Secrets of Bonding #158: Booby Trap Bond

Booby Trap Performance Bond

“The Surety, for value received, hereby stipulates and agrees that if the Contractor has been declared in default by the Obligee, and there has been no uncontested failure, which has not been remedied or waived, of the Obligee to pay the Contractor as required under the Construction Contract: (i) The Surety shall promptly remedy the default…”

Waaaa?!  We read this over and over to understand the implications. Is this just another boring bond form, or is there a Booby Trap, an elaborate effort to gain an advantage over the surety?

Every bonding company has their own standard Performance and Payment Bond forms. We prefer to use the AIA A-312 unmodified P&P bond. It is a well balanced, widely accepted form. Whenever we receive a special bond form, we must review it carefully. Why did the obligee spend the time and money to devise it? There must be some advantage – for them.

Last week we received an obligee’s mandatory bond form on a private contract and a key phrase is stated above. Our client is the GC / prime contractor. Sometimes the unique bond forms are not too bad. Let’s pick this one apart. Maybe you’ll run into it some time.

This language is very important because it concerns the Obligee’s responsibility under the contract. In order for them to be entitled to make a performance bond claim, they must fulfill their end of the bargain, which is to PAY for the work. Is a bond claim for lack of performance reasonable if the Obligee has failed to pay the contractor? Of course not! The contractor can’t work for free. 

What are the implications of the wording in that special bond form? Let’s use the A-312 as a benchmark. (Owner means Obligee) It says:

“If there is no Owner Default under the Construction Contract, the Surety’s obligation under this bond shall arise after…” And in the definitions it goes on to say:

“Owner Default. Failure of the Owner, which has not been remedied or waived, to pay the Contractor as required under the Construction Contract or to perform and complete or comply with other material terms of the Construction Contract.”

Pretty simple. If the owner fails to pay for the work, and then makes a bond claim, the surety has an appropriate reason to deny the claim. So how does it work in the Booby Trap Bond? Instead of the convoluted lawyer talk, let’s turn it into plain English. It says…

The Obligee is not guilty of failing to pay unless:

  1. They neglect to declare the Contractor in default and,
  2. There is an unremedied or unwaived failure to pay the Contractor that the Obligee has not contested

Ugh… that last part! Assume that in every case, the Obligee will contest an allegation that they have failed. When they do, the surety has no claim defense even if the contractor has not been paid.

What a trap for the unwary bond underwriter! It would have been more fair if the bond just said “Obligee is entitled to make a bond claim even if they don’t pay for the work!” But then people would understand…

Special bond forms can be benign or Booby Trapped and our underwriters review every one.  Good underwriting protects the bonding company and the Contractor from such excessive risks!

Summary: We have a lot of underwriting talent over here. But what good is it if we don’t produce any bonds?  Well, we do!

KIS Surety is the national contract bond underwriting department for Great Midwest Insurance Company, a national, corporate surety with an A-8 rating.  We throw all this underwriting talent at your bond opportunities and support contracts up to $10,000,000.  We are entertaining new agency appointments at this time!

If you have a contract surety case that needs talented underwriters, now you know where to find us 24 x 365!  Call: 856-304-7348

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

Bonding Companies Are ALL The Same.

OK, you know that’s not true.  In fact, your success may depend on knowing the differences between sureties.  Each one has a certain appetite, a niche.  We are all the same, and yet we are all different.

So here is a little bit about us.

What We Do

  • OUR GOAL is to be your high capacity market that provides fast, reasonable, (maybe even wonderful) underwriting responses!
  • Exclusively contract surety.  That means bid, performance and payment, and maintenance bonds.
  • We bond construction, including subcontracts, plus service and supply contracts.
  • Sovereign nation contracts are supported
  • Also demolition, abatement and remediation
  • We will consider young companies
  • Production Underwriters: We can support companies with less than perfect credit – even with liens and bankruptcies. We’re not shackled by “bonding company bureaucracy.”
  • We are flexible regarding financial statement presentation on bonds up to $10 million each.
  • We have our own contractors questionnaire, bond request form and WIP schedule because after doing this for forty-five years, we know what info helps get your deal done.
  • Our standard bond forms are unmodified AIA forms, readily accepted throughout the construction industry.
  • Our rates are flexible / competitive.
  • We are licensed to write in every state, including D.C., and can also consider overseas projects.
  • We respond to all new business submissions on the day received.
  • We are offering new agency appointments.  No volume commitment is required.
  • Our underwriting staff is available every day of the week, including evenings, 365. (You can call us right now! 856-304-7348)

What We Don’t Do

  • Fidelity bonds or surety other than contract.  For example, we do not support license & permit, court & probate, or site & subdivision.
  • Waste your time.  We only develop files we expect to write.

