The Tax Consequences of Becoming a Landlord: Many Homeowners that Cannot Sell Turn to the Rental Market

As the real estate market deteriorated, many homeowners found themselves in need of a way to move out of their home without taking a large loss in value or to avoid foreclosure. A large amount of homeowners decided to become landlords. As tax time approaches, it will be important that landlords understand the implications of this decision.

Real Estate Tax Basics

Any homeowner turned landlord should consult a tax advisor when preparing their taxes. Many homeowners, who filed their own taxes in the past, will find that this simple life change complicates their taxes tremendously. It will also be extremely important to save every receipt related to the rental of the home. This includes any flyers or marketing materials, agent fees, repair costs, etc. Many of these expenses can be deducted from the rental revenue to lower the overall income from the rental. Additionally, the mortgage on the property should also be considered when deducting expenses.

Consulting a tax professional before renting the property can help to minimize potential issues related to comingling spaces. For example, if a homeowner only decides to rent a room or the top floor of the home, while keeping the basement for him/herself, there will be very different tax consequences, than if the homeowner had chosen to rent the entire home.

Real Estate and Depreciation

Homeowners are traditionally not able to count depreciation as an expense; however, once it becomes a rental, homeowners will be able to deduct depreciation. Be careful when considering this deduction, however. If a homeowner moves back into the home to use it as his/her primary resident this tax deduction might have to be repaid.

Traditionally, it is not worth the headache (or money) to deduct depreciation from a small single family home. The savings will be minimal for two reasons. First, many times the tax preparer will charge more to calculate this deduction. Second, homeowners will need to pay a depreciation recapture tax and/or more capital gains taxes when selling the home. If renting out a home is a short term strategy, don’t bother taking this deduction. If it appears that it is a longer term strategy (5+ years) then it may be worth it.

Other Real Estate Tax Considerations

Homeowners should look at their homes completely different when renting them out. Property taxes can be deducted if the home is a rental. Furthermore, any loss that a homeowner suffers while renting their home can also be deducted from their overall income. For many homeowners that find themselves in the position of renting their home for less than their mortgage, this can be a silver lining.

Again, before considering renting a home, consult a tax professional. Importantly, make sure that tax professional either specializes in real estate or has a substantial client base of real estate investors. Smart tax professionals can help first time landlords avoid the many tax pitfalls of renting their home.