A Guide to the Electronic Filing of Surety Bonds

The surety bond industry entered a new era at the start of 2016 when the transition from paper-based bonds to electronic bonds began. Like most other information that has gone from analog to digital over the previous decade, the effect of electronic surety bonds has been revolutionary for all involved. In this blog, we will explain how electronic surety bonds work, highlight what makes them better, and show any reader how to (electronically) obtain the surety bond they need.

What is an Electronic Surety Bond?

An electronic surety bond is exactly the same as a paper-based bond in every way except the medium. The paper-based bonds of the past required various parties to exchange documents, sign their signature in ink, deal with shipping and postage, and keep copies for their own records. With electronic records, all of this happens electronically. Digital copies of bond agreements effortlessly move between parties who have the option to sign electronically. In some cases there’s not a single piece of paper involved in the entire process.

Besides that, electronic surety bonds work exactly the same as other surety bonds. Here’s a quick rundown of the three parties involved and their individual responsibilities:

  • Principal – The party required to obtain the bond. The principal accepts financial responsibility for all claims, meaning he or she must pay for any valid claims filed against the bond by the obligee.
  • Obligee – The party with the right to file claims against the bond. If the obligee believes the principal committed misconduct (illegal, unethical, or otherwise unacceptable behavior), he or she may file a claim for compensation equal to the damages caused. 
  • Surety – The party that underwrites the surety bond. If the principal does not pay for a claim, the surety guarantees the obligee a full settlement after first proving the claim true. The principal must then repay the surety the full claim amount (plus interest and fees) to avoid a lawsuit or the threat of collections. 

There are many different surety bond types, each with unique requirements, but they all serve the same basic purpose of making one party liable for misconduct committed against another. That’s why surety bonds are commonly required for getting a professional license or finalizing a contract.

A Brief History of Electronic Surety Bonds

The National Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) is an organization that streamlines how professional credentials, including licenses, get acquired and acknowledged across the country. It is thanks to the efforts of the NMLS that the electronic surety bond exists in the first place. They have lobbied states across the country to adopt electronic surety bonds, and they provide the technology to keep the electronic filing process running smoothly and securely.

Before electronic surety bonds came into existence, bonding was done entirely on paper with some predictable setbacks. As information technology improved rapidly at the start of the 21st century, most other industries, including those involved with financial, legal, or other sensitive data, began transitioning to electronic processes. It became quite clear that bonding could be better. That’s when NMLS took the lead and now the rest is history. Electronic filing of surety bonds is fast on it’s way to being the first, best, and only option!

The Benefits of Electronic Surety Bonds

The benefits of electronic surety bonds are best understood by considering the hassle of paper-based documents. When bonds relied on paper, they took more time to process, they were harder to get started, and there was more risk of error. For people who were required to get bonds and wanted to fulfill those requirements fast, paper bonds could make the process drag on too long or get sidetracked unexpectedly. 

Electronic bonds resolve this, making the bonding process run as efficiently as possible so that getting a bond takes little time at all (under 24 hours in many cases). Filing electronically also helps lower overhead costs for bond providers, which is a savings (however small) that gets passed on to bond seekers. Finally, the electronic bonding process can get started immediately, meaning someone who needs a bond can begin the paperwork right now instead of waiting until it arrives in the mail. That’s why most would agree that electronic surety bonds are better in almost every way.

Where Can I File an Electronic Surety Bond?

When electronic surety bonds were first introduced in 2016, states had to elect whether or not they would honor a surety bond filed electronically. Only a few states signed on at first. As the program has proven itself, however, adoption has spread across the country. 43 states have agreed to accept electronic surety bonds as of the start of 2022. The remaining holdouts include:

  • Maine
  • New York 
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • New Mexico 
  • Arizona

How Do I File a Surety Bond Electronically?

The electronic filing process can vary depending on the bond type, issuer, and amount. In many cases, though, the bond seeker only needs to provide some basic information through a digital portal:

  • A complete bond application
  • Permission to run a credit check
  • Additional documents (e.g. a financial statement or copy of the bond requirements) 

The surety agency that connects the bond seeker and the bond provider will handle the details to make sure the electronic filing goes as planned and follows all applicable rules. One popular option is to use DocuSign or similar digital platforms through which parties can formally sign and exchange documents.

Viking Bond Service – Electronic Surety Bonds Across America

Viking Bond Service strives to make getting a surety bond as easy as possible. We rely on an electronic process whenever possible. We also have exceptional service to help from beginning to end. As a national surety agency, we connect people with all the most common kinds of bonds, helping them find more offers and competitive rates even when they have less-than-stellar credit. Don’t let getting a bond be a hassle work with us instead. Request a quote at your convenience or contact us online for questions. You can also reach us at 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389).

Payment Bonds vs. Performance Bonds

If you are a contractor that works in the construction industry, surety bonds will be a big part of your career. Many jobs, whether for residential, commercial, or government clients, will require you to get a surety bond before any work starts. And that’s not the case for just one bond – it’s for many types of surety bonds. 

Getting the right bonds in a timely manner is of huge importance for contractors trying to find projects and win out over competitors. Understanding the obligations that come with those bonds is equally important. Surety bond requirements exist for a reason, and they come with hefty obligations and consequences, making it vital for contractors to know everything involved with bond agreements. 
In this blog, we’ll start with the basics and then do a deeper dive into two common (and often confused) surety bond types – payment bonds and performance bonds. Most contractors will need one or both of these bonds multiple times over the years, and possibly for every single job they work on. Read on to learn more about payment and performance bonds.

Bonding Basics for Contractors

Surety bonds make a contractor liable for misconduct. The exact details depend on the different kinds of bonds, but the basic purpose is always the same: if a contractor does something that results in damages for another party, that party may file a claim against the bond for compensation equal to the damages.

In such a scenario, the contractor must pay for any claim. However, if they can’t or won’t settle, the surety that issues and backs the bond will settle instead. In that way, surety bonds guarantee that someone negatively affected by a contractor gets a settlement to recoup their losses. If and when the surety pays for a claim, the contractor still has the financial liability. That means the contractor must repay the surety in a timely manner and with interest and fees added to the debt. 

