Nervous about doing l/o's - Posted by Bryan in Cali

Posted by Lee on January 01, 2002 at 18:07:49:

I don’t know. I’m not that knowledgeable about the specifics of California law. You should probably consult your attorney about the relative risk exposure of the various forms of holding title, if an unusual liability concern is present here.

Or there might be someone else here who knows how the law is applied in California. Perhaps they will be so kind as to respond on this point.

My only point really is about the use of combinations of entities to get to where you want to go. LLC’s, corporations, trusts, and other forms of doing business or holding title each have special benefits, advantages and limitations that you can sometimes combine to get the result you want. Understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of these tools, as they exist in your legal environment, can provide a major benefit to your career.

I like to use multiple entities for several reasons. One reason is moving my business activity to a more favorable taxing jurisdiction, as you were concerned with in your original posting. Another reason is liability risk control and privacy. In my case, this is purely defensive in nature since I would rather not get famous because of a lawsuit where someone wanted to get a piece of me because I looked like a fat hog ready to slaughter. It is a benefit to you if it is more difficult for a predator to locate you or your other assets. The principle is that of damage containment, and raising the stakes to the other party if they wish to pursue a legal action against you. And believe me, crossing state lines raises the costs to the other party, if done correctly.

I’m sure if you search the archives here, you can find out almost anything you want on this topic, as I am sure it has been discussed at length before. But basically, a land trust conceals the true ownership on the public records. It is not really intended to be bullet-proof for liability protection in and of itself. This is where the Nevada LLC would come into play if a judge penetrates the trust. That would be unlikely, however, if your Trustee has not been subpoenaed. If he does not reside in the same state, he might be more difficult to serve, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

The possibilities are endless, limited only by your creativity, your level of paranoia, and your resources.

Just think outside the box a little!

Nervous about doing l/o’s - Posted by Bryan in Cali

Posted by Bryan in Cali on December 31, 2001 at 20:23:35:

I’ve been studying my lease option course materials, and the more I do the more nervous I get. Not about what could go wrong, but about some limitations.

First among these is that one should do business as an LLC to reduce liability. But in California a newly filed LLC has to pay an up front tax of $800 within 90 days of filing. I checked with a Nevada attorney who said that real estate held in an LLC in California MUST be held in a California LLC, not one in another state. Or else you have to “qualify” your LLC and you end up paying CA tax anyway. So that means the pressure is on to make a deal in 90 days or else lose the LLC and be unable to file another. What should I do about this?

Second I don’t know any people who can do services like bookkeeping, accounting, escrows, mortgage lending, and real estate law. I need some referrals, either in the Bay Area or along the Interstate 80 corridor up to and including Sacramento. I want people who are attuned to my wealth creating goals and give appropriate advice. An accountant for the middle class, for example the one my parents have, has to give middle class advice. I want a bookkeeper, accountant, and attorney who will give advice for the rich. I need an honest escrow company and a good mortgage broker.

And that’s just for starters.

Re: Bogas Lease Option Deals - Posted by Scott

Posted by Scott on January 01, 2002 at 19:33:28:

I found this on another website. Does anyone have any response to this article. It makes me scared about doing LOs.


A Purchase by Any Name
By Stephen Stralka

A home buyer with insufficient funds for a ten percent down payment responds to a broker’s ad under “Home for Sale”; the ad indicates that the credit worthy can move into a pricey single family residence with a small down payment.

The buyer inspects the property, and decides that he would like to buy it. The seller is asking for five-percent down, and is willing to carry the balance.

The five-percent down payment is called “option money,” and is to be applied to the purchase price should the option be exercised. Correspondingly, the monthly payment is called “rent,” and a portion of the rent is to apply to the purchase price - upon exercise of the option.
Thus, except for the absence of a note, trust deed and grant deed, the terms of this so-called “lease option” have all the economic characteristics of a carry-back sale. There is an agreed-to-price, a down payment, monthly payments toward principal and interest, and a three-year due date.

