Surety Law

Primary Practice Contact: Scott C. Powers

Construction Surety in Utah

Surety bonds are essentially a three-party contract, entered into by the contractor, the surety, and the owner.  Although construction surety bonds are fairly standard in the industry, many people—even those in the industry—do not fully understand bonds and their distinctions from insurance.  The three primary types of construction surety bonds include:

  • Bid bonds — a guarantee that the contractor, or “principal”, will honor the bid submitted, and, if awarded the contract, the contractor will sign all contract documents.  The contractor and its surety may be sued under a bid bond for refusing to honor its bid, and can be liable for additional costs the owner incurs due to re-letting the bid (usually the difference between the low bid and the second low bid).
  • Performance bonds — a guarantee that the contractor will complete the contract’s terms, including price and time requirements.  Should the contractor default, or be terminated for default by the owner, the surety can be called upon to complete the contract, whether through a completion contractor, selecting a new contractor to work with the owner, or allowing the owner to complete the remaining work at the surety costs.
  • Payment bonds — a guarantee that certain suppliers and subcontractors will be paid by the contractor.

Contractor bonds may assume many titles: completion bonds, supply contract bonds, construction contract bonds, supply bonds, and labor and materials bonds.  On a privately funded project, a surety bond can help create a smooth transition from construction financing to permanent financing by ensuring completion of the project.  On a public project, a surety bond supports contractor prequalification, provides payment protection for subcontractors and suppliers, and provides protection for the public regarding completion of the contract.

Differences Between Insurance and Surety Bonds

There are significant differences between insurance and surety bonds, including the following:

  • Surety bond pre-qualifications are meant to prevent or minimize loss, while insurance spreads losses among a large group of similar risks;
  • Surety bonds have three parties, with the surety and the contractor sharing the risk, while insurance has two parties, with risk transfer to the insurer;
  • Surety bonds are project-specific, while insurance is term specific;
  • Surety bond coverage is 100 percent of the contract price for performance, while insurance coverage is up to the policy limit, less the deductible, and;
  • For surety bond claims, the surety has the right to the contract balance as well as indemnity from the contractor for any costs associated with claims, while insurance companies have no right to the insured’s assets.

Benefits of Construction Surety Bonds

A surety bond ensures project completion, within the contract terms.  Although rare, when a contractor abandons a job, the surety steps in and ensures the job is completed.  Most surety companies are a division or a subdivision of an insurance company and are regulated, like insurance companies, by state insurance departments.

Overall, construction contractors are more likely to complete bonded projects than non-bonded contracts.  Surety bonds also relieve subcontractors from the need to file a mechanic’s lien.  Because any contractor—regardless of the size or level of experience—can experience problems, surety bonds can significantly minimize the risks associated with construction.

Help with Surety Bonds from SC&M

In some cases, the contractor or the surety are unfairly sued under a surety bond, or the owner of the project needs help enforcing a surety bond.  When disputes arise, our construction attorneys assist in litigation and project complications before they escalate.   Our construction attorneys represent owners, contractors, subcontractors, government agencies, sureties, and lenders across a broad range of construction matters.


Our surety lawyers are ready to help.  For more information please contact Scott C. Powers or another member of our team.

Practice Contacts

Scott C. Powers

Utah Business Lawyer Michael Lowe

Michael T. Lowe

Utah Litigation Attorney David Pinkston

David L. Pinkston

Salt Lake City Business Lawyer David Slaughter

David W. Slaughter