Failure to repay could result in a lawsuit or collections. Worse, if a contractor has caused bond issues in the past, it can be harder to secure bonds for future jobs, putting their livelihood in jeopardy. That’s why contractors must understand what bond agreements entail in order to follow those agreements properly. We will cover more on payment and performance bonds below. 

Common Kinds of Contractor Bonds

In addition to performance bonds and payment bonds, contractors may need other kinds of bonds that are common throughout the industry. For example, a contractor’s license bond is something an individual must get to be granted a license by the state. Another example, bid bonds, are often required when submitting bids for work.

The career of a contractor starts, in many cases, with getting a surety bond, and involves dozens more after that. Since bonds are such an important part of the industry, many contractors find a trusted surety agency to supply them with all the bonds they need at competitive rates and with minimal hassles. Bonding may be required, but it doesn’t have to be a headache with the right partner. 

What is a Payment Bond?

A payment bond holds a contractor liable if he or she does not pay suppliers and subcontractors the amount they are owed under the contract. In the event of nonpayment, a supplier or subcontractor may file a claim against the payment bond for the amount they are owed. The surety will investigate the claim to confirm that payment was in fact missing. If the contractor still refuses to pay at that point, the surety will settle the claim before turning their attention to collecting the claim amount from the contractor with the payment bond. 

What is a Performance Bond?

A performance bond holds a contractor liable if he or she does not meet the performance standards mandated by the work contract. For instance, if a contractor agrees to finish a job by a set date, complete the work within a strict budget, or meet exacting quality standards, and then fails to follow through on those expectations, it causes financial consequences for the party that hired the contractor. That party may then file a claim for damages against the performance bond. Upon validating the claim, the surety will settle it if the contractor can’t or won’t. However, as with all surety bonds, the contractor must repay the surety the claim amount with interest and fees added. 

The Difference Between Payment Bonds and Performance Bonds

When it comes to performance vs payment bonds, the mechanics are the same: contractors must take financial responsibility when they fall short of their contractual obligations. The primary difference is what those obligations entail.

In the case of payment bonds, contractors must pay their suppliers and subcontractors, on time and in full, or else there could be claims filed against the bond. With regard to performance bonds, ontractors must meet all the performance standards specified in a contract or else take responsibility for the damages that result. 

A contractor may also need both performance bonds and payment bonds on a single job. Whatever the case, work cannot start until a contractor can prove they have the required bonds in the required amounts. 

How to Obtain Performance and Payment Bonds

Step one is finding a surety agency to work with. Surety agencies act as an intermediary between bond seekers and bond providers. By working with a surety agency, a contractor is able to streamline the bond process, get multiple bond offers, and compare those offers to find the most competitive one. To put it differently, surety agencies make it easy to get the best bond offer available. 

Obtaining a surety bond through a surety agency can vary depending on the agency and the size of the bond, but it unusually involves only a few simple steps:

  • Complete a surety bond application
  • Submit to a credit check
  • Meet the bond requirements 
  • Submit any other documents the surety requests

Based on this information, underwriters at the surety will quote the cost of the surety bond. Most bonds cost a small percentage of the total coverage value based on the bond seeker’s credit. That means people with bad credit will pay slightly more. Make sure you get a competitive rate regardless of your credit by taking advantage of a special program we offer at Viking Bond Service. 

Viking Bond Service for All Your Surety Bonds

We can help you get performance bonds and payment bonds – along with bid bonds, license bonds, and any other bonds a contractor might need. Contractors in all 50 states make Viking Bond Service their surety bond partner of choice. Find out why for yourself. Get a quote for a bond in under 24 hours. Or get more information immediately – call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389) or contact us with your questions today!

How to Become a Private Investigator in 4 Steps

If you have patience, persistence, and a perceptive eye for detail, you may thrive as a private investigator. There are ample opportunities in locations across America to find work as a private investigator through either an agency or on an independent basis. This work can be interesting, challenging, ever-changing, and lucrative too. And while the life of a private investigator may not be quite as exciting (or dangerous) as crime novels would make it seem, it is a rewarding career choice for many people. 

The guide below covers how to become a private investigator. Plans to fulfill all the requirements in the state where you live – or plan to work – before starting your first investigation.

What Does a Private Investigator Do?

The work of a private investigator is different every day and every investigation. In general, individuals or entities (like a company) will hire a private investigator to collect, examine, and analyze information relevant to matters that are sensitive but not necessarily criminal. The common stereotype of private investigators has them primarily looking into cheating spouses, but they handle all sorts of investigations, from catching people filing fraudulent insurance claims to supporting the work of lawyers building a legal case. Some of the activities that might be involved with the work of a private investigator include:

  • Conducting surveillance 
  • Finding missing persons/property
  • Looking into someone’s background
  • Uncovering instances of fraud
  • Serving legal documents
  • Examining cold cases for new leads

Private investigators do some of their work in the field (surveillance, for instance). Nevertheless, they also spend a lot of time doing research, largely online but also in archives, public databases, and libraries. Good investigators combine strong people skills with a dogged determination to track down details. Creativity helps as well because tough investigations require outside-the-box thinking. A dash of bravery helps too for when investigations intersect with unsavory characters.

Why Become a Private Investigator?

There are a few compelling reasons to become a private investigator. The job prospects, for one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for private investigators will grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average growth over the same period. Aspiring investigators can expect to find open job opportunities as the industry expands and older investigators retire. 

Another reason to pursue this line of work is the compensation. The median pay in 2020 was $53,320, and while that might not sound very high, keep in mind that most private investigators don’t need a college diploma. There are also investigators who earn significantly more. For example, independent investigators’ compensation is equal to the amount of business they can attract, with no ceiling besides their ambition.

Last but not least, working as a private investigator can be very rewarding on a personal level. Investigators have to apply their skills to diverse and dynamic situations. And when they succeed at their jobs, they often uncover wrongdoing and help stop criminals as a result.

