Know the Hazards of Personal Guarantees

Personal Guarantees ruined my Credit

A couple that I’ll call Jake and Marcia purchased a coffee shop. The business was really Marcia’s dream, not his, but she was persistent and he reluctantly agreed to try to help out. Things went badly from the start and within less than 18 months they were forced to shut it down. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Because they had obtained a loan that required a personal guarantee to purchase the business, they were facing the possibility of losing the home where they raised their children. Needless to say, their relationship was also quickly going south, with Jake accusing his wife of putting their entire future at risk.

What is a personal guarantee and what does it mean? And what about your personal credit? Does it affect that, too? As a corporate attorney working with small-business owners all over the world, I’ve heard a lot of questions, misconceptions — and some horror stories, like Jake and Marcia’s — about how personal guarantees work.

Basically, a personal guarantee allows a lender to try to collect from what you own personally if you default on a loan and your business is unable to repay it. It allows a lender to reach beyond the income and assets of the business to collect if necessary.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

The newer your business, the more likely it is you will be required to provide a personal guarantee. It provides additional protection for the lender, and if your business doesn’t have a strong track record, it’s no surprise the lender will insist on one.

Entrepreneurs are often optimistic and willing to do whatever it takes to get the funding they need. But if you are going to sign a PG, make sure you fully understand the risks. If you have a spouse or partner, they need to be on board as well. (Sometimes they may be required to sign the loan documents, too, especially in community property states or where equity in jointly held property serves as collateral.)

If all goes well, and you pay the loan back, then there’s no problem. But if you run into financial difficulties, you need to understand that the lender may try to get repaid through your personal bank accounts or other assets (to the extent allowed by law).

Keep in mind that what types of property are available to creditors who get a judgment depends on state law. A few states prohibit wage garnishment for most types of debts, and others have strong homestead laws that may protect equity in a home (Texas and Florida are two examples).

Is Your Credit at Risk?

Signing a personal guarantee doesn’t automatically impact your personal credit. With the exception of some business credit cards, most loans made to a business are not typically reported on the owner’s personal credit reports — unless he or she doesn’t pay the loan back and it goes to collections. A personal guarantee doesn’t usually change that. But if you sign a personal guarantee and you don’t repay the loan, it’s likely it will wind up on your credit as a collection account, or even a judgment, and will hurt your credit scores.

This is one of many good reasons to regularly check your credit reports and credit scores. You can get a free annual credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get your credit scores for free from many sources, including Credit.com, to watch for important changes. Creditera offers a free business and personal credit score summary and score. No credit card required.

One way to avoid personal guarantees is to build strong business credit ratings, which I explain in my new book, Finance Your Own Business, and to demonstrate to the lender that your business can support the loan through sales and revenue. These guarantees may be negotiable. If you’re not there yet, tread carefully and borrow as little as possible. The less you borrow, the less is at risk if things don’t work out.

Learn More About Business Lines of Credit

Finance Your Own Business

Our upcoming book Finance Your Own Business: Get On The Financing Fast Track details the power of business credit, how to get an SBA loan, the secrets of micro lenders, the benefits of crowdfunding and more.

Fill out the form on this page and we will let you know when the new book is released and offer early bird discounts. Plus you’ll get a free guide today – The Levels of Business Credit. (And don’t worry: we know you’re busy so we won’t flood you with email.)

About the Authors

Garrett Sutton, Corporate Attorney & AuthorGarrett Sutton, Esq., author of Start Your own Corporation, Run Your Own Corporation, Loopholes of Real Estate, The ABC’s of Getting Out of Debt, Writing Winning Business Plans and Buying and Selling a Business in the Rich Dad Advisors series, is an attorney with over twenty-five years experience in assisting individuals and businesses to determine their appropriate corporate structure, limit their liability, protect their assets and advance their financial, personal and credit success goals.

GerriGerri Detweiler is the author of four books, including the Ultimate Credit Handbook (named one of the top five personal finance books of the year when it was released), and a media favorite quoted in publications like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and featured on The Today Show and CNN. A credit educator since 1987, she’s served on credit reporting agency Experian’s Consumer Advisory Council twice.

Get a Free Guide To Business Credit

  • Climb the Levels of Business Credit - Get the Guide
  • captcha

Business Financing Resources

  • Nav
    Get a free business and personal credit score summary and score. No credit card required. Easy to use and valuable insights all in one spot.
  • Authorize.net
    Authorize.Net enables merchants to authorize, settle and manage credit card and electronic check transactions via Web sites, retail stores, mail order/telephone order (MOTO) call centers and mobile devices.
  • Fundera
    Fundera is the safe, friendly, and free way to find your lowest rates on small business loans, guaranteed.
  • Kabbage
    Kabbage gives you the security of working capital whenever you need it.
  • OnDeck
    OnDeck delivers true small business loans using our OnDeck Score technology, which focuses on the health of your business - not your personal credit score. To get the offer, please type MRP-CRP-001 in the form field listed as Partner ID.
  • iDefend Business
    Protect yourself and your business from criminals that steal business identities. Business identity theft not only hurts the company, but also employees, suppliers, and even customers.