To LLC or not LLC for multiple longterm rentals

6 Replies

Hi all, 

My husband/business partner and I own 3 rental properties in NC. We're getting ready to invest in another property and wanted to know if we should consider setting up an LLC now. Some places have said to set up an LLC per property, I'm kind of inclined to do 1 LLC for all our rentals. What are your pros and cons and suggestions?

Hey @Emeric Harney ! I am not an attorney or CPA so I am not qualified to provide advice, but what I generally do, is I never have more than $150k worth of equity per LLC, so if I were you, I'd start going the LLC route and getting an umbrella policy!

@Emeric Harney   

Hi Emeric.  The best answer to give you is "it depends."  

When I sit down with clients, I always discuss (1) their personal assets, and (2) what their current investments portfolio and other business ventures are before discussing (3) their future goals. Each of these variables will dramatically change the advice I give the individual asking me this question. Generally though, I break it down into the "five pillars" of protecting your assets.

The first pillar is avoiding unnecessary and risky activities (don't drink and drive, insurance generally won’t cover your poor decisions) and take good care of your investments(maintain your property, etc) - these simple steps will help you prevent lawsuits before they even occur.

The second pillar is a good insurance policy as that cover the majority of your exposure. However, insurance is limited because it only protects you from one type of liability: accidents/negligence. Insurance doesn’t protect you from any part of the sale or acquisition of a property (e.x. Somebody wanting to sue for you backing out of a bad deal or accusing you of selling them a property with defects like unknown termite damage). Insurance also doesn’t protect you from misunderstandings, especially those made in writing and email. What happens in these misunderstandings is that something goes wrong either in the sale or after, and then they sue you for some statement you made that they “misunderstood”. That lawsuit is a claim for fraud, and that’s what fraud typically is...a misunderstanding and someone being “injured” and wanting to hold the other responsible for it. Insurance never protects you from these kinds of claims and they happen all the time.

The third pillar applies after you have good insurance You need to protect yourself from what insurance doesn't cover by compartmentalizing your assets. Compartmentalization means that if something happens to one property, people suing can't touch you or the other properties. You should use either LLC's (the old and expensive way) or a Series LLC (the new and more cost/time effective way). No matter where you live or where you own assets, I personally recommend the Series LLC to be a great tool for the individual investor who is planning to expand their operation, as it allows for you to scale infinitely for FREE. If you're interested in using an LLC, this article also further explains the advantages of a Series.

The fourth pillar is somewhat similar - you want to separate your operations from your assets. One company owns everything and does nothing (this is your SLLC a/k/a "asset holding company") and a completely separate company handles all of your operations (this is a traditional LLC a/k/a "operating company") For the operating company which serves as your face to the world and through which you do all your business, you establish a Traditional LLC to carry out the operations of your investments. The operating company takes on all of the liability that would otherwise blow back on you including: paying property management, paying contractors, collecting rent, marketing, etc.

The fifth pillar is owning everything anonymously. If people don't know that you have assets, then they are less likely to sue because there's no use in suing people that qualify for food stamps. This anonymity can be accomplished for free by using land trusts to own your companies as well as the assets. Trusts create this anonymity by removing your name from public record. Even if they can see you used to own a property, when properly transferred it will look like it was sold to investors. If they somehow guess you are the owner though, it still doesn't matter because you would not be the owner. The land trust and the LLC are the owner of the asset/real estate, so even in the scenario that potential litigants guess, they would guess wrong.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a reply or DM.  I am always happy to help.

- Scott

Originally posted by @Scott Smith :

@Emeric Harney   

Hi Emeric.  The best answer to give you is "it depends."  

When I sit down with clients, I always discuss (1) their personal assets, and (2) what their current investments portfolio and other business ventures are before discussing (3) their future goals. Each of these variables will dramatically change the advice I give the individual asking me this question. Generally though, I break it down into the "five pillars" of protecting your assets.

The first pillar is avoiding unnecessary and risky activities (don't drink and drive, insurance generally won’t cover your poor decisions) and take good care of your investments(maintain your property, etc) - these simple steps will help you prevent lawsuits before they even occur.

The second pillar is a good insurance policy as that cover the majority of your exposure. However, insurance is limited because it only protects you from one type of liability: accidents/negligence. Insurance doesn’t protect you from any part of the sale or acquisition of a property (e.x. Somebody wanting to sue for you backing out of a bad deal or accusing you of selling them a property with defects like unknown termite damage). Insurance also doesn’t protect you from misunderstandings, especially those made in writing and email. What happens in these misunderstandings is that something goes wrong either in the sale or after, and then they sue you for some statement you made that they “misunderstood”. That lawsuit is a claim for fraud, and that’s what fraud typically is...a misunderstanding and someone being “injured” and wanting to hold the other responsible for it. Insurance never protects you from these kinds of claims and they happen all the time.

The third pillar applies after you have good insurance You need to protect yourself from what insurance doesn't cover by compartmentalizing your assets. Compartmentalization means that if something happens to one property, people suing can't touch you or the other properties. You should use either LLC's (the old and expensive way) or a Series LLC (the new and more cost/time effective way). No matter where you live or where you own assets, I personally recommend the Series LLC to be a great tool for the individual investor who is planning to expand their operation, as it allows for you to scale infinitely for FREE. If you're interested in using an LLC, this article also further explains the advantages of a Series.

The fourth pillar is somewhat similar - you want to separate your operations from your assets. One company owns everything and does nothing (this is your SLLC a/k/a "asset holding company") and a completely separate company handles all of your operations (this is a traditional LLC a/k/a "operating company") For the operating company which serves as your face to the world and through which you do all your business, you establish a Traditional LLC to carry out the operations of your investments. The operating company takes on all of the liability that would otherwise blow back on you including: paying property management, paying contractors, collecting rent, marketing, etc.

The fifth pillar is owning everything anonymously. If people don't know that you have assets, then they are less likely to sue because there's no use in suing people that qualify for food stamps. This anonymity can be accomplished for free by using land trusts to own your companies as well as the assets. Trusts create this anonymity by removing your name from public record. Even if they can see you used to own a property, when properly transferred it will look like it was sold to investors. If they somehow guess you are the owner though, it still doesn't matter because you would not be the owner. The land trust and the LLC are the owner of the asset/real estate, so even in the scenario that potential litigants guess, they would guess wrong.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a reply or DM.  I am always happy to help.

- Scott

Hi Scott,

Thank you for your advice on setting up LLC on rental properties. Do you know how these differ for WA state? I am contemplating on whether I must set up an LLC for all of my properties as I do want take advantage of the umbrella insurance benefits, but uncertain about tax implications. I agree with you on the anonymity piece nd keeping it very simple in the eye of the public. I am trying to avoid having to take in the financial benefits at front end but having to deal with tax challenges in the long haul.

Thanks,

TT

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