Think of all the people you communicate with regularly to run your LLC. Business partners, employees, banks, lawyers, and financial advisors all probably come to mind. But what about the state? It may not be at the top of your list, but running a successful LLC in Washington, D.C., requires consistent interaction with the District government.
Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Biennial Reports – all of these (and more) require you to work with state agencies. The good news is that you don’t need to do it yourself.
Introducing the registered agent. A District of Columbia registered agent is an intermediary for your LLC – a person or company that handles your communication with the District. They’re a vital part of any LLC’s success. Before you file your Certificate of Organization, you’ll need to have a designated registered agent. How? Why? Who? Read on to find out.
Prefer to have a service handle the paperwork for you? We recommend Northwest and ZenBusiness as the top registered agent services online. You will save over $100 than if you were to use a service like LegalZoom.
What Is a D.C. Registered Agent & Is It Necessary?
An LLC cannot be formed or do business in Washington, D.C., without first having a registered agent on file with the District government. This is required by law and the penalties can be serious. Maintaining a registered agent doesn’t just keep you in good standing. It also provides an important service.
Think of your registered agent as your ambassador to the District, handling all your LLC’s important legal, tax, and compliance information. This can either be an individual, company, or registered agent service, as long as they meet the District’s requirements (see below) and agree to the job responsibilities.
As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in D.C. to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Here’s what the Code of the District of Columbia specifically says regarding the registered agent’s responsibilities:
“The only duties of a registered agent under this subchapter are:
(1) Forward to the represented entity at the address most recently supplied to the agent by the entity any process, notice, or demand that is served on the agent;
(2) Provide the notices required by this title to the entity at the address most recently supplied to the agent by the entity;
(3) If the agent is a noncommercial registered agent, keep current the information required by § 29-104.04(a) in the most recent registered agent filing for the entity; and
(4) If the agent is a commercial registered agent, keep current the information listed for it under § 29-104.05(a).”
And make sure you have a valid registered agent on file at all times, because the state isn’t messing around – you will be subject to “civil fines, penalties, and fees imposed by the Mayor.” For more detailed information about what these fines, penalties, and fees might be, consult Title 2, Chapter 18 of the Code of the District of Columbia.
What Are the Requirements of a D.C. Registered Agent?
The District of Columbia’s requirements are fairly inclusive, so you should have no problem finding an agent that meets them. That said, you can’t just choose anyone you want, although, in D.C., there is only one requirement a registered agent must meet. According to District law, your registered agent must:
- Be an individual or organization with a physical address in D.C.
That’s it! You can even appoint yourself as the registered agent as long as you meet the requirements and don’t mind the added responsibilities.
When you file the Certificate of Organization, you’ll need to include your agent’s name and address. When you’ve got potential options for your registered agent, review each one to make sure that they have an address in Washington, D.C. If they do, you’re good to go! If not, you’ll need to keep looking. It’s that simple!
Who Can Be a Registered Agent in D.C.?
The registered agent requirements in Washington, D.C., are pretty broad, so you’ll have no shortage of options. On top of that, your agent can be either an individual or a professional service. But think carefully before choosing, because each option has its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.
You may choose to appoint a single person as your registered agent. Some LLC owners take on registered agent duties themselves. Others appoint one of their partners or managers. Some will even appoint a family member. As long as the proposed agent fulfills the District’s requirements, they’re a valid option.
Some common registered agent choices include attorneys, accountants, or other LLC partners — people who understand the ins and outs of business operations.
- Convenience – Having familiarity and mutual trust with your registered agent is extremely beneficial, and appointing an acquaintance can provide both. Plus, you’ll always know how to contact them.
- Cost – Hiring someone you know often won’t cost a dime. It’s certainly cheaper than a professional service, unless you designate an attorney or accountant, as these individuals can charge high rates for registered agent services.
- Scheduling – Part of a registered agent’s duty is being consistently available to receive mailed documents and service of process. If your agent goes on vacation or moves out of state, it could throw a wrench in your compliance.