Qualifications for Becoming a Private Investigator

What does it take to become a private investigator? The qualifications are determined by the state. Each state has different standards for how to become a private investigator – some more rigorous than others. It’s important to check with the state agency that regulates private investigators to learn about the most complete and current set of standards. These are the basic (but not necessarily complete) private investigator qualifications:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Have residence in the state
  • Have no criminal record

Anyone who meets these private investigator qualifications has the right to work legally. However, in many places, they will need to meet additional requirements including getting a license and a surety bond. You can check with state officials about the exact requirements where you intend to live or work.

Steps to Becoming a Private Investigator

There are 45 states (plus the District of Columbia) that require private investigators to have a license. And while the process for earning and keeping that license varies by state, the steps are typically as follows:

  1. Pass an exam that covers the basics of state law and private investigator ethics. Test takers usually need to register and pay for the exam. And while it rarely requires an intensive preparation period or formal course of study, it will require some advanced effort to pass. Do not go in unprepared. 
  2. Submit to a background or credit check as required. You may have to get fingerprinted as well, meaning having a copy of your fingerprints stored on file. 
  3. Obtain a private investigator surety bond in the minimum amount required by the state. The surety bond holds you accountable for misconduct that violates state law and causes damages to clients or the public. All surety bond types, including this one, make the principal (bondholder) financially liable for claims filed against the bond by people who suffered damages.

    Obtaining a surety bond will involve paying a flat fee in some instances. In others, the company that issues the bond will conduct a credit check and calculate the cost of the surety bond based on the bond seeker’s credit risk. Plan to renew the bond annually since private investigators must have an active bond to keep their license active as well.
  4. Apply for a private investigator license from the state agency that issues them. The application process may involve a fee.

Upon receiving a license, you have permission from the state to start conducting investigations. These investigations must abide by all state laws relevant to private investigators. If not, it could lead to expensive claims against the private investigator bond and/or loss of one’s private investigator license, effectively bringing a career to an end.

Private Investigator Bonds From Viking Bond Service

Now that you know how to become a private investigator, rely on Viking Bond Service to get your career going. You can get a surety bond at a competitive rate in no time at all. Request a quote to get a reply in under 24 hours! Have questions? Contact us or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389). 

How to Get Bonded for a Cleaning Business

How to Get Bonded for a Cleaning Business

If you run a cleaning business, there’s a chance that one of your employees will steal from a  residential or commercial property where they are cleaning. If and when that happens, the client will expect the cleaning company to take responsibility for the employee’s actions by offering to pay for the lost property and any other damages. So what next? Paying for employee theft can create an unexpected (and often significant) cost for your company, one that could put your budget and bottom line in jeopardy. To plan for this unfortunate but common risk, you should consider getting bonding insurance for cleaning businesses – it could spare you lots of financial hardship later. This blog outlines everything you should know. 

The Basics of Cleaning Business Insurance and Bonding

Some types of surety bonds are mandatory for a business to get. However, in the cleaning industry, Janitorial service bonds are optional. They are an example of a fidelity bond, which businesses owners obtain voluntarily.

Unlike normal surety bonds, janitorial services fidelity bonds act like an insurance policy involving two parties:

  • The Insured– The cleaning company. The cleaning company can file a claim on the bond to help cover losses due to fraudulent acts of the cleaning company’s employees. 
  • The Insurer– The bond underwriter. The surety will settle claims with the insured. Settlement is often dependent on the validation of the claim. In most cases claim validation involves the employee being legally convicted of the crime.

In essence, janitorial services bonds can provide a level of protection from dishonest employees for your janitorial services company .It’s worth mentioning again that the surety will require the employee be convicted of the crime in a court of law before settling the claim. 

Getting Bonded for Cleaning Businesses – Why it Makes Sense

It costs money to get one of these bonds. So why would you get a janitorial services bond if they aren’t required? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pay for stolen property out of pocket and be done with it? Not necessarily. 

The primary reason is to create a bond of trust between your business and potential clients. Clients take a risk by inviting unfamiliar individuals into their homes or businesses to have close contact with their property. Those people feel more comfortable hiring a cleaning services company with a bond because the bond provides a better chance of compensation if a theft occurs. Given the choice between a company with and without a bond, most people will choose the insured and bonded cleaning service – it’s an easy pick. 

Janitorial services bonds protect the bondholder too. Since the bond will only settle valid claims that get proven in court, the bond protects you from frivolous and fraudulent claims filed by angry clients. 

Many cleaning services use their bonded status as a competitive differentiator and marketing asset. They emphasize their bonded status in their advertising materials to signal that clients can trust who they are hiring.  

Getting Bonded for Cleaning Businesses – When it Makes Sense

It makes sense for any cleaning business, from small house cleaning providers to major janitorial services companies, to get the protection of a bond. Whenever cleaners are working independently, there’s the risk of theft – it’s an unfortunate truth. 

The best time to get a bond is before any cleaning services start. Not only can the bonded status help to attract early customers, but it also puts in important protection – for the business and its customers – in place from day one. If you’re about to start a cleaning services business or want to add an asset to your existing business, rely on Viking Bond Service to make getting bonded simple. 

How to Get Insured and Bonded for House Cleaning

We are focusing here on house cleaning because there are far more companies providing residential cleaning services than commercial services – but the steps for getting a bond will be the same for anyone seeking a janitorial services bond. Unlike other surety bond types, there is no credit check required. The surety only needs some basic information about the business:

  • Amount of Bond Coverage
  • Number of Cleaners
  • Basic Business Info – name, address, etc.
  • Contact Info

The surety will use this information to quote a cost for the bond. You will need to pay to activate coverage for a specific length of time, often 12 months. It will need to be renewed after that, which involves another premium payment. 

How much bond coverage should you get? It depends on how much financial damage employee theft might cause. As a general rule of thumb, commercial cleaners get more coverage than residential cleaners, and both seek out more coverage as the number of employees goes up. A company with 2-3 cleaners might get $10,000 in coverage while a company with 50 cleaners needs much higher coverage.

What Does Bonding Insurance for a Cleaning Business Cost?

