Editor’s Note: This article was updated on July 31, 2023.
In New York City’s vast real estate landscape, one of the most common trends is for properties to be registered not under the name of the real owner, but under a limited liability company (LLC). This is especially true in the case of commercial or investment properties, so knowing how to find LLC owners can become a valuable skill. Although a seemingly challenging process, a bit of research and some tried-and-tested techniques will transform you into an expert in how to find the owner of an LLC company.
How do I find out who owns an LLC in New York?
To find out who owns an LLC in NYC, you can:
- Use PropertyShark’s Real Owners tool.
- Examine the property’s title documents.
- Investigate the property’s deed and mortgage documents.
- Employ PropertyShark’s Deep Owner Search function to research the registered owner.
- Study building permits.
- Research resident, tenant and registered voter records.
Explore in more depth how to find LLC owners in NYC:
1. Use PropertyShark’s Real Owners Tool
PropertyShark’s Real Owners tool allows users to search for and identify property owners behind LLCs, as well as their phone numbers. Specifically, it includes more than 270,000 buildings, so virtually all LLC-owned properties in NYC are covered. It also features contact information for all LLC-owned properties and more than 400,000 verified phone numbers for owners. This way, not only can you instantly discover the real owner behind an LLC, but you can also contact them.
2. Examine the Property’s Title Documents
Another reliable avenue for how to find LLC owners is by researching title documents. While you can search for them on public government websites, if you’re wondering how to more efficiently see who owns an LLC, you can easily look up title documents on PropertyShark:
- Go to the PropertyShark home page, select the “Property Search” function and type in the property’s address. This will instantly pull up the address’ property report.
- On the property report page, select the “Documents” tab.
- Scroll to the “Title Documents” section and browse the list of documents.
- When you’ve found the latest deed entry, you will also see: the real owner and their address; the owner’s representative and their address; or the LLC’s name and its address.
- Next, click the document icon link to open the official deed registered with ACRIS.
- The document will contain either the name of the real owner, plus their phone number and address, or the owner’s representative, as well as their phone number and address.
Meanwhile, if you want to take your research one step further, you can research the owner’s or their representative’s website based on this information. Alternatively, if you’re interested in what other properties the owner or their representative is or has been associated with, run an owner search. You can also use the People Search tool for the contact information of individual owners.
Similarly, you can also visit NYC311.gov, the official website of NYC and use the Property Deed or Record search function and search for the most recent deed for your target property in the Title Documents category. This will reveal either the real owner behind the LLC or the owner’s representative.
3. Investigate the Property’s Deed & Mortgage Documents
If the real name of the owner is not available in the title document, another reliable way to find out who owns an LLC is to investigate the deed. In this case, browse through title documents on the “Documents” tab until you find a deed entry. Next, simply open the official deed document by clicking the document image icon. This will open a scanned image of the original document.
Then, browse the document until you find a name or signature that reveals the real name of the owner or the owner’s representative. A good place to look for this is often on the last page of the document, where the buyer and their attorney need to sign.
If the deed doesn’t reveal the information, investigate other title documents that are filed for the property, such as mortgages or assignments of lease.
4. Study Building Permits
Likewise, building permits can also be a good source of ownership information when considering how to look up LLC owners. That’s because any type of permit must include the name and contact details of either the owner or a representative in the event of an emergency.
Here, select the “Contacts” tab within the property listing and scroll to the “Contacts from Building Permits” section. In this space, you’ll find a list of all permits filed for the property; the role of the filer; and contact information, such as addresses, phone numbers and emails.
Additionally, make sure to look at the date the permit was filed because more recent permits are more likely to have up-to-date information. While you’ll instantly find the 15 most recent permits, you can also select the “Export to Excel” function if you’re interested in all of them.
Otherwise, you can also research building permits using the NYC Department of Buildings’ public search portal for permits filed for your target address. In particular, you can search by address; borough, block and lot; BIN (the building’s identification number); job number; device (on which the work needs to be done); violations; and licensee. The latter also contains information from the BIS (Building Information Systems).
5. Look Up HPD Registration Records
Because all NYC buildings with three or more residential units must be registered with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), its records can also be a major help in how to find LLC owners.
Specifically, HPD registration records must contain the name, address and role of the owner, as well as their representative or NYC agent. Moreover, to make your research even more efficient, PropertyShark extracts this information from HPS records so you can focus on relevant details, instead of studying all of the documents.
Alternatively, you can also research the property in the HPD’s online database, as well.