We not bragging.  We just wanted you to know.

Our strong financial position (Best rating: A-8) makes us a perfect fit on a wide range of opportunities.  Aggregate programs to $15 million and fast service.  How can we help you succeed today?


KIS Surety Bonds, LLC is the exclusive surety underwriting department for Great Midwest Insurance Company an “A – 8” carrier licensed in all states plus D.C.  “steve@kisbonds.com” or call 856-304-7348.

Secrets of Bonding #125: When to Call It Quits

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Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

Construction contracts can be terminated by either party under certain circumstances.  Let’s take a look at it from the Contractors point of view.

Federal contracts make it easy for the government to end a project.  The “termination for convenience” clause spells out how the project can be ended (with no fault on the part of the contractor) and provides a method of payment for the work in place. Other public and private contracts may also contain this clause.

Sometimes it is the contractor who is motivated to end the project early. In these situations, it is important to know how and when to proceed.no-work

The Disputes Clause

“The Contractor shall proceed diligently with performance of this contract, pending final resolution of any request for relief, claim, appeal, or action arising under the contract, and comply with any decision of the Contracting Officer.”

Found in federal contracts, this clause means you must continue to work when facing a dispute. This assures that the contractor doesn’t hold the project hostage while the dispute is under review. 

Other public and private contracts may include language regarding unresolvable disagreements, so it is important to…

Read the Contract

Contractors should only quit a project when they have a legal right to do so.  You need to read the contract and, with the help of your attorney, choose a course of action.

An Unresolvable Disagreements clause may allow the contractor to stop work.  An example could be engineering issues that make it impossible to proceed.

Stop Work for Nonpayment

In these cases, the contractor should send written notification of the overdue payment and allow a time period to collect the funds.  Some contracts require that a second notification be sent before work may be suspended.

Because nonpayment may be a material breach of the contract, it can be justify stopping work.  However, state laws vary on this subject.  An attorney can help determine if such action is advisable.

Surety Bonds

If a Performance and Payment Bond covers the contract, it can play an important role.

General Contractors should alert their surety regarding any disputes.  They should also remember that stopping work can result in a Performance Bond claim.  This can hamper the availability of bonds for other projects. The surety will want to understand the dispute and may offer guidance to the contractor and attorney.

Subcontractors have these same issues if they have bonded their subcontract.  In addition, contracts with “pay when paid” wording may justify the GCs nonpayment – another reason to read the contract.

An advantage for subcontractors may be a P&P bond above them, filed by the general contractor.  This Payment Bond is available for claims by subs and suppliers.  It can be a powerful tool to protect subcontractors.  Even a letter to the GC threatening to file a payment claim can shake the money loose in some cases.


Stopping work can be an important remedy for the contractor, providing the action is legally permitted.  When a contractor considers suspending work they must weigh the risk that they may ultimately be found in breach of contract themselves.  On the other hand, the larger situation of the nonpaying party may demand action, such as an impending bankruptcy.

The best approach is to review contracts in advance and negotiate the addition of language that allows work stoppage under appropriate circumstances.  The goal is to acquire the contract while limiting the risks.

Note: we are not attorneys and are not giving legal advice.  If you have a project dispute, call your attorney for help.

Insurance Agents and Contractors: when tough bonding situations arise, we have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

Give us a call today!  Bonding Pros: 856-304-7348

Not available in all states including Idaho.

Secrets of Bonding #120: About the “T-List”

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Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.


  1. You are interested or active in Surety Bonds (bid, performance & payment, etc.), and…
  2. You think the T-list is who you are following on Twitter, then… 
  3. You need to read this article!

What is the T-List?           (Click for mood music) 

For bond producers / agents, bonding companies and bonded contractors, Circular 570 (the official document title) is the list of sureties accepted on federal projects produced annually by the federal Treasury department. It is easily found online.