After closing, the buyer incurs financial difficulties and is unable to keep up with his payments. The seller attempts to evict the buyer for non payment of rents. The seller claims that the lease is terminated by a Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit and the buyer forfeits the right to the possession of the property and the amounts to be credited toward the purchase price.

Can the seller terminate the agreement as a lease with an option and keep the buyer’s money?

No! When a buyer in possession under an agreement receives credit toward the purchase of a portion or all of his payments to the seller, he has established and built up an “equity” in the property, and “ownership interest” which must be terminated by foreclosure.

A lease option agreement structured on terms economically consistent with a credit sale is neither a lease between a tenant and a landlord, nor an option to buy. This bogus “lease option” agreement is a disguised purchase agreement between a buyer and carry-back seller [Oesterreich v. Commissioner (1955) 226S2d 798].

Thus, the seller can only terminate the buyer’s ownership interest in the real estate through judicial foreclosure - no trustee foreclosure provisions are written into lease options, since such agreements are purportedly not sales at all.


A seller has a number of possible ways to structure carry-back financing for the sale of his property. He may, after a down payment:

· Convey title and carry back a trust deed (first or second) for the balance of his equity in the property;
· Convey title and wrap an existing first TD with all-inclusive trust deed (AITD);
· Enter into an unexecuted deposit receipt retaining title until escrow is opened and closed, and give the buyer occupancy under an interim occupancy agreement; or
· Use a land sale contract, also called a “Contract for Deed,” retaining a deed to secure payments of the balance due on the price.


Incongruously, the bogus “lease option” has the buyer/tenant receiving credit on the price for both the down payment/option money and a principle portion of the payment called rent.

Seller financing, no matter how drafted, delays payment of all but a small fraction of the purchase price. Thus, buyers are able to own and occupy a home with little or no down payment. Sellers are able to move their real estate in a slow market.

The lease option becomes viewed as a form of seller financing, and is, in effect, a financing aberration which gains popularity in times of recession and tightening of credit.

Trust deeds and land sale contracts are fairly secure in their legal treatment - there exists a substantial body of case law and statutes relating to each, in spite of the extremely different foreclosure procedures. The legal situation of lease option financing is considerably less certain.

Sellers - and unfortunately, brokers - view the bogus lease option as a purchase lease/option, a financing hybrid.

A seller under a bogus lease option seeks to avoid all ownership responsibility and risk of loss by drafting the terms of the lease option to conform with those of a completed sale - that is, until the buyer defaults and the seller attempts to revert to the role of landlord and evicts the buyer as a non-paying tenant.

Specifically, inappropriate weight is placed upon the question of who holds the deed - which becomes a mortgage-in-fact.

What the seller has created is a land-sale contract, but with the wrong name on it.

The seller can’t have it both ways. A transaction is either a sale, or a lease with an option to purchase, but it can not be both. The hybrid purchase/lease/option arrangement does not exist. [Smith v. Morton (1973) 29 CA3d 616]


Under a lease, a tenant pays rent, no part of which is credited toward the purchase of the property occupied. Non-refundable option money can be paid for an option to purchase which runs with the lease.

However, the signing of the lease itself is nearly always the consideration for giving an option to purchase. Even if option money is paid, it is not credited toward the purchase price - option money is simply the consideration paid to keep the option open.

The option is the landlord’s irrevocable offer to sell the real estate to the tenant within a certain period of time - should the tenant decide to buy. The tenant is given the absolute right to buy or not to buy the property, at his discretion.

When a tenant with a genuine option to buy exercises the option, it become an enforceable bilateral purchase agreement. Until then, the agreement between the two parties is a lease for all purposes, and the roles of the parties are narrowly defined in terms of a landlord/tenant relationship.


If the tenant receives credit toward the price of the property, the lease option will be re-characterized as a land sale contract - a carry-back sale without trust deed provisions to avoid the seller’s need to judicially foreclose and exhaust his security; thereupon wiping out the equity the buyer has paid-for and built up in the property.

In each case, the seller (or the purported landlord) keeps the deed, while the buyer (or purported tenant) is in possession of the property, having paid money to the seller, which money is applied toward a purchase price to be fully paid in the future.

