Rental property investors are increasingly using limited liability company structures (L.L.C.s). As of 2015, nearly one-third of all rental units, about 15 percent, were owned by L.L.C.s., per Census and HUD data.
William Callison, a lawyer based in Denver who specializes in L.L.C. and affordable housing law explains that the consequences of using L.L.C.s are causing concern among real estate lawyers, “The lawyer in me that represents clients says ‘privacy, secrecy, keep my people out of the papers. The policy guy in me says, ‘Well, wait a second.’ ” The New York Times reports that in some cases, the anonymity provided by L.L.C.s is being used as a cover for money laundering, and disempowers tenants from holding their landlords accountable. Callison adds, “Good things happen in the light, and bad things happen in the dark.”
When Sean Hannity, the popular Fox News host, was revealed this month to be a property owner and landlord of considerable scale, it highlighted how opaque the housing market has become. Owning real estate in limited liability companies, as The Guardian reported that Mr. Hannity does, is a perfectly legal and increasingly popular practice. But the whiff of secrecy, and the umbrage Mr. Hannity has taken after the secret got out, speaks to the growing role of L.L.C.s in the nation’s housing market.