What does the list provide?

In addition to the name and address of the approved bonding companies, it states the maximum acceptable amount for any one bond (based on the surety’s financial position), and where the surety has indicated it is licensed.

Is a T-listed performance and payment bond required on all federal projects?T

Generally yes, although small and emergency contracts, and some service and commodity contracts are not bonded. The feds will also accept alternatives to a bond such a “cash” deposit held by the government, and tripartite agreements (which is a form of funds administration.)

Federal contracting officers also may have the latitude to accept a non T-listed surety on larger contracts if they deem it is in the best interests of the government.

Is a T-Listed bid bond required on federal projects?

Yes, when bid security is stipulated and a bond is the chosen method of compliance.  For example, a form of cash may be allowed at this stage, then a bond could be used for performance and payment.  Another twist, some federal projects call for a “bondability letter” instead of bid security.  This indicates the sureties interest in supporting the contract, but does not include a penal sum or any form of financial penalty.

Is the T-list required on state or municipal contracts?

Circular 570 is intended to be a federal requirement, although state and municipal owners may choose to stipulate it as a means of pre-qualifying the bonding companies.


When a surety is on the list, does the federal government “back” the bonding company for the benefit of other parties?

No, it is merely the government’s internal opinion regarding the condition of the surety.  The feds make no guarantee to 3rd parties regarding the viability of the surety, or the correctness of including them on the list

Can a surety fail while enjoying “approved” status on the list?


Are there any strong bonding companies that are not on the list?

Yes, many!  Only sureties that decide they want to be on the list are reviewed by the federal analysts.  They must submit their info and go through the process.  Some bonding companies are not intending to bond federal contracts, or may be ineligible for some reason.  They could be among the strongest sureties in the country, but would not be on the list.

Must subcontractors on federal projects use T-listed sureties?

It is not automatically required because these are considered private contracts between the general / prime contractor and the subcontractor. However, see next question…

What about private owners?

On private contracts, such as ALL subcontracts and projects with an owner that is not a public entity, the bonding requirements are at the owner’s discretion – including whether or not they even want a bond. They may demand the use of their own special bond form (some general contractors develop a subcontract bond form extra beneficial to them) and may stipulate a T-list requirement.THE A-TEAM -- Pictured: Mr. T as Sgt. Bosco "B.A." Baracus -- Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank

In some cases, the GC’s surety makes the subcontract bonding requirements.


In essence, always assume a Circular 570 surety is required on federal contracts.  The bond amount cannot exceed the limit stated on the list, and the bond should state the surety’s address as indicated on 570.

When other public entities require the T-list, such as state or municipal owners, it is mandatory because there is normally no flexibility in their specifications. However private owners set their own rules so subcontractors and GCs working for private owners may have the opportunity to negotiate away the T-list requirement if their viable surety is not on the federal list.

Insurance Agents and Contractors: when tough bonding situations arise, we have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

Give us a call today!  856-304-7348

Not available in all states including Idaho.

Secrets of Bonding #118: Bonding Company = Girlfriend

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Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

I’ve been in the surety business for a long time.  As a student of the industry, I have observed the dynamics that occur between bonding companies and their clients.  My conclusion: Bonding Companies are like Girlfriends!

(My comments are written from a male point of view, but I’m sure you can flip this to be applicable if the reader is “non-male.”)

Think about relationships you’ve been in.  Don’t they always have a “love / hate” aspect? Jokes about relationships often capitalize on this reality:

Marriage is a three-ring circus. First the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then the suffering.
– Milton Berle

My wife is a light eater … as soon as it’s light, she starts to eat. 
– Henny Youngman

“I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?
– George Carlin

And for the ladies:

What’s the difference between a boyfriend and a husband?
About 30 pounds.
– Cindy Garner

As very sophisticated types, we know how to deal with the technicalities of these relationships.  It isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.   Bonding is pretty much the same!

Step One

How does a construction company gain the support of a surety?  It starts with a flirtation and then “getting to know you.”  The underwriter receives information about a bond that is needed. If there is a spark of interest, an application and financial statements are submitted. 

The construction company wants to look attractive:

  • Here is what we’ve accomplished!
  • This is how much money we’ve made!
  • We can really perform!