Other signs for establishing a purported tenant as an actual buyer in possession include:

· Shift of the burden of care and maintenance, and risk of loss to the tenant;
· Payment of property taxes and insurance premiums by the tenant in addition to the regular monthly payment, and impound agreement;
· Good faith improvements made by the tenant - i.e., improvements made in the good faith belief that he is the owner of the property [CA. Code of Civ. Proc. §871.1];
· Monthly payments which substantially exceed the property’s fair market rental value - since it costs much more per month to own a higher end property than to rent it; and
· A fixed dollar purchase price.

A genuine option to buy within three or more years typically does not have a set price. Uncertainty as to what the property’s inflated and appreciated value will be in a number of years is a risk of ownership, a risk (or benefit) the fixed dollar price shifts to the purported tenant/optionee. If the price is set as a dollar figure, the setting is one indication that the property has been sold.

Courts look to the economic substance of a transaction over the legal form in which it is drafted - especially when calling an agreement by the wrong name misrepresents the party’s rights and obligations actually existing under the agreement. [City of L.A., CA v. Tilem (1983) 142 CA3d 694]

If the buyer in possession is building an equity, the lease option is a land sale contract in everything but name. Any option money paid in is really a payment on the price, with the rents to be considered as interest and principal under a disguised mortgage. [Oesterreich, SUPRA]

Editor’s Note - There is no legislation providing for the re-characterization of a bogus lease option as a masked land sale contract. However, statutes relating to similar lease-back arrangements involving equity purchasers have codified.

For example, an investor acting as an equity purchaser buys a property and leases it back to the seller with an option to buy. The transaction is not a genuine lease option: it is a real estate loan. The lender, who characterizes himself as an investor/buyer, in this case holds the grant deed to the property as security for repayment of principal and interest, rather than using a trust deed to document the transaction. [CC§1695.12]

When a lease option is a masked land sale contract, the tenant with a purchase option becomes a buyer with equitable ownership of the property - equitable because he is in possession of the property and makes the payments, which applies in part against the purchase price, but has not yet received the deed. [Mc Clellan
v Lewis (1917) 35 CA64]

The landlord in fact becomes the carry-back seller in law - a secured with different rights than an owner - even though me may retain the title. [LA Invest. Co. v Wilson (1919) 181 C 616]


When a land sale contract is masked in the form of a lease option, most of the resulting problems occur when the tenant/buyer defaults in payments and refuses to vacate and sign a release (deed in lieu of foreclosure).

Evicting a non-paying tenant is relatively quick and inexpensive compared to a foreclosure. The distinction becomes a most prominent reality when a purported landlord finds himself reclassified as a carry-back seller, and has no tenant to evict. His tenant is, in law, the equitable owner of the property.

The landlord/seller will incur great expense in time and money in order to rid himself of a defaulting lease option tenant who claims to be a buyer with equitable ownership rights. The cumbersome process of a judicial foreclosure will be required to eliminate the tenant/buyer, since there is no trust deed power of sale clause.

If the seller refuses to allow a redemption payoff, the buyer in possession is entitled to a specific performance action against the seller. This is true of real leases with purchase options as well, since the tenant need only exercise the option to create and enforceable purchase agreement.

At the very least, the lease option buyer is entitled to a refund of ALL AMOUNTS HE HAS ADVANCED TOWARD THE PURCHASE PRICE. The seller may not keep the buyer’s money on default, since foreclosure of an equitable ownership is not permitted. [Peterson, Supra]

Forfeiture is not an issue when a genuine purchase option is attached to a lease. Any payment the tenant makes is not part of the price. It is either rent, or it is non-refundable option money: consideration paid the seller for keeping the property off the market and the option to purchase open. Only when credit is given toward the price to be paid upon the exercise of the option does the purported tenant obtain an interest in the property.


Tax-wise, lease options are often re-characterized as disguised carry-back financing or land sale contracts.