The cost of a surety bond is a small percentage of the total coverage amount, less than $200 in some cases. Find out how much a bond would cost by submitting an application to a surety agency that can find competitive bond offers from providers across the country. Working with the right surety agency makes it faster and easier to get a bond and locates the best offers available. Don’t pay more than necessary – work with Viking Bond Service instead. 

Viking Bond Service – Serving All 50 States

Cleaning services providers in every state can rely on us for help getting bonded. From beginning to end, we make the process easy to understand, fast to finish, and affordable to take advantage of. Bonds are a smart addition to any cleaning service business, and with Viking Bond Service, they’re accessible to all. Request a quote at your convenience to get a quote in under 24 hours. We also have a team standing by to answer all your questions – contact us for assistance or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389)

How to Get a Car Dealer’s License

A career as a car dealer can be interesting, secure, and lucrative too. But if you want to become a car dealer in any of the 50 states, you will first need to obtain a license. Anyone who sells more than a few vehicles – as little as 3 or 4 in some states – will need to become a licensed motor vehicle dealer to continue selling vehicles. It’s illegal to sell vehicles without an auto dealer license and subject to strict penalties, including being restricted from ever getting a license in the future. Therefore, anyone who hopes to start a career as a car dealer needs to make getting a license their first priority. This simple guide walks you through the basic steps in all states. 

Contact State and Local Officials

Step one is determining if you actually need a license, and if so, which one you need. People who own car dealerships will need a license, but anyone who works for those dealerships selling cars may not. Furthermore, states often require different car dealer’s licenses based on what kind of motor vehicle the license holder sells: cars, boats, RVs, etc. 

The best way to determine your exact auto dealer license requirements is by reaching out to the local office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the Department of Licenses (in some states). Officials at the DMV will be able to provide the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate license requirements, along with any paperwork necessary to get a license. These officials can also answer your questions about exactly how to get a dealer’s license. This is great information for making sure you check all the necessary boxes, so don’t wait to get in touch with your local DMV. 

Complete the Minimum Requirements

Every state has different requirements for how to get a car dealer’s license. Those requirements are more extensive in some states than others, but there are minimum requirements that every aspiring car dealer should prepare to meet. These include:

  • Registering your business with the relevant state agency.
  • Finding a place to set up a car dealership that meets all local zoning requirements.
  • Attending a pre-license seminar or completing specialized courses.
  • Having the minimum required insurance coverage.
  • Passing a background check.

Keep in mind that some states require car dealers to meet additional requirements before getting a license. They may have to pass a test about state laws and codes of ethics. If there is a repair shop on site, they may also need the number of a hazardous waste generator. This is another argument in favor of contacting the DMV because they can walk you through all the steps involved with getting a license.

Acquire a Motor Vehicle Dealer Bond

While you are meeting other requirements for getting a car dealer’s license, work on getting a motor vehicle dealer surety bond (or meeting any other surety bond requirements). Many states require car dealers to have a specialized surety bond before granting them a car dealer license. 

How does a surety bond work? It makes one party (in this case the motor vehicle dealer) liable to another party (the DMV or vehicle buyer) for any misconduct leading to damages. The victim of that misconduct may file a claim against the bond for compensation equal to the damages. For example, if a car dealer sold someone a vehicle with the odometer rolled back (which is illegal), the buyer could file a claim for the vehicle price. 

The bondholder has liability for all claims. But if the motor vehicle dealer can’t or won’t pay a claim, the surety company that issues and underwrites the bond guarantees the claimant a full settlement. The bondholder must then repay the surety the settlement amount, along with interest and fees. Motor vehicle dealer bonds are essentially a way to incentivize car dealers to follow state and local laws, and hold them accountable when they don’t. 
Acquiring a bond will involve completing a bond application and submitting to a credit check – plus providing any documents the surety asks for. You will need to pay a premium to activate bond coverage that will cost a small percentage of the bond’s total size. The final cost of a surety bond amount depends on the bond seeker’s credit. After paying the premium, the surety provides a document proving you have met the surety bond requirements for a car dealer’s license.

Apply for a Motor Vehicle Dealer License

The final step will be filling out the paperwork involved with the motor vehicle dealer license and providing whatever documentation goes along with it (like proof of bond coverage). There may be fees involved as well, sometimes substantial ones. The DMV will then review all your application documents and either grant or deny you an auto dealer license. 

Once you receive your license, you’ll want to be prepared to renew it on an annual basis. Prepare to renew your motor vehicle dealer bond as well. Bond coverage expires after 12 months, and failure to renew it can lead to a suspended car dealer’s license. Renewal involves an updated credit check that underwriters will use to adjust the premium price up or down. Licenses and bond coverage go hand in hand, so it’s advisable to make the renewal process for both a scheduled item on the annual business calendar. 

Viking Bond Service – Serving Car Dealers Everywhere

Surety bonds are a fact of life for car dealers. That doesn’t mean they have to be a hassle, however. It all depends on having the right bond partner. Working with the right surety agency makes it quick, easy, and confident to obtain the bond required for getting a car dealer license. That agency can also make keeping bond coverage stress-free for years to come.

Viking Bond Service has been that partner for car dealers across the country. We issue motor vehicle dealer bonds (and most others) in all 50 states. When you’re ready to pursue a bond, request a quote from us. It costs nothing – no strings attached – and gets you a price to consider in under 24 hours. 

We can answer all your questions too. Contact us in writing or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389). 

How to Become a Public Adjuster in 4 Steps

A job as a public adjuster could lead to a long and fulfilling career. Before you are legally allowed to work as a public adjuster, however, you need to meet some steps required by the state you plan to work in. You must meet these steps before becoming a public adjuster – there’s no alternative – so it’s very important to understand what’s involved. We will cover the steps on how to become a public adjuster after a quick overview of the public adjuster profession. 

What Does a Public Adjuster Do?

A public adjuster works on behalf of someone filing a claim against their insurance coverage. Their job is to investigate the circumstances of the claim in order to get the largest financial settlement possible for their client. The insurance company will employ a claims adjuster who also investigates the accident with the intent to keep the payment as low as possible. Public adjusters essentially do the opposite, making the case that their clients deserve more money based on the damages they suffered. 

