for a project.
  • Performance bonds guarantee that a project will be completed according to the client's specifications.
  • Payment bonds guarantee all involved parties, including subcontractors, will be paid.
  • Maintenance bonds protect the project owner from the cost of any defects found after work is completed.

Professional services

Business owners who provide professional services often need a bond in order to sign a contract with a client or comply with state requirements for their profession. For example, state laws usually require notary bonds that protect the public from potential errors made by a notary public.


Wholesalers may also need surety bonds, usually to reassure clients that they'll deliver products as promised in a contract.

Insurance professionals

Insurance professionals often need to get bonded before they can obtain a license and legally go into business. The requirements vary by state. For example, New York insurance adjusters must carry a $1,000 surety bond in order to get their license.

Auto services

Surety bonds are often required by state law for both new and used auto dealers. An auto dealer bond protects the public from fraud or misrepresentation by the dealer.

Cleaning businesses

Clients often require cleaning companies to carry bonds, which in this case are called janitorial bonds. If one of your employees steals jewelry or cash from a client, the insurance company will reimburse the client up to the bond amount.

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What do surety bonds not cover?

While a surety bond protects your clients from financial loss, it does not protect your own business against damages or losses. In fact, your business is responsible for paying back any amount paid by a bond to a client.

That's why you also need small business insurance. For instance, a surety bond does not include coverage for:

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Damaged client property

Though a surety bond will cover theft of client property, it won't provide coverage for property damage. Look to your general liability insurance policy for financial protection against accidental damage to a client's property.

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Accidental injuries

General liability insurance also provides financial protection against accidental injuries, such as a client who slips and suffers an injury at your office. You may need this policy to fulfill the terms of a lease, loan, or contract.

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Breach of contract

If a client sues your business for a breach of contract, mistake, or negligence, professional liability insurance would help cover your legal defense costs. This policy is also called errors and omissions insurance (E&O) or malpractice insurance, depending on the industry.

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Data breaches

Cyber liability insurance covers expenses related to data breaches and cyberattacks, including the cost of notifying affected customers or fulfilling other requirements of state data breach laws.

Find quotes for small business insurance and surety bonds

Other common questions about surety bonds

How do surety bonds work?

Surety bonds do not work like standard small business insurance policies, which pay out claims to the policyholder. Instead, surety bond claims are paid to the client (also called the obligee). For example, if your small business fails to complete a construction project, the surety company will reimburse your client.

Unlike an insurance policy, you must pay this amount back to the insurer or surety bond company. In a way, a surety bond is more like a line of credit than insurance.

A surety bond offers a financial guarantee that an insurance company will reimburse your client if your business doesn’t complete a project, breaks the terms of a contract, or fails to adhere to regulations.

When do you need a surety bond?

When you first start working with a client, they may ask you to purchase a surety bond in a specific amount before they'll allow workers on their premises. State laws often have surety bond requirements before you can get a license or work legally in a certain profession.

For example, you may need a surety bond to sign a construction contract, or work for your local government on a project.

Surety bonds protect your clients from financial loss, which means they may be willing to work with your company even if your business is relatively new. They can rest assured you'll meet contractual obligations, or reimburse them fully if the bond requirements are not met.

You'll want to research the laws in your state to make sure you're carrying all the necessary bonds and insurance for your profession. You can also consult with an insurance agent who can help you find the right coverage.

How do you get a surety bond?

It's easy to get a surety bond and business insurance with Insureon.

First, fill out our free online application to get quotes for general liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and other policies. Then, chat with an agent if you'd like to add a surety bond to your coverage.

We'll help make sure you get the right coverage, without paying too much for insurance and bonds.

What's the difference between being licensed, bonded, and insured?

A company is bonded when it has a surety bond. It's insured when it has other insurance policies, such as general liability insurance or workers' compensation insurance. Finally, it's licensed when it has obtained the licenses necessary to operate legally.

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Updated: May 19, 2023
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