Strong income tax incentives exist for sellers to conceal property sales behind bogus lease options. Under a true option agreement, any option money received by the seller is not reportable as profit or income until, respectively, the option is exercised or expires, or the property is sold subject to the option.

Thus, if the seller can convince the IRS that the principal and the interest payments he receives are really option money, he will pay no taxes on the “option money” until the buyer exercises the purchase option, or allows the option to expire.

The seller, disguised as a landlord, will also deduct as an owner’s tax benefits the property’s annual depreciation - until re-characterized by the IRS.

However, tax courts look to a number of factors, including the buyer’s equity, who bears the risk of loss, who pays property taxes, the relationship of rent to market value, and the price paid upon exercise compared to the property’s value at the time of exercise, to determine whether a purported lease option is really a sale.

If the lease option is found to be a sale in fact, the transaction will have been improperly reported. The seller will have to report the option credits toward price as payments on the principal ( allocated to profit and basis) and the balance of the rents as interest, and pay interest penalties or worse.

Similarly, and for consistent reporting, the buyer may not deduct the payments as rent. [MW Gear Co. v. Commissioner (1971) 446 F2d 841]


Sellers often seek to combine the advantages of leases with sale transactions by structuring their sales as lease options. However, the purchase/lease/option hybrid financing does not exist. A transaction is either a lease or a sale: not both.

In a genuine lease with an option to purchase, neither any portion of the rent nor any option money paid applies toward the purchase price upon exercise of the option.

If money paid by the tenant for rents or option consideration is applied toward the price, the transaction is not a genuine lease with a purchase, but is a disguised carry-back sale - a land sale contract.

The courts can easily re-characterize purported lease options as disguised sales, exposing sellers to all the consequences of mortgage law.

If the lease option is found to be a disguised sale, the tenant is re-characterized as a buyer who builds an equity and has an ownership interest in the property.

The seller may not simply evict a defaulting buyer as he could a tenant. The buyer’s interest can only be terminated by judicial foreclosure, since the lease option seller has no trust deed power of sale provision.

Also, if a lease option is re-characterized as a sale, the transaction will have been improperly reported for federal and state income tax purposes, and the property will be reassessed based upon a change of ownership.

Regardless of what the form of a transaction may be; if its economic substance indicates it is a sale, it will be treated as such for all purposes.
Don’t forget: all lease options, irrespective of their form or duration, do trigger due-on-sale clauses.

CEA News 8/91

Re: Ownership of the Real Estate - Posted by Lee

Posted by Lee on January 01, 2002 at 11:37:26:

I’m not an expert on real estate law in California, but why not hold title to the land in a land trust in California? I don’t think the California statutes require that your trustee be a California resident, but he or she could be.

The beneficial interest in the land trust could be held by anyone, including a Nevada LLC, since the beneficial interest in a land trust is Not an interest in the real estate in the corpus of the trust; it is a separate property interest, and it is Personal Property.

It’s just a thought to get your creative juices flowing. There is always a way to accomplish what you want to do, if you don’t let minor obstacles stop you.

Best of luck in the New Year!


Re: Bogas Lease Option Deals - Posted by Bryan in Cali

Posted by Bryan in Cali on January 01, 2002 at 20:50:23:

I have no idea what the “CEA” is or if it is qualified to comment. If the problem is the crediting of a portion of rent towards purchase, then the problem can be solved by simply eliminating this credit. If option consideration money is not legally income, then use it as a potential downpayment on a sale, and make your profit off the spread between the money paid to the seller for the house and the price you sell the house for to the tenant-buyer. It seems that one of the primary arguments in this article is the use of rent credit as 1) income for the lease optionee and 2) the equitable interest created in the property by such credits. So simply eliminate the credit. Take a security deposit and option consideration that are equal in amount, and separate the lease tenancy and the option to buy like Bronchick recommends. This would make you, the sandwich lease optionee, the master tenant, and the tenant/buyer the subtenant. This sort of arrangement is very common in rental situations here in north central California (Sacramento and the bay area) because of overpopulation. So the tenant DOES NOT become a buyer until he uses the SEPARATE option to buy agreement, at which time the option consideration becomes the tenant-buyer’s downpayment, NOT part of your profit. If you option a house at 70% FMV and sell it at 105% FMV, then that’s capitalism, and if you don’t like it move to North Korea. But now that I’m looking at this, the argument seems to be partially that if ANY option money applies to the purchase price, then it is a sale instead of a lease. So would the solution be to NOT take any option consideration or rent credit until the t/b exercises the right to buy?