Why Become a Public Adjuster?

There are many compelling reasons to become a public adjuster. This career path offers a median wage of over $65,000 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And with a wave of retirements in the works, the BLS projects more than 25,000 public adjuster job openings a year until 2030. There will be plenty of job prospects with respectable compensation for public adjusters across the country. 

Public adjusters are often self-employed, which comes with some advantages. They have no ceiling on their earnings, as they can make as much money as their skills (and the market) allow them to. They also have freedom in terms of when and where they work – many public adjusters set their own schedules and travel extensively.

Another reason to become a public adjuster is to leverage your skills and talents in a profession that values critical thinking, strong communication skills, and a good head for numbers. People who have these skills may thrive in this role – but the work of a public adjuster can also be taught for people who see promise in this career path.

What also attracts many people to the field is the opportunity to help individuals in a time of need and perform a valuable service on behalf of the underdog. Insurance companies have a natural incentive to keep claims as low as possible, resulting in insufficient settlements for too many people. Public adjusters stand up for these people and fight to get what’s fair!

Qualifications for Becoming a Public Adjuster

Sensitive industries like insurance are subject to many rules and regulations imposed by the state. Some of those mandates also apply to public adjusters. Since every state regulates public adjusters separately, the qualifications to enter the field can vary. They will usually require some combination of experience, education, and licensure. It’s harder to fulfill those requirements in certain states than others, but it’s still possible to start a career as a public adjuster relatively quickly almost anywhere, especially for people with prior insurance industry experience. 

Steps for Becoming a Public Adjuster

Again, the steps may vary depending on the state. For example, most states only require a public adjuster to have a high school diploma, whereas Alabama requires public adjusters to be attorneys with a law degree and Arkansas does not allow public adjusters at all. Most states require some or all the following steps and requirements to become a public adjuster:

  1. Have completed a high school education
  2. Pass the state exam covering general insurance knowledge
  3. Acquire a public adjuster surety bond
  4. Apply for a public adjuster license

More Information About Public Adjuster Bonds

Public adjuster license requirements exist in 32 states, and 27 of those states require a public adjuster bond to get a license. This type of surety bond holds the public adjuster accountable for professional misconduct that results in damages to a client or the public at large.

There are three parties involved in this and all surety bond agreements. Understanding the rights and responsibilities of each party helps explain how public adjuster surety bonds work:

  • The principal is the public adjuster. The principal must obtain a surety bond in the required amount and agree to take liability for any claims filed against the bond by the obligee.
  • The obligee is the state agency that regulates public adjusters. The obligee determines the size and details of the bond. If the principal violates state laws applicable to public adjusters, the obligee may file a claim against the bond for compensation equal to the damages that were caused. 
  • The surety is the company that underwrites the bond. If the obligee files a claim and the principal does not pay it, the surety offers the obligee a guaranteed settlement. The principal has the obligation to repay the surety that same amount with interest and fees included or face the threat of a lawsuit or collections. 

Getting a bond involves just a few things: a completed bond application, a credit check, and, in some cases, supplemental documents. The cost of a surety bond is a small percentage of the bond amount that’s unique to each bond seeker based on their credit. Plan to renew the bond (and pay another premium) on an annual basis for as long as you have a public adjuster license. 

Viking Bond Service – The Bond Provider for Public Adjusters 

If you need a bond to get a public adjuster license and start your career, Viking Bond Service is here to help. We work with public adjusters in all states that require bonds, and we have long-term relationships with many of them, becoming the bond partner who makes things easy. Make this process easy on yourself by requesting a quote. It takes just minutes, costs nothing, and gets you a quote in under 24 hours. Have questions? Contact us online or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389).

Can a Surety Bond Be Refunded?

We often get questions about surety bond refunds. When people enter into a surety bond agreement, which is both legally binding and subject to certain costs, they want to know exactly what that agreement entails. Specifically, they want to know if you can cancel a surety bond, whether they can get a surety bond refund, and under what conditions. Those are all important details to understand, and we cover them in detail in this blog. 

Situations Where You Might Want a Surety Bond Refund

Most people obtain surety bonds because they are required to, either as part of the process to get a business or professional license, or when they are finalizing a contract with a client. Since surety bonds are obligatory in all these cases, you may wonder why someone would want to back out of the agreement and seek a refund. There are a few common instances where this comes up:

  • You get a bond for a professional license but decide against applying for a license.
  • You apply for a license but decide the process is too long or complicated and elect to revoke your application.
  • You apply for a license but get rejected by the state licensing agency.
  • You obtain a bond for a business that ends up closing within one year.
  • You get the wrong kind of bond and need to get a new one.
  • You get a bond that is not actually required. 
  • You decide to end bond coverage before a renewal period.

These situations happen more often than you might expect. Many people end up paying for bonds that they later decide they don’t need. That raises an obvious question, “Can I get a full or partial surety bond refund?” The answer: it’s complicated. 

When Are You Eligible for a Surety Bond Refund?

Let’s cover some bonding basics first. When you sign a surety bond agreement, you typically need to pay a premium for an entire year of coverage. Therefore, if you decide to end bond coverage six months after getting a bond, you have already paid for another six months. 

This is relevant because when you obtain a bond it’s considered “fully earned.” Basically, that means you are committed to the full period of bond coverage from the moment coverage starts. As a result, you are not eligible for a refund under almost any circumstances. You can, of course, opt not to renew your coverage when it expires annually. However, you probably cannot get a surety bond refund for a premium you have already paid but no longer want. 

The surety company that issues and underwrites the bond has full discretion of when to issue or deny surety bond refunds. Since the terms of the contract are clearly spelled out at the time of signing, including the refund policy, it is rare to receive money back. But it’s not unheard of. 

