The UK government has announced changes to legislation to reduce the risk of fraud, violence or intimidation faced by company directors as a result of having their residential addresses on the public record.
For a number of years, directors have been able to keep their residential address details private by making use of a separate service address, often the company's registered office. While directors are still required to provide Companies House with their residential address, it is only the service address which will be entered on the public record.
However, this general level of protection does not extend to historical records at Companies House. Residential address details on old forms filed with Companies House remain on the company's record and open to public inspection unless the director is able to prove that he or she (or someone who lives with him or her) is at serious risk of violence or intimidation as a result of the activities of the company. There is no protection if the risks are not related to the activities of the company and, even if such risk could be shown, it is not possible to remove private address details which were placed on the record before 2003 at all.
With access to these records at Companies House being available free of charge, there is a clear risk that personal information of directors could easily be misused. In its announcement, the government highlighted that directors were twice as likely to be a victim of identity fraud, and research by fraud prevention organisation Cifas identifies that one in five victims of recorded cases of such fraud are company directors.
Under the proposed legislation, directors will be able to apply to have their residential addresses removed from the public record at Companies House without having to prove any risk of violence or intimidation. Addresses which pre-date 2003 can also be removed.
The proposals also extend to other persons whose residential address details might appear at Companies House in historical records or who do not use a service address. This includes:
- company secretaries,
- shareholders; and
- persons with significant control.
Similar changes are to be made in respect of limited liability partnerships.
Personal addresses will remain available to public authorities, such as the police, the insolvency service and the pensions regulator. They will also continue to be made available to credit reference agencies unless the director applies for separate protection - this continues to be subject to proof of risk of violence or intimidation as a result of the company's activities.
It is expected that the changes for the protection of residential addresses will come into force by the end of summer 2018.