In nearly every circumstance, a general contractor on a federal or state project is required to maintain a bond for the work being performed. These bonds protect the payment rights of subcontractors, sub-subcontractors and suppliers. In the event any of these parties are not paid on the project, the unpaid party can typically file a claim against the surety who bonds the project as per the Miller Act or a state’s Little Miller Act. (Read this great article from Construction Business Owner about bonds, generally).
Claims against sureties are beneficial because: (1) It can reduce the prevalence of personality conflicts between the unpaid party and the general contractor; and (2) It is a guarantee that at the end of a proceeding, money will be there.
However, you can’t make a claim against a surety if you don’t know who the surety is. And if you’re not on the best of a terms with a general contractor, you may fear that it won’t reveal the surety to you.
So, this begs the question: how on earth do you discover the identity of a surety?
The answer is quite simple: Just ask. That’s right, just ask for it.
Who To Ask?
Under the Miller Act and most Little Miller Act statutes, the public agency in charge of the project is required to (and quite used to) disclose the identity of the surety to anyone who asks for it.
Using Google, you can generally always find the governing authority. A governing authority will typically manage its contracts through:
(a) public works department;
(b) new construction department;
(c) purchasing department;
(d) capital projects department; or
(e) facilities department
Most of these governing authorities (almost all) will have a website that gives you some information about their public contracts. Figuring out which department is in charge of the contract is generally a toss up, so you will likely need to navigate around government websites to find the best possible contact.
How to Ask
As I stated above, agencies are required to disclose the surety on the job….actually getting it, just depends on how difficult the agency will make it for you.
If a governing authority has a website, you will generally be able to find out at least a little bit of information about their projects. If the project is relatively new, they might still have bid postings, pictures, articles and reports posted.
Giving the agency a phone call will usually do the trick, but if you run into trouble, just send a certified letter making the request. You can even have Zlien send this notice / request for you. We’ll even figure out who to contact, saving your company valuable time and energy.