Instances where a refund might be possible include (but are not limited to) these examples:

  • You obtain a bond but never submit it to the obligee. Since the bond agreement never technically went into effect, a surety may (but is not obligated to) issue a refund. 
  • You cancel a bond before it expires. Though it is very rare, some bond providers will agree to a prorated refund. 
  • You have paid in advance for a renewal term but decide to end coverage once it expires. The surety will generally refund the prepaid but unused renewal premium in that case. 

It bears repeating that refunds are never guaranteed. The surety has broad rights to refuse refunds. They also have the right to issue partial refunds, so you may get less than you feel entitled to. And when a surety does issue a refund, they will require the bond back as well, meaning that bond coverage will end immediately. Loss of bond coverage can put any agreement that mandates coverage (license, contract, etc.) in jeopardy. These details are all important to consider before obtaining a surety bond. 

How to Obtain a Surety Bond

Now is a good time to offer a quick rundown for obtaining a surety bond. This will help you get a sense of the time and cost involved with getting a bond. Knowing that, and knowing that surety bond refunds are highly-unlikely, helps you make an informed decision about whether to pursue a bond. The application process will vary depending on the surety bond type and the bond company, but these steps are standard:

  • Complete a standard bond application with info about your business, finances, and background. Business partners will also need to complete an application.
  • Agree to undergo a credit check. Your credit will affect the size of the bond premium. Higher credit scores result in lower premiums and vice versa. 
  • Provide additional documentation at the surety’s request. This could include a copy of the bond requirements or a financial statement. 
  • Receive a personalized quote for the bond premium. Typically, surety bonds cost a small percentage of the required coverage amount – less or more depending on credit. 
  • Pay the premium and sign the bond documents. Most bonds have a 12-month term (though longer or shorter is possible). The bond documents commit the signer to paying for a full year of coverage upfront. As discussed, they also leave little room for refunds. 

How to Pursue a Surety Bond Refund

If you have read all the information outlined above and still feel you have a valid reason to get a refund, contact the surety directly. A customer representative can walk you through the next steps. 

Viking Bond Service – Surety Bonds for Everyone

At Viking Bond Service, we take the customer-first approach. We strive to make bonding easy and affordable for every bond seeker and make bonding more accessible with our bad credit surety bond program, which helps people get bonds in spite of credit issues. To get a sense of what we can offer, request a quote. It costs nothing and comes with no obligation. It’s just to help you explore what the bonds you need will cost. Contact us or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389). 

Does My Startup Business Need a Surety Bond?

Opening a business means checking lots of different boxes to get your startup fully compliant with all local, state, and federal laws. One box you may need to check is getting a surety bond. Some businesses need them while others don’t. In this blog, we walk you through everything you should know about surety bonds and startups. 

What Businesses Need a Surety Bond?

Surety bond requirements can be imposed by cities, counties, states, or the federal government. They can also be included in any formal contract between two parties, and they are especially common in the construction industry. For those reasons, it’s impossible to say definitively what businesses will need surety bonds. A business that needs a bond in one state may not need one in another. However, if you plan to open one of the following types of businesses, there is a strong likelihood you will need to obtain a surety bond:

  • Construction contractor
  • Health club 
  • Investment advisor
  • Mortgage broker
  • Pest control provider
  • Driving school
  • Waste hauler
  • Motor vehicle dealer
  • Liquor store

Keep in mind that this list is far from complete. There may also be states where a health club operator, to use just one example, does not need a surety bond. Given the unpredictable nature of bond requirements, business owners should never make assumptions about when they do and don’t need bonds. Always investigate what your exact bond requirements are. 

How to Determine Surety Bond Requirements

If your business needs a surety bond, it will probably be a requirement for obtaining a business or professional license. Review your license requirements carefully, but be aware that you may need a surety bond to meet other obligations for a new business. 

If you need help making sense of your surety bond requirements, reach out to the experts at Viking Bond Service. We can help you determine your bonding needs, explain what bonds will mean for your business, and assist you with securing all the surety bonds you need. 

What is a Surety Bond?

Anyone who needs a surety bond must understand how these legally-binding agreements work. To begin with, there are three parties involved with all surety bond types:

  • The Principal must obtain the bond and accept liability for all claims.
  • The Obligee requires the surety bond and has the right to file claims against the bond for damages caused by the principal
  • The Surety underwrites the surety bond. They guarantee payment to the obligee for the valid claims, but since the principal has liability for that claim, the principal must repay the surety the claim amount with interest and fees added. 

Consider this example of a surety bond in action: an upstart car dealership obtains a bond as part of the licensure process. Later, that dealership sells someone a vehicle with the odometer rolled back – a violation of state law. The car buyer then files a claim against the bond for the sale price of the vehicle. The surety investigates the claim, and after verifying everything, the surety automatically settles the claim in full. Finally, the surety collects the amount that was paid to the obligee from the principal, which may involve lawsuits if necessary.

Why Do I Need a Surety Bond?

The reason most states require surety bonds for small businesses is to encourage those businesses to follow all applicable rules and regulations. Surety bonds create an incentive to abide by the law (or contractual obligations) by holding the principal (the business with the bond) financially responsible for any misconduct. 

Surety bonds also create a system through which anyone harmed by the principal can pursue a claim for damages. By ensuring that people can get compensated for the damages they suffer, surety bonds help to streamline justice and safeguard the public good. The purpose of all surety bond requirements is to create trust between two parties by enforcing accountability from one party to the other. 

How to Obtain a Surety Bond

When your small business has mandatory bonding requirements, you can’t open your doors or serve a single customer until you can prove you have a bond that meets all the necessary requirements. That’s why it’s important to fulfill these requirements ASAP. Obtaining a bond works differently depending on the type of bond and the bond company, but these steps are usually involved:

  1. Complete a bond application. Business partners and anyone with more than 10% ownership in a business will also need to submit applications. 
  2. Agree to undergo a credit check.
  3. Provide a copy of the bond requirements and any other documentation the underwriter requests.
  4. Wait to receive a quote for the bond premium (e.g. the cost of a surety bond). 
  5. Pay the premium and sign all the attendant paperwork. 
  6. Provide the obligee with a document proving you have bond coverage.

