Putting Investment or Rental Property in an LLC
“Should I put my investment or rental property in an LLC?” I get asked this a lot. I mean, a lot. Putting an investment or rental property into a limited liability company (LLC) can be a fantastic way to protect your personal assets from any liabilities of the property(ies). If you are thinking about putting an investment or rental property into an LLC, or if you already have, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
Before I get into that, let’s recap what an LLC is and why it may be a good thing to have. An LLC is a legal business entity. If someone sues an LLC, in most cases, only the assets of the LLC will be subject to liability in that lawsuit. The personal assets of the business owner should be safe. So if you own an LLC and get sued, you can generally rest assured that your personal bank accounts, personal residence, and all your other personal assets will be protected. In terms of a rental or investment property, then, if you form an LLC and somebody gets injured on the property and wants to sue for damages, they would have to sue the owner of the property, which would be the LLC. And they would only be able to collect from the assets of the LLC (i.e. the property itself and any additional business assets such as bank accounts). So, the purpose of having an LLC for your investment or rental property is to insulate your personal assets from the liabilities of the property.
The second question that generally gets asked is “I have more than one rental property; do I need to have an LLC for each one?” The answer to this is: it depends. Depends primarily on your tolerance for risk and how much additional administrative crap work you want to deal with. If you have one LLC that holds multiple properties, you should still be protected personally from liabilities of any of those properties. However, as I mentioned above, any assets of an LLC can be subject to liability. So if there is a lawsuit regarding one property in the LLC, all of the other properties in the LLC will be at risk as well. If you have a separate LLC for each property, then each one will be insulated from the liabilities of the others. That’s a good thing and, ideally, the best way to do it. However…lets say you have two, three, four, five different properties and want to put them each into their own LLC. That’s two, three, four, five different LLCs that you now have to run. That means different bank accounts, books, Operating Agreements, annual filings, tax returns, etc., that you have to take care of. That can obviously become pretty time consuming and expensive. So there really is no real answer to that question. If you want to put the time and money into each LLC in order to have full limited liability, then that is fantastic. But in some cases it may be overkill and just not worth the hassle.
The last thing that comes up a lot with LLCs for rental or investment properties is the fact that the LLC has to actually own the property. That means the LLC must hold title to the property. This can be accomplished by deeding the property to the LLC. (People like to do this on their own a lot. There can be big, bad results from using the wrong type of deed or filling it out incorrectly or incompletely. I strongly recommend you seek help from an attorney with this.) The other consideration with doing this is, if you have a mortgage on the property, and the mortgage is between you personally rather than the LLC, your lender may not like you transferring ownership of the property to the LLC. Most mortgages have a “Due On Sale” or similar clause that allows the lender to call the entire mortgage upon transfer of the property. So if the lender finds out you transferred the property, they may try to get you to pay the entire remaining balance of the mortgage.
Putting investment or rental property in an LLC can be a great way to insulate yourself personally from the liabilities of the rental property. It’s just important to remember that the LLC is a business and needs to be run like a business. And if you have multiple LLCs for multiple investment or rental properties, each LLC is its own separate business entity and needs to be treated as such. If you are considering putting your investment or rental property in an LLC, you are best off talking to an attorney about the best way to go about it to make sure you cover all your bases.
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