On 1 October 2009 the new rules under the Companies Act 2006 came into effect. This means that all companies incorporated after this date will be legally obliged to register a service address and a country of residence for every individual director. The address must be where documents can be delivered and an acknowledgement or receipt can be provided if required – it cannot be a PO Box or a DX number. The provisions will designate a director’s residential address as ‘protected information’ which neither the director’s company nor Companies House can make public (except in special circumstances).

Previously, directors’ residential addresses have been available to the public from Companies House. However, after 1 October 2009 for newly registered companies, Companies House will still have directors’ residential addresses, but these will be kept on a separate register, as protected information, and not publicly available.

The core reasons for this change in the law are twofold: firstly to protect against identity theft and secondly in response to a criticism that the current system does not adequately protect directors from harassment. For example, there have been a number of cases where activists from certain protest groups have obtained a director’s home address and directly campaigned and protested at the director’s house, in some cases committing offences there.

Unfortunately the changes will not be retrospective in the sense that all directors who are on the register pre 1 October 2009 will continue to have their residential address available to the public on historical documents. However, directors can apply to have their residential addresses transferred to the protected register from the public register in certain circumstances. Currently the only situation where an address can become protected is if a director believes that having his home address publicly available will lead to a ‘serious risk’ to himself or his family.

The only time that the residential address can be disclosed post 1 October 2009 is if certain public bodies such as the police, HMRC or credit reference agencies demand it. Additionally if correspondence remains unanswered for a specified time, and it becomes apparent that the service address is not a suitable place to serve documents, then the enquirer can ask the Registrar of Companies for the residential address to be put on the public register.

Ultimately the new rules will mean more protection for the directors because it will restrict the opportunities for fraud or breaches of criminal law during protests at a director’s home and enable directors to stop credit agencies having access to their home address. It is a pity that such protection will only apply to new directors rather than those already on the register.

Directors are free to choose the company’s registered office address to also be their service address. However, as preserving confidentiality is essential, directors often choose an address of a third party such as their company secretary, to be their service address.

With London Registrars’ service you can use our central London address to go on to the public register at Companies House. All mail received by us will be forwarded to your designated address.