Surety Bonds for Startups: Tips for Entrepreneurs 

Any small business that needs a surety bond can take some proactive steps to avoid bond problems and extra costs. Make bonding as easy on your business as possible with these tips:

  • Avoid claims – Claims can be very expensive. Do everything possible to avoid anything that could result in claims against the bond. 
  • Renew regularly – Most businesses need to keep bond coverage active continuously, which means renewing the bond on an annual basis. Stay on top of the renewal deadlines, and budget for the premium. 
  • Improve credit – The more your credit goes up the more your bond premiums go down at renewal. Keep bond costs low by keeping improving or preserving your credit standing.
  • Seek supplementary bonds – Fidelity bonds protect small businesses from various types of employee misconduct. They are voluntary to get, but many businesses choose to obtain fidelity bonds (such as business service bonds) to protect against a common risk. 
  • Find a bond partner – When a business needs bonds for years to come, it helps to have a bond partner who can make the process simple, straightforward, and stress-free. The right partner can be a huge asset to businesses that depend on having surety bonds. 

Viking Bond Service – Serving America’s Small Businesses 

Our nationwide surety agency can help any small business acquire whatever kind of surety bond they need. We are the partner that entrepreneurs are looking for. Request a bond quote at your convenience. It’s no-cost, no-obligation, and takes under 24 hours in most cases. Our team is also here to help your small business navigate the bonding process. Rely on Viking Bond Service for whatever help you need. Contact us with your questions or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389).

What is an Indemnity Agreement for Surety Bonds?

The indemnity agreement for surety bonds is one of the most important parts of any surety bond commitment. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. In this blog, we will cover everything you should know about surety bond indemnity agreements.

The Basics of Bonding

Every surety bond type involves a legally-binding arrangement between three parties:

  • The principal must obtain the bond
  • The obligee writes the bond requirements and may file claims for damages if those requirements aren’t met.
  • The surety underwrites the bond by agreeing to settle all valid claims

The indemnity agreement for surety bonds adds another obligation to this arrangement. It involves just two of the parties:

  • The principal (or indemnitor) must repay the surety for any claims it settles. 
  • The surety (or indemnitee) will settle claims, but since they do not have the financial liability for those claims, they may seek compensation, with interest and fees, from the principal.

Who Will Need an Indemnity Agreement for Surety Bonds?

Most bond seekers will need to sign one of these agreements while getting a surety bond. Bonds that do not require a credit check may not involve an indemnity agreement since they are lower-risk. Higher-risk bonds, on the other hand, will always involve a formal agreement that obligates the principal to repay the surety following a claims settlement. 

Why Do Surety Bonds Involve an Indemnity Agreement?

The whole point of surety bonds is to discourage illegal, unethical, or otherwise non-sanctioned conduct by making the bondholder accountable for any damages that result. Many professional licenses and formal contracts require surety bonds because they establish a bond of trust between two parties. That trust depends on making one party accountable to the other. 

Surety bonds create that accountability by guaranteeing settlement for valid claims. However, the surety pays the settlement because they know that the principal must repay them under the indemnity agreement. Without that agreement, the surety bond would not serve its intended purpose: to make the principal accountable for the damages they cause. 

What’s Included With an Indemnity Agreement for Surety Bonds?

Every bond provider writes their own indemnity agreement. The language and details will vary, but most of these agreements will include the following sections:

  • Indemnity Provision – This important provision transfers risk from the surety to the principal. It will usually be written in broad terms to cover various types of liabilities. 
  • Right to Enforce – By agreeing to this provision, a principal agrees to cover all the surety’s financial losses, including attorneys and investigations fees. 
  • Right to Settle – Under this provision, the surety gains the right to decide how to respond to a claim. This clause gives the surety the right to act on the principal’s behalf. 
  • Books and Records – When an indemnity agreement includes this clause, the surety has the right to examine the principal’s books and records to evaluate financial assets. 
  • Duty to Cooperate – A principal is bound to participate in a claim investigation when they sign an agreement with a duty to cooperate provision. 

How Does an Indemnity Enforcement Work?

An indemnity agreement can be enforced in several ways. One way is with collateral. The bond provider will require the principal to put up collateral (cash or property) equal to some or all of the coverage amount. If the surety later has to settle a claim, they will keep the collateral as repayment from the principal. 

Another way that indemnity agreements give the surety the right to recoup their losses is by granting the right to sue. The parameters will be spelled out in the agreement. Since the agreement makes explicit what the principal failed to do (repay their debt as required), the surety has a strong chance to win a civil case and get the courts to force repayment. 

How to Sign an Indemnity Agreement for Surety Bonds 

The signing process may be more involved than expected. The surety will provide a copy of the indemnity agreement for the principal to sign. Any business partners or stakeholders with more than a 10% interest in a business seeking a bond must sign as well since they will share in the indemnity following a claim. 

In addition, the principal’s spouse will need to sign to prevent someone from transferring assets to their spouse to avoid their financial obligations to the surety. This also puts the spouse on the hook to cover the principal’s debts if they go unpaid.

Obtaining a Surety Bond

Signing the indemnity agreement is just one part of the process through which someone obtains a surety bond that meets the requirements outlined by the obligee. That process will be different depending on the bond provider and the type of surety bond being sought. But these steps will probably be involved:

  1. Find a trusted surety agency.
  2. Complete a standard bond application.
  3. Submit to a credit check.
  4. Provide any other required documentation, like a financial statement.
  5. Wait to receive a quote for the price of the bond premium.
  6. Pay the premium and turn over any collateral necessary.
  7. Sign the surety bond agreement and the indemnity agreement.
  8. Receive a proof-of-bond-coverage document.

How to Handle Indemnity Obligations

Under the indemnity agreement, the principal cannot avoid their liability to the surety. They will have to pay for claims one way or another. The longer that claims go unpaid, the larger the debt becomes. Therefore, anyone who signs an indemnity agreement needs to understand their exact obligations under the bond agreement to avoid anything that could lead to claims. 