Land trust - Posted by Bryan in Cali

Posted by Bryan in Cali on January 01, 2002 at 13:06:50:

That’s an interesting idea. Would a CA land trust held under a Nevada LLC give me the same liability protection as a straight CA LLC holding?

Re: Bogas Lease Option Deals - Posted by JohnBoy

Posted by JohnBoy on January 03, 2002 at 20:46:09:

Actually, you don’t credit anything as part of a down payment. How can their be any “down payment” on something unless you were actyally agreeing to BUY it??? Under an “option” agreement you are NOT agreeing to BUY anything, only merely obtaining an OPTION to buy if you choose to buy at a future date within a specified period of time.

If you paid me $5k as option money to obtain an OPTION to buy my property, and I agreed to deduct that amount from the “purchase” price, IF, you were to exercise your option, then that is hardly, in any way, shape or form, a sale! Anyone can agree to discount the purchase price by any amount they so choose to. That only offers an “incentive” to buy the property. If you don’t buy the property then the option money is gone! Before it could ever become a sale the optionee must first exercise the “option” and agree to BUY the property. Until they actually BUY the property their is no sale!

That article is bogus and I’d bet those cases given were over L/O agreements that were inproperly structured.

Lets assume they were correct and a Judge would call a L/O a sale like a land contract? Well, in my state you can evict the buyer the same as a tenant if they default on a land contract just like a lease! As long as the contract is for less than 5 years AND the buyer has less than 20% equity built up in the property, you can evict them vs. having to go through a foreclosure to get the property back! Since my L/O’s are only for 1 - 2 year terms AND the tenant/buyer has less than 20% in equity even if rent credits are given, that falls well within the legal statutes in my state under sale agreements using a contract for deed, where the tenant/buyer can be evicted! So call it whatever you want, the process is all the same! You simply EVICT!

Also, that article mentioned something about rent credits being principle and the tenant paying for the taxes and insurance. Absolutely ridiculous! The rent credits do not apply to any principle because their is no principle in a LEASE! Any rent credits are only credited towards the purchase price IF the option is exercised. So in order to realize the rent credits in any way, regardless of what one chooses to call it, the option must first be exercised by BUYING the property before any rent credit can be determined as anything! If the optionee does not exercise the option then their is NO rent credits applied to anything!

As far as taxes and insurance, the landlord pays all the that! The tenant/buyer only pays RENT! They don’t pay rent plus extra to pay for any taxes and insurance! The landlord collects RENT. The landlord makes the mortgage payments and pays any taxes and insurance! I’ve never seen a lease that requires a tenant to pay taxes and insurance in addition to any rent paid, have you?

Are they trying to say that if the rent amount is equal to or greater than what the mortgage payment and taxes and insurance is that the tenant is really paying the taxes and insurance??? If that were the case then EVERY landlord renting out a property would be actually SELLING under a disguised sale agreement by using a bogus lease agreement to cover it up, yes???

Perhaps there was some idiot in the past that had written up some L/O agreement that specifically stated the tenant was responsible for paying the taxes and insurance? That would cause a big problem in that case!

A lease agreement seperate from any option agreement where the lease itself states NOTHING about having any option to buy is just a LEASE, period! An option agreement seperate from any lease agreement is just that, an OPTION to buy!

What if I were to give you just an option on a property and charged you $5k for option consideration, and agreed to deduct that $5k from the option price, IF you were to exercise the option and BUY the property? No lease involved at all! Would THAT be considered a SALE because I agreed to deduct the option amount paid from the purchase price agreed upon??? Of course not! So why would it be any different if I were to give you a LEASE on the same property??? It isn’t!