A registered agent is the individual or business entity that receives legal documents from the state, and then forwards them to your business address. But why is this a requirement, and who should you designate as your registered agent in Washington DC?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about Washington DC registered agents.
Guru Tip: ZenBusiness includes a year of free registered agent service when you use its service to incorporate online. See our comparison reviews to the two industry giants, LegalZoom and Incfile.
What is a Washington DC Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in Washington DC is why a registered agent is required to form an LLC or corporation. While it might seem like an unnecessary middle-man type of role, the registered agent fills a vital role.
The registered agent’s job is to provide a reliable way for the state to contact an official representative of your business at any time, which is especially important if your business is ever sued. If you didn’t have a registered agent, a lawsuit could progress through the courts without you even knowing about it, which is obviously far from ideal.While Washington DC does not provide a recommended list of registered agent services, we reviewed the top options and compiled a list of the best Washington DC registered agent services based on price and overall value.
Who Can Be a Washington DC Registered Agent?
According to the District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, a registered agent must be either a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia or a for-profit corporation authorized by articles of incorporation or certificate of authority to act as agent. In all cases, an entity must have a physical street address within D.C. to qualify, never a P.O. box.
It should also be noted that in D.C., entities are not permitted to act as their own registered agents.
Aside from the legal requirements, an important aspect to discuss is who should be your registered agent. You have the right to declare yourself as your own registered agent, which has its pros and cons.
On the positive side, you can save some money by not paying anyone to serve as your agent, but you’ll also likely need to make your home address a matter of public record, which is not ideal. Additionally, you’ll need to be physically present at your business during all standard operating hours (9-5, M-F).
Some entrepreneurs like to have a friend or family member serve as their registered agent, but if that person doesn’t have experience in this position, they might not know what is expected of them. In addition, designating your lawyer or accountant as a registered agent can work, but these options are usually quite expensive.
Our preference is to hire a professional registered agent service, which provides a combination of convenience, affordability, and peace of mind that is unrivaled by any of these other options.
How Do Washington DC Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
In D.C. this happens when a plaintiff submits a signed Statement of Claim to the appropriate Clerk’s office. The Statement of Claim must have the names and address of the plaintiff and defendant as well as a simple statement explaining why the plaintiff is suing. The claim should be submitted for verification to the Clerk, along with a copy of any contract or document pertinent to the case and any necessary fees.
If these steps are taken correctly, the Clerk’s office will give the plaintiff instructions on how to serve all necessary documents (a copy of the statement of claim, verification, notice, any attachments, and any order directed by the court to the parties) served on the defendant’s registered agent.
How to Designate a Washington DC Registered Agent
The answer to this question depends on what type of business you’re starting, but with either a corporation or an LLC, you’ll need to designate your registered agent when you form your company.
When forming an LLC, you’ll need to designate your registered agent in article 5 of form DLC-1 in the Articles of Organization for Domestic Limited Liability Company. Alternatively, when forming a corporation, you will designate your registered agent in article 3 of the Articles of Incorporation for Domestic For-Profit Corporation form number DBU-1.
With either type of business entity, you will need to also submit a “Registered Agent Written Consent Form” which can be found as form number RA-1 in the compiled list of Combined Register Agents Forms.
How Can I Change My Washington DC Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
To designate a new registered agent in D.C., there is just one simple, single-page form to complete. The form is called the Statement of Change of Registered Office or Registered Agent which can be found in the Collected Registered Agent documents as form RA-3.
How Does a Washington DC Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
To step down from the position as a registered agent, the entity or individual must complete the Statement of Registered Agent’s Resignation which can be found in the Registered Agent Combined Form under the form listing number RA-2. Before submission, the form must be completed with the name of the entity, the name of the resigning agent, the date of notice, the date of resignation, and a signature. The resignation requires no fee.
Why Should You Hire a Professional Washington DC Registered Agent Service?
Hiring a professional registered agent is basically the best of both worlds between serving as your own agent, and designating a lawyer or accountant.
The biggest benefit in our opinion is the privacy protection this allows, as you will be able to keep your personal address private. There’s also a major advantage compared to having an attorney or accountant serve as your agent, namely the fact that registered agent services are almost always much cheaper.
Another reason we like this option is that these companies specialize in providing quality registered agent service. They know exactly what’s expected of them, and there are rarely any issues to speak of.
The other major benefit of hiring a registered agent service is that most of them operate in all 50 states, so that if you ever want to expand your business into another state, you won’t need to hire an additional registered agent. Your same registered agent will be able to provide the coverage you need in your new state, while still providing the same service in Washington DC. If you hired a lawyer or accountant, they would only be able to help you expand to a new state if they have another physical office in that state.
You Stay Compliant
Finally, most professional registered agents operating in Washington DC offer some sort of compliance calendar. With this service, your registered agent helps you keep track of due dates for ongoing LLC maintenance requirements like annual reports, which is a valuable bonus.
The top registered agent service providers include some other appealing attributes, including access to their extensive customer support networks. Some of them include a full year of registered agent service with any business formation package, which can be a real money-saver. Another welcome attribute is that some registered agent services provide volume discounts if you require service in multiple states, or if you prepay for multiple years.
What Is the Penalty for Not Designating a Registered Agent in Washington DC?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in Washington DC in the first place, but if you let your registered agent service lapse, there could be some serious consequences.
Failure to maintain a registered agent could lead to your business losing its good standing with the state of Washington DC, and the state also has the right to officially dissolve your LLC if they choose to.
Another issue would be the difficulty of being served if your business is sued. If the state cannot get ahold of your registered agent, a court may decide to go ahead with the lawsuit without your knowledge, which could even lead to a judgment against you. This can happen not just if you fail to designate a registered agent, but also if your agent is not present during business hours to accept the document delivery.
As you can see, the task of designating a registered agent for your Washington DC business isn’t quite as easy as just writing down your own name.
There are significant downsides to just about every option in our opinion, but we recommend hiring a professional registered agent service because that option has the fewest disadvantages. They charge affordable rates, and you never have to worry about losing your good standing, having your LLC or corporation dissolved, or having a lawsuit proceed in your absence.
If you have any further questions, you can contact the Washington DC Secretary of State:
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1100 4th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024