How To Get a Registered Agent in Washington, DC

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The Capitol and Reflecting Pool in Washington DC
Alexis Konovodoff
Written byAlexis Konovodoff
Carlos Serrano
Edited byCarlos Serrano
Updated September 11, 2023

Operating a business in Washington, DC, requires authorization from the Secretary of State, which means electing a Washington, DC, registered agent. A registered agent is a person or business entity representing your company and accepting legal paperwork from the state on your behalf.

This article covers what you need to know as a Washington, DC entrepreneur or an out-of-state business owner to branch out in the District of Columbia.

Key Takeaways

  • Your incorporation paperwork may be rejected if you don’t elect a registered agent when starting a Washington, DC LLC, corporation, or nonprofit organization. 

  • A registered agent must maintain their registered office as a physical address and list it as a matter of public record.

  • A third-party registered agent service can ensure compliance without sacrificing privacy and peace of mind.

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What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is an individual or a third-party business entity that can accept and process legal documents for your business. For example, they can sign for service of process notices when you get sued by another company and receive and manage correspondence with state offices.

A Washington, DC, registered agent can also keep you apprised of filing deadlines for tax documents such as annual reports and ensure you maintain your certificate of good standing.

Registered Agent Responsibilities

A Washington, DC, registered agent’s responsibilities are similar to those of agents across all 50 states:

  • They must keep a registered office to remain in good standing and represent clients

  • Their registered office street address and contact information must be in the public record

  • They must work from their registered office during regular business hours in Washington, DC[1]

It’s worth noting that not every address qualifies as a registered office. Registered agents are responsible for maintaining an actual street address, not a PO box or similar mailing service. That’s because agents must accept paperwork for their clients in person.

Washington DC - Aerial view of Pennsylvania street

Choosing Your Washington DC Registered Agent

When selecting a registered agent in Washington, DC, you can pick between people and business entities. But that doesn’t mean choosing the right individual or company to represent your business in the District of Columbia is easy.

Washington DC Registered Agent Requirements

Only some individuals and companies qualify as Washington, DC, registered agents. For example, suppose you want to elect an individual. In that case, you must ensure they’re a resident of the District of Columbia and over 18 years old. Moreover, they must have a physical address listed publicly as their registered office.

A Washington, DC business entity may also be a registered agent. This includes domestic and foreign entities, which you can specify in the formation documents for your corporation or limited liability company (LLC).

Naturally, companies, service providers, and individuals need a public business address as a registered office and availability during regular business hours. In addition, the registered agent must maintain good standing with the state. Otherwise, they might not be allowed to represent clients.

Can I Be My Own Washington DC Registered Agent?

You can be your own registered agent in Washington, DC. However, if you’re not a DC resident, you must show proof of a physical office address and commit to keeping regular business hours.

There are some advantages to being your own registered agent:

  • You eliminate an annual expense, saving money

  • You avoid letting important legal documents pass through multiple parties

  • You have fewer partners and associates to worry about

  • You can get your legal paperwork faster

It can be tempting to be your company’s registered agent. Nevertheless, the advantages are superficial compared to the downsides:

  • You must rent or buy office space for a registered office

  • You can easily miss critical legal documents if you’re not good at organizing

  • You have less flexibility due to the state’s work schedule constraints

  • Your productivity can take a hit due to the extra responsibilities

  • You could be served with a lawsuit in front of clients, harming your reputation

  • You must make your address and contact information public, opening the floodgates to junk mail

Benefits of a Third-Party Registered Agent

Given the many downsides of being your own registered agent, it isn’t surprising that many business owners name a Washington, DC registered agent service in their formation documents. Here are some ways a provider like Swyft Filings can help your business in the District of Columbia.

Increased Privacy

As an entrepreneur and business owner, you probably know that lawsuits are always possible. But that doesn’t mean you would want a service of process agent showing up in the middle of a client meeting. Clients, partners, employees, and other parties don’t need to know you’re being sued.

Unfortunately, acting as your own registered agent means you’re giving up a substantial amount of privacy. Your address and contact information become public knowledge, leading to embarrassing situations in front of clients. This is where third-party registered agent services come in.

Your Washington, DC LLC or corporation’s legal dealings can be kept private by electing an intermediary to manage your correspondence. That way, someone else can sign the documents, organize, and forward them using a private channel so you can avoid embarrassing moments.

Easier Cross-State Operations

Suppose you want to start an LLC or corporation in Washington, DC. In that case, you must do more than file a few documents with the District of Columbia’s Secretary of State. You must have a physical address in the district and list it as a registered office.

You can solve that in a few ways:

  • Rent office space in DC

  • Relocate an employee or use a DC company officer’s address

  • Use a third-party service provider authorized to represent clients in the District of Columbia

If you were to set up shop locally, you could be looking at thousands of dollars per month in rent. That may not be sustainable if you don’t do much business, especially as an e-commerce business.

Electing someone from your company who lives in DC is another option. But they may not want to use their address as a registered office.

The only way to stay compliant, save money, and have your legal documents handled by experts is with a third-party registered agent service.

Increased Schedule Flexibility

As your own Washington, DC registered agent, you must be available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. 

That’s not the dream of many business owners looking to build wealth and gain freedom.

