The Three Parties of Surety Bonds

Working with surety bonds involves using unique terminology. Despite surety being lumped into the insurance sector, even insurance agents need a translator to navigate through the bonding process. The three parties to a surety bond are the Obligee, Principal, and Surety.


This is the entity that is requiring the principal to be bonded. Often times this is a government entity, such a Department of Motor Vehicles for commercial bonds or a general contractor for contract bonds.

Example: A cosmetology school must be bonded. Halfway through the semester the cosmetology school goes bankrupt and must close. The bond protects the students and their pre-paid tuition. Students can make a claim on the bond to be reimbursed. The surety will pay the claim and then look to the individuals who own the business to be made whole on the full amount of the bond claim.


The person or business required to be bonded by the obligee. The Principal must purchase a bond from a licensed insurance agent or surety bond broker and abide by the obligations stated on the bond form. The Principal is in a position where their decisions may cause harm to consumers of their business or to entities required to maintain oversight and regulation – such as a state or local government. Therefore they are required to be bonded.

Example: Cosmetology schools, car dealers, contractors, mortgage brokers, freight brokers, health studios and even an executor of a will are examples of bond principals.


The Surety is an entity providing a line of credit guaranteeing the compliance or performance of a specific obligation, contract, or law. The surety underwrites the principal during the application process to ensure zero losses. Unlike insurance, surety bonds are written with the expectation of zero losses. Also unlike insurance, if a claim is made the surety will pay the claim if proven valid. The surety will then look to the principal to reimburse the surety for the full claim amount. This is why indemnities require a signature from the business and a signature from the business owners.