Before filing your Articles of Organization with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, every District of Columbia LLC must list a Registered Agent in DC.
What is a Registered Agent in Washington DC?
A District of Columbia Registered Agent is a person or company who agrees to accept legal mail (known as “Service of Process”) on behalf of your DC LLC in case your business gets sued.
The Washington DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) will also use your Registered Agent’s address as your LLC’s point of contact for official notices sent to your business.
As per Section 29–104.04 of the DC Code, your LLC’s Registered Agent must have a physical street address located in the District. Your Registered Agent address can’t be a PO Box address.
Your District of Columbia Registered Agent should also be available during normal business hours in case Service of Process arrives. Service of Process for an LLC includes the delivery of legal documents, such as complaints, summons, and subpoenas.
What is a Resident Agent vs. a Registered Agent in DC?
Most states use the terms Resident Agent and Registered Agent to mean the same thing. However, Washington DC uses these terms to mean two different things:
- A Resident Agent is used by Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships, and Family Trusts.
- A Registered Agent is used by LLCs, Corporations, and all other business entities.
Do I need a Registered Agent in Washington DC?
Yes, DC requires all LLCs to list a Registered Agent on their LLC formation paperwork. And they must keep a Registered Agent on file with the District of Columbia for the life of the LLC.
Washington DC Registered Agents are a key component to how the court and legal systems work. By requiring all LLCs in the District of Columbia to keep a Registered Agent on file within the District, the delivery of legal mail and court documents can be tracked.
This is similar to how ‘certified mail return receipt’ works, but in the legal world, this is how process servers (people delivering legal documents) create a record that something was delivered.
Who can be my Registered Agent in DC?
You actually have 3 options for who can be your Washington DC Registered Agent:
- a friend or family member
- a Washington DC Registered Agent Service
Note: The terms “Registered Agent Service” and “Commercial Registered Agent” mean the same thing. We’ll use these terms interchangeably.
Form RA-1 (Registered Agent Written Consent)
Form RA-1 is meant to make sure the person or company you’re listing as your Registered Agent knows they will be your LLC’s Registered Agent. This form is only required if you file your LLC by mail.
As discussed in our (Washington DC Articles of Organization guide), we recommend filing online, so you don’t have to worry about this form.
Risks of being your own Registered Agent in Washington DC
As mentioned above, you can be your LLC’s Registered Agent in the District of Columbia.
Besides the address privacy we mentioned, are there any risks to being your own Registered Agent?
In short, there are risks. They are not extremely likely to occur, but if they do, you could lose your liability protection and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) has the power to administratively shut down your DC LLC if you’re not in compliance with the laws in the District.
This can happen if you don’t always keep a Registered Agent on file, or if the DCRA is unsuccessful in reaching your LLC’s Registered Agent.
Additionally, if a process server is unable to reach your Registered Agent (or is unsuccessful in serving your LLC through the DCRA), a court case can proceed in your absence and you might not know about it. Or worse, the court could enter a default judgment against your LLC if you aren’t there to defend yourself.
A few reasons a process server might not be able to reach your District of Columbia LLC’s Registered Agent:
- you, your friend, or family member are not there during regular business hours
- you/they are on vacation or out of town
- you/they moved and you forgot to file a Change of Registered Agent with the DCRA
What’s the best DC Registered Agent option to choose?
Choosing the best DC Registered Agent option for your business depends on a few factors.
- you are a resident of DC, and
- you have a physical street address in DC.
You also should be comfortable with your address being listed on public records.
Why choose this option? This is a good option to choose if you want to save money (since you won’t need to hire a DC Registered Agent Service).
Friend or Family:
A friend or family member can be your DC Registered Agent if:
- they are a resident of DC, and
- they have a physical address in DC
They also should be comfortable with their address being listed on public records.
Why choose this option? This is a good option to choose if you aren’t a resident of DC, but want to save money (since you won’t need to hire a DC Registered Agent Service).
Washington DC Registered Agent Service:
A DC Registered Agent Service (aka Commercial Registered Agent) is a company that specializes in receiving mail and Service of Process for your LLC.
DC Registered Agent Services usually charge $100 to $300 per year. After they receive mail for your LLC, they’ll forward it to you or upload it to your online account.
Why choose this option? This is a good option to choose if you:
- don’t live in DC
- don’t have a friend or family member’s address to use
- won’t be available during normal business hours to receive mail, ordon’t want your address listed in the Articles of Organization
If you’d like to hire a Registered Agent Service, the company we recommend is Northwest Registered Agent.
Why we recommend Northwest Registered Agent
We recommend Northwest Registered Agent because they have great customer service, don’t sell your information to 3rd parties (unlike other Registered Agent services), have been in business for over 20 years, and they let you use their address in your entire LLC filing in order to keep your address off public records.
Registered Agent Information is Public Record in the District of Columbia
While you (or a friend or family member) can be your LLC’s Registered Agent, you may not want to have a home address listed on public record.
The information you enter in your Articles of Organization (including the Registered Agent’s name and address) becomes public record with the District of Columbia.
Not only is this information searchable by the public, but other websites download the state’s records and republish them on their own website. Then things begin to spread as other public record websites take that same information and list it on their websites too (and the process repeats itself).
Pretty soon your address is listed on many websites and people can easily find it by doing a Google search.
If you’d like to keep your address off public records, we have a strategy for this.
How to keep your address off public records:
Many business owners in DC start businesses from their homes. So you should be aware that the Registered Agent’s address on your LLC Articles of Organization gets listed on public records.
If you want to keep your address off public records, you can hire a DC Registered Agent Service that will allow you to use their address throughout your Articles of Organization.
Northwest Registered Agent offers this unique service at no additional cost.
There are many DC Registered Agents out there, but we have found Northwest to be the best Registered Agent Service available.
Special discounted pricing for LLC University® readers
Northwest usually charges $100 + state fees to form an LLC. However, we’ve negotiated a discounted rate (60% off) for LLC University® readers.
Washington DC Registered Agent FAQs
How much does a Registered Agent cost in DC?
If you (or a friend or family member) will be your Registered Agent, there is no cost.
If you want to hire a Registered Agent Service, it will cost between $100 and $300 per year.
What is the best Registered Agent Service in DC?
We’ve reviewed the top Registered Agent Services in the industry and think the best Registered Agent Services in DC are:
- Northwest Registered Agent
- Our #1 recommendation for privacy
- Harbor Compliance
- Rocket Lawyer
To learn more about how these companies compare against each other, check out Best Registered Agent Services in DC.
Note: If you want to save money, you can be the Registered Agent for your DC LLC.
Can I be my own Registered Agent in DC?
Yes, you can be your own Registered Agent in DC if you are a resident of the District and you have a street address in DC.
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DC Code – Section 29-104.02
DC Code – Section 29-104.04
DC Code – Section 29-104.07
DC Code – Section 29-104.12
DC Code – Section 29-104.13
DLCP: Service of Process
DLCP: Business Registration FAQs
DCRA Registered Agent Combined Form