If you skip a few days of work and do not receive legal notices, you could miss crucial filing deadlines and other notifications. You could even lose your good standing with the state.

Thus, a third-party registered agent service is the best solution. You can create your own schedule, knowing someone is always available to receive papers on your behalf, process them, and give you timely notifications of legal dealings and filing deadlines.

More Time To Focus On High-Value Tasks

Hands-on small business owners wear many hats. But that doesn’t mean you should juggle accounting, bookkeeping, mail correspondence, and other administrative tasks.

Your purpose is to lead and work on the business. Serving as your own registered agent means filling your plate with small but high-responsibility tasks. It can keep you from being productive and distract you from your objectives.

You can free up your time and benefit more from naming a third-party registered agent service in the formation documents.

Washington DC skyline on the Potomac River

How To Set up a Washington DC Registered Agent

Whether you’re a small business owner from DC or out of state, you must know how to appoint a registered agent or change them to remain in good standing.

Electing a Washington DC Registered Agent

Electing a Washington, DC registered agent may differ slightly based on the business entity you want to form.

No matter what, however, you must get consent and the agent’s signature before you file your formation documents.

Electing a Washington DC Registered Agent for an LLC

When you create or incorporate a country in the District of Columbia, you must file specific paperwork and pay state filing fees. For example, for an LLC formation, you have to file the Articles of Organization Form DLC-1.[2]

After you draft the paperwork, you must file them with the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, District of Columbia Government, Corporations Division. 

The Articles of Organization must include specific information about your registered agent, including:

  • Their name

  • The address serving as their registered office address

  • Other contact information

It costs $99.00 in state fees, and you can mail the papers to the following address:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Division

P.O. Box 92300

Washington, DC, 20090

You can also do your business filing in person at this address:

Business License Center

1100 4th Street SW, 2nd Floor

Washington, DC, 20090

Electing a Washington DC Registered Agent for a Corporation

If you want to name a registered agent for your corporation, you must do it in the Articles of Incorporation Form DNP-1.[3]

You can mail the drafted documentation to this address:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Division

P.O. Box 92300

Washington, DC, 20090

Alternatively, you can file in person at:

Business License Center

1100 4th Street SW, 2nd Floor

Washington, DC, 20090

Changing a Washington DC Registered Agent

Changing your Washington, DC registered agent is done by filing the RA-3 Statement of Change of Registered Office or Registered Agent Form. You can do this in person, via mail, or online if you create an online account on the district's website.

The filing fee costs $50.00, and you can use the following address to submit the paperwork.

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Division

P.O. Box 92300

Washington, DC, 20090

Why Choose Swyft Filings as Your Washington DC Registered Agent
  • Avoid Penalties: Every business is legally required to have a registered agent in any state where it operates.

  • Prioritize Your Privacy: We go on record with the government so you don’t have to, meaning any legal actions come to us, not your home or office.

  • Stay Flexible: We are always available at a physical address during business hours, so you’ll never miss an official notice.

Secure My Registered Agent

FAQs

Who can be a Washington DC registered agent?

Residents over 18 and corporations authorized to conduct business in Washington, DC by the Secretary of State can serve as registered agents. 

You can serve as your own registered agent, but your business can’t serve as its own registered agent service.

How much does a registered agent in Washington DC cost?

Registered agent services in Washington, DC can cost upwards of $300 per year if you want an extensive service package. That said, you can find more affordable options. 

Swyft Filings charges a $199 yearly fee nationwide.

How can I change my registered agent in Washington DC?

You can change your registered agent by filing the RA-3 Statement of Change of Registered Office or Registered Agent Form.[4] Alternatively, you can hire a third-party registered agent service to handle your new filing.

How can I find a registered agent in Washington DC?

Online search engines are the easiest way to find a reputable registered agent in Washington, DC. Of course, you can also use word-of-mouth recommendations to guide you toward the most compatible partner.

What is a Washington DC registered office?

A registered office is the place of business of a registered or resident agent. It’s the physical street address where the point of contact of one or more enterprises receives, processes, and forwards important legal documents like service of process notices.[5]

What’s the difference between a registered agent and a resident or statutory agent?

Registered agent, resident agent, and statutory agent all refer to the same role, the appointed point of contact for businesses. However, not all terms are used in official documents. Registered agent is the most common term used to describe the role.

What is a registered agent service?

A registered agent service is a third party that fulfills the registered agent requirements on behalf of the business. Swyft Filings offers a reliable registered agent service that maintains your privacy, provides immediate access to vital documents, and gives you more time to focus on your business.

Bibliography

  1. Council of the District of Columbia. “Code of the District of Columbia § 29–104.04. Designation of registered agent.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

  2. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs District of Columbia Government. “Instruction Sheet for Articles of Organization for Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC) Form DLC-1.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

  3. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs District of Columbia Government “Instruction Sheet for Articles of Incorporation for Nonprofit Corporation Form DNP-1.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

  4. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs District of Columbia Government.”RA-3 Statement of Change of Registered Office or Registered Agent Form.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

  5. Council of the District of Columbia. “§ 29–104.03. Addresses in filings. | D.C. Law Library.” Accessed January 11, 2023.

Originally published on May 05, 2023, and last edited on September 11, 2023.

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