If a claim does occur, the principal should settle it directly with the obligee rather than involving the surety. When the surety has to pay a claim and then enforce the indemnity agreement, it often results in loss of bond coverage, even if the principal pays. Things can get very complicated for someone who loses bond coverage they are required to have by law, under contract, or at a judge’s orders. Therefore, claims should be avoided at all costs. 

Viking Bond Service – Working on Your Behalf

Just because the indemnity agreement makes the principal liable to the surety doesn’t mean the surety won’t work hard on the principal’s behalf. A good surety agency will streamline the bonding process to make it quick to obtain a bond and easy to understand the details (like the indemnity agreement). A good one will also investigate all claims thoroughly to reject any invalid claims, and fight on the principal’s behalf to make the claims process fair and transparent. Much depends on having the right surety agency in your corner. 

For a surety agency you can trust and rely on for any and all bonding needs, choose Viking Bond Service. We serve all 50 states, have years of experience and expertise in the bond industry, and work hard to help people obtain the bonds they need (even with bad credit). Everything someone could want from a surety agency comes standard from Viking Bond Service. 

Request a bond quote at any time. We fulfill most requests in under 24 hours. We also have a team standing by to answer questions and provide more info. Contact us or call 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389). 

How to Become a Car Dealer: Requirements & Cost

Auto dealerships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are sprawling businesses with hundreds of vehicles on-site while others are tiny car lots with a few vehicles for sale. There are also auto dealers that sell vehicles independently without a permanent location. There are many options for how to become an auto dealer as well as compelling reasons to enter a market for auto sales and parts valued at over $343 billion

Before you can work as an auto dealer, however, you will need to meet certain requirements and prepare for a few costs. In particular, you will need to obtain an auto dealer license for the state where you plan to operate. Every state requires auto dealers to have a license, and there can be strict penalties for selling vehicles without one, including being banned from ever obtaining a license again. If you’re curious how to become a car dealer, begin by following the steps to obtain a license and meet the requirements and costs outlined below. 

Step 1: Determine if You Need a License

You may not need a license if you only plan to sell a few vehicles. If you want to sell your own car, for instance, you don’t need a license to proceed with the sale. Every state sets its own requirements for who needs an auto dealer license and when. In some states, anyone who plans to sell more than 3 vehicles will need a license while in other states the threshold is a little higher. That being said, if you plan to make a full-time or part-time job of auto sales, expect to need a license.

Step 2: Work With Your State Agency

As we said before, every state regulates auto dealers independently and creates unique rules for that state. In addition to creating license requirements, there are also requirements about dealer conduct designed to ensure that auto sales run in a fair and transparent fashion. Before going any further in the process of how to become a car dealer, find out what agency regulates auto dealers in your state, then contact them to ask questions and get good information.

License requirements and dealer rules can change, and the agency that writes those rules will be the best source for accurate, up-to-date information. That agency will also be the one to process your license application, so they may offer resources to help that process run smoothly.

Step 3: Make a Business Plan

You will need to have certain aspects of your business either established or decided upon before being granted an auto dealer license. It’s also a smart move to have your business ready to hit the ground running as soon as the state grants a license. For those reasons, figure out what kind of auto dealer you intend to be first.

Where will you operate? What kind of auto lot will you utilize? What technology and processes do you need to run your business effectively? Will you need to hire staff? These are all important questions that impact not just your ability to get a license but also your ability to be successful and sustainable. The more you figure out early, the better. 

Step 4: Request an Application Packet

Once you’re ready to get a license, request the necessary forms and documents from the agency you connected with during Step 2. They will send you a packet of information and forms, or you may be able to access some or all this information online. This packet will make it clear what requirements you need to meet and what costs you need to pay to become a licensed auto dealer.

Step 5: Complete the Application Packet

Even though every state has different license requirements, there are some common requirements you will probably have to comply with. Those include:

  • Proof you have a business license
  • Proof you have insurance
  • Permission to run a background and credit check
  • A detailed business plan, including information about the car lot where you intend to operate your business.

Step 6: Obtain an Auto Dealer Surety Bond

Among the most important steps for how to become an auto dealer is the mandate to obtain an auto vehicle dealer surety bond. This type of surety bond, like all other types, makes the bondholder (in this case the auto dealer) financially liable for illegal or unethical behavior that results in damages to individual car buyers or the public at large.

For example, if a dealer sells a vehicle with the odometer rolled back to make it look like it has fewer miles than it actually does, the person who buys that vehicle may file a claim against the surety bond seeking compensation equal to the vehicle cost. Provided that the claim holds up under investigation, the surety that backs the bond will offer an immediate settlement, then work to collect that same amount (plus interest and fees) from the dealer who sold the car. By holding dealers accountable, surety bonds create an incentive to follow the rules, which is why all states have bond requirements. 

You can obtain a bond by finding a surety agency that issues the required bond in your state. Prepare to complete an application with info about your background, finances, and business interests. You will also need to submit to a credit check and turn over any additional documents the surety requests. The surety will quote a bond price based on the application materials. It will be a small percentage of the bond’s total size, with higher costs for bond seekers with poor credit. 

Following this, you will pay the quoted price to activate the bond, at which time the surety will provide a document proving you have met the motor vehicle dealer surety bond requirements. You will also need to keep that bond active and in good standing, which means avoiding claims at all costs and paying to renew the bond on an annual basis.

Step 7: Pay the Required Fees

After completing everything in the license packet, you will need to submit everything back to the state licensing agency along with applicable fees. Those fees vary by state, from less than $100 in some places to multiples more in other places. There might also be additional costs associated with the application, like paying for the surety bond or enrolling in training courses if necessary. If you are investigating how to become a car dealer and getting serious about following all the steps outlined above, make sure you are also budgeting and saving for all the upfront costs. 

Viking Bond Service – Motor Vehicle Dealer Bonds in 24 Hours!

Get your career in auto sales off to a great start by partnering with Viking Bond Service. We can help you get a motor vehicle dealer bond in all 50 states, and we make the process simple, fast, and as inexpensive as possible. Request a quote at any time to get a response within 24 hours. Or get more information about bonding by contacting us or calling 1-888-2-SURETY (1-888-278-7389).