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What Happens if the Obligee Breaches Their Duty of Good Faith in the Surety Bond Agreement?

Surety bonds play a crucial role in various industries, ensuring contractual obligations are fulfilled. These bonds involve three parties: the principal (the one who needs the bond), the obligee (the one who requires the bond), and the surety (the one who provides the bond). While much attention is paid to the responsibilities of the principal and surety, the obligee also holds significant obligations, particularly that of acting in good faith. But what happens if the obligee breaches this duty of good faith in the surety bond agreement?

Understanding the Surety Bond Agreement

Before delving into the consequences of the obligee's breach, it's essential to grasp the dynamics of a surety bond agreement. A surety bond is a contractual agreement among the three parties mentioned earlier. The principal purchases the bond to assure the obligee that they will fulfill their obligations as per the terms of the contract.

In the event the principal fails to fulfill their obligations, the obligee can make a claim against the bond. The surety, upon verifying the claim's validity, compensates the obligee for the losses incurred up to the bond's penal sum. However, the obligee also has responsibilities, one of which is the duty of good faith.

Duty of Good Faith of the Obligee

The duty of good faith is a fundamental principle in contract law that requires parties to act honestly, fairly, and in good faith towards each other. In the context of surety bonds, the obligee's duty of good faith entails dealing fairly with the principal and the surety regarding the bond agreement.

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Here are some key aspects of the obligee's duty of good faith:

Honoring the Terms of the Bond

The obligee must adhere to the terms specified in the bond agreement. This includes providing notice to the surety in case of default by the principal and giving them a reasonable opportunity to remedy the default.

Reasonable Conduct

The obligee should act reasonably when making a claim against the bond. This involves providing accurate information, substantiating the claim, and not making excessive demands beyond what the bond covers.

Avoiding Unnecessary Delays

Promptly notifying the surety of any potential default by the principal and cooperating with the surety's investigation process are essential elements of good faith.

Breach of Duty by the Obligee

If the obligee breaches their duty of good faith in the surety bond agreement, it can have several consequences, including:

Loss of Rights to Claim

One of the most significant repercussions of the obligee's breach is the potential loss or limitation of their rights to claim against the bond. Courts may refuse to enforce the obligee's rights if they find that the obligee acted in bad faith.

Liability for Damages

The obligee may be held liable for damages caused by their breach of good faith. If the principal or surety suffers losses due to the obligee's unfair or unreasonable conduct, they can seek compensation through legal action.

Invalidation of the Bond Claim

If the obligee's breach is severe, such as fraudulently misrepresenting facts or intentionally causing delays to harm the principal or surety, the bond claim may be invalidated entirely.

Legal Action

The principal or surety can take legal action against the obligee for breaching the duty of good faith. This can lead to litigation, where the court determines the extent of the obligee's breach and the appropriate remedy.

Remedies for the Principal and Surety

When the obligee breaches their duty of good faith, both the principal and the surety have recourse to protect their interests:

Principal's Remedies

  • The principal can defend against an unjust claim made in bad faith by the obligee.
  • They can also seek damages if they incur losses due to the obligee's breach.

Surety's Remedies

  • The surety may have the right to refuse to pay the claim if the obligee acted in bad faith.
  • They can also seek damages from the obligee for any losses suffered as a result of the obligee's breach.

Court Interpretation

Courts play a vital role in interpreting the obligee's duty of good faith and the consequences of its breach. Each case is unique and will be evaluated based on the specific circumstances. However, courts generally look for evidence of unfair dealing, dishonesty, or unreasonable behavior on the part of the obligee.


In the realm of surety bonds, all parties involved are bound by the duty of good faith. While much attention is given to the obligations of principals and sureties, obligees also have a significant role to play. Breaching the duty of good faith can have serious consequences, including loss of rights to claim, liability for damages, and legal action.

To maintain the integrity of surety bond agreements, it's crucial for all parties to act honestly, fairly, and with integrity. Any breach of this duty undermines the trust essential for these agreements to function effectively. Therefore, understanding and upholding the duty of good faith is paramount for all involved in the surety bond process.


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