Think of this as the dating stage.  It is exhilarating and intense! There are probing questions and well-crafted answers.  Both parties want to achieve success and avoid failure / embarrassment. The same as in romance, the underwriter (girlfriend) will walk away if they find that the contractor (suitor) is dating other underwriters.  This is why bond producers may approach only one market at a time.  No girl wants a playboy who may be disloyal.

Ravishing Wedding Rings Clipart Also Appealing Wedding Rings Clipart Hd Pictures 4 Boostnow Wedd - ~ zxtzdb ~

Step Two

If the relationship blossoms, wedding bells may chime! They tie the knot with a pre-nuptial / general indemnity agreement that says “We’re in this together.  But hurt me and you’ll PAY.” 

Step Three

Eventually they become old married folks.  The contractor gripes that “she is never satisfied.”  More info, more questions, more money spent to keep the surety / wife happy. It NEVER ends.  But the contractor needs the surety and works to keep things on track.

Is the underwriter frustrated?  Yes…  “I have to beat everything out of the contractor.  It’s like pulling teeth!” The contractor may be slow in providing the answers and info the underwriter needs to keep the bond account in healthy condition. “I thought we were in this together!”

There is an element of pain in the relationship, but both parties gain if they keep it together.

Yente  (Click for mood music) cupid

So where does the bond producer fit in?  We are the dating service that brings the parties together.  We succeed when we match the contractor with the right surety.  Our role as cupid continues as we shepherd the relationship forward, keeping the info flowing so bonds are available when needed.

The fact is, bonding involves more than paperwork.  It involves people, their perceptions and preferences.  The seasoned bond producer will make the match and guide the relationship forward for the benefit of all parties.  

Sureties, can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

The experts at Bonding Pros can help Insurance Agents and Contractors when tough bonding situations arise. We have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

Give us a call today!  856-304-7348

Not available in all states including Idaho.

Secrets of Bonding #105: Choose Your Partner!

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Secrets of Bonding is brought to you by Bonding Pros

Need a bond?  Talk to the Pros!  856-304-7348  www.BondingPros.com

Brokers protected.  Contractors welcomed.

When the music starts you take your partner by the hand and head for the dance floor!  Click now for mood music, “The Virginia Reel, 1953”

When it comes to Surety Bonds, how do you know which partner to choose? Which bonding company fits the project at hand?  Here are some tips: Square D 3

Federal Projects

These contracts require a bonding company pre-approved by the Treasury Department to issue bonds with the federal government as obligee. Federal projects include all contracts with a branch of the federal government such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Office of General Services, Dept. of Veteran Affairs, and the Federal Aviation Administration.  This a big area of activity with 38,786 contracts listed online as of this writing.

The bonding company must be listed / approved, and for a sufficient amount (equal to or more than the contract in question). Circular 570 is issued annually by the Treasury Department aka the “T-List.”  Click for the T-list

The rules pertaining to federal contracts are found in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (called “the FAR”). Click for the FAR

Fine points regarding federal contracting: HUD is not a direct federal agency, and makes their own rules.

Square D 1Any other project owner may CHOOSE to require the T-list as a means of screening the bonding companies. You need to review the project’s written bonding requirements to determine this.  It could say that “a T-listed surety must be used.” It could also require that the T-list amount be equal to or greater than the contract in question.

State and Municipal Contracts

The most common requirement is for the surety to be licensed in the state where the work is being performed.  Many sureties do not find it worthwhile to maintain licensing in all 51 states. *  To check for a specific state, you can go the local insurance department, the surety may list this info in their web site, and it also appears in the T-list details (if the surety is on the list).

Private Contracts

This category includes all non-public commercial contracts, such as a general contractor building an office for a private company. It also includes all the subcontractors such as electricians, plumbers, roofers, etc.  All subcontracts are private even if they are performed on a federal or state projects (because they are not “prime,” not contracted directly with the public entity.)

In this group you may find that a T-list requirement is indicated, or the project owner may choose to be more open.  They can make or waive such requirements at their sole discretion.