- Punctuality Risks – Some District communications and filings are very time-sensitive. If your agent is unavailable when documents are delivered, it could slow down the entire process and put you at risk for late fees and penalties. Even worse, a friend or family member could lose or misplace a document. So, if you’d rather not interrogate Aunt Louise about the location of a particular tax form, you might consider using a registered agent service instead.
Registered Agent Service
If safety and reliability are your goals, hire a registered agent service. A business acting as your registered agent must be either a domestic entity in D.C. or a foreign entity that registered a foreign LLC in D.C.
- Privacy – Some documents delivered to your registered agent will contain sensitive information. Do you want details about your lawsuit or taxes out there in the world? Definitely not. A friend or family member might misplace these documents, but a professional service will not. Plus, in D.C., all registered agent names and addresses are available to the public. This might make an individual uncomfortable, but hiring a company will keep this personal information off the record.
- Reliability – Handling and processing time-sensitive documents is a registered agent service’s specialty. Hire a professional service and you can be sure that your filings will be submitted properly and punctually, so you’ll never have to deal with late fees or other penalties.
- Location – Many registered agent companies offer service in most or all 50 states, so if your business is booming and you decide to expand outside D.C., you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.
- Cost – There’s no getting around it – hiring a service costs more than appointing an individual who’s willing to do it for free. However, for a reasonable price (roughly $100/year for the most affordable companies), you’ll receive premium services. Taking your car to a mechanic costs more than letting your neighbor try to fix it, but the mechanic gives you peace of mind that the job will get done right, and that may very well be worth the cost.
All of the other steps in the LLC formation process will keep you busy, but take some time to ensure you find a registered agent that fits your business model, goals, and values. Do this, and your LLC will reap the benefits for years to come.
How to get a Free Registered Agent in D.C.
Here’s a pro tip: you can get the reliability of a registered agent service and the cost-effectiveness of an individual. The best of both worlds. When you hire certain LLC services to start your business, they’ll throw in free registered agent service.
How it Works
Hire a company like ZenBusiness or Northwest Registered Agent to form your Washington, D.C., LLC. In addition to taking care of your Certificate of Organization and other formation requirements, they will automatically include a registered agent. It’s a great two-for-one deal.
And an LLC service is pretty affordable – $99 for the D.C. LLC formation fee, plus a small service fee. That’s great value for the number of benefits you receive. Some services (like IncFile) will even cover and consolidate your D.C. LLC formation costs.
Take this route and you’ll sweep all formation paperwork and registered agent duties off your plate. Plus, to keep track of everything, these services provide user-friendly online dashboards, so you can follow everything they’re doing to keep your LLC in good standing.
Registered Agent Changes and Resignation
You may have a wonderful registered agent, someone who takes care of everything efficiently and who you trust completely. But you know what they say: all good things must come to an end. At some point in the life of your LLC, you may need to change your D.C. registered agent.
Facilitate this change through the District’s Registered Agent Combined Form. When you finish filling it out, you can mail or hand-deliver it to:
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
P.O. Box 92300
Washington, D.C. 20090
Either method will cost you $50, payable by credit card or check. It typically takes the District around 15 business days to process business filings. However, if you submit your form in person, you can have it expedited: an extra $50 for three-day service or an additional $100 for same-day service.
There are a number of reasons you might need to file for a change, but the most common is a registered agent’s resignation.
The good news is that you’ll never be blindsided by an agent’s departure. The state requires every resigning agent to notify their LLC immediately after submitting an official resignation form, which is in the same Registered Agent Combined Form as the Statement of Change of Registered Office or Agent form. This will give you plenty of time to appoint a replacement but make that change as soon as possible.
Have Questions or Concerns?
This guide contains almost everything there is to know about District of Columbia registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the District government is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it.
Visit Their Website
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Business Services page is your go-to spot for LLC formation information, including some helpful guidance on registered agents.
Give Them a Call
Or, if you’d rather chat on the phone, reach out to the DCRA’s office at (202) 442-4400.
Alternatively, you could reach out to Northwest Registered Agent (the best registered agent service in our opinion) via phone or email. They’re quick to respond and very knowledgeable.