Business Loans

Small Business Owners Guide to Personal Guarantees

Oct 11, 2022 • 7 min read
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      When you review financing options for your business, you’ll likely discover that some lenders want you to sign a personal guarantee. A personal guarantee can help reduce a lender’s risk when it loans money to a business. Yet as a borrower, that same arrangement can put your personal finances in a vulnerable position. 

      It’s important to understand how personal guarantees work and the risks you’re agreeing to accept before you sign on the dotted line. This small business owner’s guide to personal guarantees will show you the basic details you need to know on the topic. Once you have more information, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about your business financing options.

      What Is a Personal Guarantee?

      A personal guarantee is a special provision you might find in a business financing agreement like a small business loan, a business line of credit, etc. The provision states that the business owner (or owners) agree to accept personal liability for their company’s debt. 

      If your business borrows money and fails to repay those funds (plus interest and fees), a personal guarantee allows the lender to go after your personal assets to recuperate its investment. So, at least in some ways, providing a personal guarantee is like agreeing to be a co-signer for your business.

      Why Do Lenders Require Personal Guarantees? 

      You won’t face personal guarantee requirements with every type of business financing. But many business lenders do ask small business owners for personal guarantees when their companies apply to borrow money. The reason lenders make such requests has to do with risk. 

      Thanks to how business loans work, there’s a level of risk involved anytime a lender loans money to a borrower. There’s a chance the borrower will fail to repay the debt as promised and that the lender could lose money in the process. 

      A lender can try to offset this risk and remain as profitable as possible in a few different ways. For example, lenders will review your creditworthiness when you apply for financing. If you or your business have good credit, you might find it easier to qualify for a loan. 

      Another way lenders can manage risk is by asking business borrowers to provide collateral to “secure” the loan, line of credit, or business credit card they are seeking. And, of course, some lenders ask for personal guarantees to encourage business borrowers to repay their debts (and to provide additional resources for collections if they don’t).

      Pros and Cons of Signing a Personal Guarantee

      There are benefits and drawbacks to signing a personal guarantee. Here are some of the pros and cons you should consider before you agree to put your name (and personal assets) on the line for your business. 

      Pros
      • There may be more financing options available to your business if you sign a personal guarantee—especially if you have good personal credit. 
      • You might have better approval odds if you’re willing to sign a personal guarantee. 
      • Signing a personal guarantee might help you lock in a better interest rate for small business financing. 
      • Your business might be able to get a loan without collateral if you provide a personal guarantee. 
      Cons
      • You risk losing your personal savings, home, vehicles, and more if your business defaults on its debt. 
      • Your personal credit score and credit history could be damaged if the business falls behind on its credit obligation—and your business credit might suffer, too.
      • Even if you sell the business (or sell your interest in the business), your personal guarantee on a debt will likely carry on until the account is closed and satisfied in full. 

      No one can predict the future. Should your business be unable to repay its credit obligations for any reason, you could pay the price with your personal wealth, if you agreed to sign a personal guarantee. If that risk makes you uncomfortable, you should probably search for other ways to finance your business.

      Ways to Avoid Personal Guarantees

      Many lenders ask for personal guarantees when you apply for business loans—especially if your business is still in the startup phase. But if you’re wondering how to get a business loan without signing a personal guarantee, there may be other options available to you. 

      • Work on establishing good business credit. Building business credit is a process. So, the sooner you can start, the better. 
      • Search for loans without personal guarantee requirements. With certain types of business loans, like SBA loans, personal guarantees are not negotiable. Yet a few lenders may be willing to loan your business money without requiring a personal guarantee in return. However, every lender is different. So, if you prefer a business financing option that you can obtain in your company’s name—instead of your own name—be sure to do your homework. 
      • Supply collateral. If your business has collateral that it can pledge to secure a loan, those assets could reduce the risk involved for the lender. As a result, your company might find it easier to find secured financing options without a personal guarantee than unsecured financing. 
      • Consider a blanket business lien. Another way to reduce a lender’s risk when you borrow money is to sign a blanket business lien. A blanket lien gives the lender permission to take possession of all of your company’s assets and resell them in the event of a default. Agreeing to a loan offer that includes a blanket lien is also a high-risk way to secure financing, but it’s the business—rather than the business owner—that’s absorbing most of the risk in this scenario.
      • Be aware of a confession of judgment. A confession of judgment is an additional document provided as part of your loan contract package that waives the business owner’s right to a legal defense before a court and allows a lender to go after a business’s assets if the business defaults on the loan. Including this clause is illegal in some states and Lendio does not work with lenders that include one. 

      It can be difficult to borrow money for your business or even establish business credit without accepting some personal liability in the process. Lenders tend to be more comfortable working with companies when business owners are willing to put some “skin in the game.” 

      However, it’s not impossible to find alternative financing solutions that do not require personal guarantees, if this is the borrowing approach you prefer. 

      Consider the benefits and drawbacks of accepting personal liability for business debts up front. Some business owners are comfortable with taking on personal risk in exchange for more attractive financing options. Others are not. Only you can decide whether a personal guarantee is something that you’re willing to chance for the sake of your company.

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      The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lendio. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything. The information provided in this post is not intended to constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.
      About the author
      Michelle Lambright Black

      Michelle Lambright Black is a nationally recognized credit expert with two decades of experience. Founder of CreditWriter.com—an online community that helps busy moms take control of their credit and finances—Michelle's work has been published thousands of times by FICO, Experian, Forbes, Bankrate, MarketWatch, Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and many more.

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