Contract specifications may also stipulate a certain A.M. Best rating.  Simply look up the surety to determine if they have a rating, and if it meets the requirement. Click for A.M. Best 


No two bonding companies have exactly the same credentials.  The common areas to consider are:

  • T-listedSquare d 2
  • T-list amount
  • State licensing
  • A.M. Best rating (size and financial strength)
  • Underwriting appetite
  • Excluded classes
  • Excluded geographic areas (Canada?  Mexico? Overseas?)
  • Excluded jurisdictions (New York City?)

Picking the right partner is step one.  If they will not be accepted as surety on the project, move on! 

Hmmm… how about that wallflower over in the corner?

* 50! Just wanted to see if you are paying attention.  (:^D)

About Us: Bonding Pros is a surety specialist that has focused exclusively on bonds for contractors since 1972.  We’re getting pretty good at it!

We work with insurance agents as their “virtual bond department” and also directly with contractor clients. If you need a bond, we have the markets and expertise to get things done – even when others have failed.  

Talk to the Pros: 856-304-7348

Secrets of Bonding #51: Writing Bonds to Your Uncle

Sam, that is…

There are lots of federal bonds.  It’s a unique corner of the surety world with special requirements and mandatory bond forms.  Here is a general overview and some specific comments on Performance Bonds for federal contracts.

With so many federal forms for specific situations there’s bound to be some strange ones: Adulterated Butter Bond, Opium Smoking Bond and the Tobacco Tube Manufacturers Strengthening Bond to name a few!

The general categories are:

  • Official Bonds covering the actions of people in office
  • Immigrant Bonds covering foreign persons in the U.S.
  • Excise Bonds cover taxation
  • Customs Bonds relating to import and export

In addition to all the various small bonds, there are the Performance and Payment Bonds which often are for millions of dollars covering contracts for construction and services. Let’s talk about these.

For construction, the federal forms are Bid Bond #24, Performance Bond #25 and Payment Bond #25A.

Some unique aspects to note:

  • If issued by a corporate surety, they must appear on the current version of Circular 570 (T-List) for an amount sufficient to cover the bond in question.  You can refer to the current list here: http://www.fms.treas.gov/c570/c570.html
  • The use of 24, 25 and 25A is mandatory on contracts offered directly by a branch of the federal government. Projects that include federal funding, but are offered by a local non-federal entity, are governed by whatever bonding requirements they designate.
  • Federal bids bonds are normally for 20% of the proposal amount.
  • On the #24 Bid Bond, it is not necessary to fill in a dollar amount for the penal sum of the bid bond – as long as the Percent of Bid Price (such as 20%) has been indicated.  It is also not necessary or correct for the surety to indicate their T-List limit in the Penal Sum area or in the signing area “Surety A.”  The correct dollar amount of responsibility is automatically calculated based on the proposed contract amount.  Entering a dollar figure is only necessary if the surety wishes to cap the bid bond amount by setting a maximum value.  (Refer to Secret #8.  Call if you don’t have it. (856) 304-7348.
  • On 25 and 25A, it is not necessary to enter a dollar amount in the signing area “Surety A” unless there is a co-surety on the bond.  Liability Limit in the Surety A section is not asking for the T-list amount.
  • Federal bonds are always made out to the United States of America.  They do not name the actual governmental agency.
  • The nature of the work is listed on the Bid Bond, but not on the Performance or Payment Bond.  Only the contract number is indicated.
  • You can download the current edition of these Standard Forms here: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/forms/type/SF  That’s important because a bond can be rejected by the C.O. if an obsolete version of SFs are used.
  • In the current edition, the form 24 Bid Bond says “Pervious edition is usable.”  Which, despite the poor spelling, means older versions are OK, same with the form 25A Payment bond.  Be sure to always read the printed details on the form which indicate the expiration date and other important facts.
  • Another “Ooops!” from Uncle: There is no typable field provided on the form to enter a bond number.  You need to do this manually. “Perviously” the form was not even typable.  Small steps!

There you have it.  Federal Bond forms are different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.

Readers please note: These posts are for your entertainment and enjoyment.  We do not assume responsibility for your correct execution of bonds, nor are we responsible to any third parties.

A special note from the author: Steve Golia

I am an Independent Broker and Surety Bond Specialist. If you wish to co-broker bond business, together we will deliver the best in bonding expertise for your clients.  I have a broad range of markets available and often can solve problems even when others have failed.

Call me now (856-304-7348) or email: Steven.Golia@gmail.com