6. Consult the Department of State’s Division of Corporations Database
If previous tactics prove unsuccessful, you can try to get behind the LLC through the Department of State’s Division of Corporations’ public search portal: Select the “Search by Entity Name” function; enter the LLC’s name; select the entity type as “LLC”; and click on the “Search Database” button.
Should there be more the one result for the LLC’s name, select the one you’re looking for. This will pull up an entity information report. Then, under the “Entity Display” tab, you’ll find the name of the owner, manager or management company, as well as their address and the point of contact’s name in the case of corporations.
Next, a search results page will come up indicating the entity you’re looking for. Click on it to find out the exact name and address of the property owner, if registered. Tip: If your search doesn’t return any results, try typing in the name without the “LLC.”
For example, we looked up Delancey Norfolk LLC in the NYS Division of Corporations database, and Carter Management Corp. emerged as the name behind the LLC with Jason Carter as representative.
Additionally, the NY Department of State’s Division of Corporations enables you to look for business and not-for-profit corporations; limited partnerships; limited liability companies; and limited liability partnerships. However, the database may lack data on certain entities at times.
7. Research Resident, Tenant & Registered Voter Records
If you haven’t managed to discover the identity of the owner or any information that may help you in identifying how to find the owner of an LLC company, you could potentially contact current or former tenants — although this is a drastic approach and is not recommended under normal circumstances.
That said, should you decide to take this approach, select the “Occupancy” tab in the property report. Then, in the “Phone Records of Residents” section, you’ll find the list of residents (both residential and commercial), along with their unit number, phone number and the dates when they were registered. While this practice is not encouraged, you can contact them directly to get information on the owner/manager of the property.
Or, you can also go to the “Contacts” tab and scroll to the “Registered Voters” section, where you’ll also find names and associated phone numbers, as well as the first and most recent date of registration.
Why Do Owners Register Properties Under LLCs?
There are several reasons why owners register real estate properties under an LLC. Despite the higher upfront costs of buying property under an LLC, many owners still choose to register real estate properties under an LLC for the purposes of:
- Tax Benefits/Pass-Through Taxation
Tax benefits are considered one of the top reasons for owning real estate through an LLC in NYC (and in general). More precisely, LLCs are taxed on the principles of pass-through taxation, meaning that the profits and losses pass through the business entity and are reported on the owners’ individual tax returns. Thus, the LLC is not subject to federal income taxes, nor is it subject to New York state income taxes or affected by any additional taxation at the city level.
There are two principal ways in which pass-through taxation works for LLCs:
- In the case of single-member LLCs, the LLC is disregarded from a tax perspective, with the LLC’s income and expenses reports through the owner’s personal income tax return.
- Multi-member LLCs are considered partnerships from a tax perspective. Therefore, while the LLC has to file a partnership tax return to report the LLC’s incomes and expenses, the LLC itself will not pay any taxes. Rather, each member of the LLC has to report their share of profits and losses from the LLC on their own personal income tax returns.
- Personal Liability Protection
Creating an LLC also provides a level of legal protection by separating personal assets from business liabilities. So, when property is owned by an LLC, the owners of that LLCs are removed from any personal liability. Thus, any lawsuits, claims, debts and such will be limited to targeting the LLC behind that property, thereby significantly limiting the real owners’ personal assets from exposure.
Similarly, if an individual, group or corporation owns multiple properties, holding each property in its own LLC will also protect other holdings from risk should one property face any lawsuits, debts or claims.
Owning a property through an LLC also provides an added layer of privacy and anonymity. That’s because it’s the LLC’s name that will appear as the owner in public records, instead of the name(s) of the real owners, be they companies or one or multiple individuals. (It’s exactly this anonymity in public records that leads to the challenges of how to find out who owns an LLC.)
- Efficient/Compartmentalized Business Management
Because a significant portion of individuals and businesses associated with one LLC will own multiple properties, many choose to set up individual LLCs for each property. First and foremost, this will mitigate the liability of each property to the LLC that it’s registered under.
However, this approach also allows owners to compartmentalize each property, thereby allowing for more efficient and clear management; clearer and easier accounting; and the ability to secure financing for each property separately. So, knowing how to look up who owns an LLC can help you uncover not only the real owner, but also their entire portfolio of assets.
- Estate Planning
Although not the most common approach to property transfers in the case of estate planning, transferring the ownership of a property to an LLC does make it easier to manage and transfer ownership to heirs or beneficiaries, potentially avoiding the probate process.
Information provided on this page is purely informational. It is not and should not be regarded as investment advice.