Contractors' Questions: Does a service address ensure my privacy?

Contractor's Question: A recently published article aimed at contractors appears to claim that filing a ‘service address’ as a company director represents a “new element” of privacy for PSC contractors. Would a verifiable expert in company law agree and, if so, how is my privacy ensured by switching to a service address?

Expert's Answer: Prior to the Companies Act 2006, directors needed to file their residential address at Companies House and this was made publically available. Not great if you had privacy concerns.

But since then, directors have been given the option of filing a ‘service address’ which could be the Company’s registered office, or trading address, for example. (N.B. Directors must also let Companies House have their residential address, but this can only be made available to public authorities and credit reference agencies.)

One reason for this change was due to protestors (such as animal rights campaigners) turning up at a director’s home and causing trouble. It can also be useful if the company goes bust, and the director is afraid of angry creditors turning up at their home.

Most directors nowadays use the company’s registered office or trading address rather than their home address, as a matter of course.

Individual contractors with their own company generally use their home address anyway as a registered office, in which case there’s no point in registering any change.

If however, they use a serviced office or accountant’s office as their company’s registered office, then this is the address that’s best to use for their ‘service address’ too.

A change of address can be registered with Companies House by completing form CH01.

But be aware if privacy is a concern, as this action does not wipe out residential addresses on old public documents at Companies House.

So if you have previously lodged your residential address, and now have completed CH01 with a service address of your accountant, for example, someone could still find out your residential address by looking at historic records at Companies House. You can ask Companies House to black these out but there is a fee for this.

Overall, the introduction of service addresses in October 2009 is probably less of an issue for individual contractors than normal trading companies, as there is less risk of angry creditors, protestors and the like turning up at your front door, but it’s worthwhile for directors to know in any event.

The expert was Gary Cousins, solicitor and founder of Cousins Business Law, a legal advisory for contractors and small businesses.

 

Wednesday 18th April 2012