When is a Resident Agent Needed in Massachusetts?


Starting a business as a corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), or Limited Partnership (LP) requires having a Resident Agent in Massachusetts.  Learn who the Registered Agent is, their job duties, and the requirements to be one.

What is a Resident Agent?

A Resident Agent (referred to as a Registered Agent in many states) is a person or company that is designated to be the official point of contact between the government and your business entity.

What are the duties of a Resident Agent?

The primary responsibility of a Resident Agent in Massachusetts is to accept important legal notices and tax documents and then forward them to the appropriate person in the business.

Why is a Resident Agent required in Massachusetts?

A Resident Agent is required by the Secretary of the Commonwealth when forming a Massachusetts LLC, LP, LLP, or corporation.  This appointment is first made in the entity formation documents (Certificate of Organization or Articles of Incorporation) but can be changed at any time.

Related: How to Form an LLC in Massachusetts

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not need a Resident Agent.

The requirements for an entity to have a Resident Agent are formed under Massachusetts Statutes Chapter 156C, Section 5 (LLC) and Chapter 156B, Section 49 (corporation), which mandate registered entities will have and continuously maintain a Resident Agent and registered office within the state.  The agent must also be available during normal business hours to forward any service of process, notice, or demand pertaining to the entity to the appropriate individuals.

The reason for having one makes sense. If a business is owned by one individual, it’s easy to determine who should be notified in the event of an annual report renewal, lawsuit, or tax notice. However, if a business has several owners, members, or partners, it would be difficult to determine who the correct contact is. By requiring a central point of contact there is no question that time-sensitive documents are going to the right person in a timely manner.

What happens if you don’t have a Resident Agent?

Not only is a Resident Agent required when forming an LLC or corporation, but you must maintain a Resident Agent to keep the entity in compliance. Besides the requirement of designating a Resident Agent at the time of formation, there are several reasons to not be with one:

  • Not Receiving Legal Notices – If the listed Resident Agent cannot receive legal notices, this lawsuit will still proceed. If a process server is unsuccessful in reaching the company’s Resident Agent, the court can proceed with the case. This could result in a judgment being placed against the business without the owners knowing.
  • Administrative Dissolution – In Massachusetts, if the business doesn’t have a Resident Agent, the state can dissolve the entity.
  • Penalties and Fees – By not maintaining a current Resident Agent, penalties and state fees can be levied against the entity and, in some cases, the owners too. Once an entity is no longer in good standing with the state, the owners may lose their liability protection and are at risk personally.
  • Entity Closure – Waiting too long to remedy the lack of a Resident Agent may result in the administrative closure or dissolving the entity.

Who can be a Resident Agent in Massachusetts?

A Resident Agent in Massachusetts can be any resident of the state who is 18 years or older, a registered Massachusetts domestic business entity, or a foreign business entity authorized to do business in the state. An entity may not be its own agent.

The Resident Agent needs to have a physical street address (often referred to as a registered office or principal office) in the state of Massachusetts. This can be your home address, the address of a family member, an accountant or attorney, the address of the business, or a Commercial Registered Agent service. Any physical address in the state may be used, but PO Boxes and mail drop services are not acceptable since someone has to be available to sign for documents.

The agent will also need to be available to receive Service of Process on behalf of the business during normal business hours. Service of process refers to the delivery of legal documents, often a summons, subpoena, or lawsuit filed against a business entity.

Can I be my own Resident Agent in Massachusetts?

Yes! Any individual, owner, member, officer, director, etc., of a business entity that meets the state Resident Agent requirements above, can be a Resident Agent.

Why you may not want to be your own Resident Agent

Provided one of the members or officers lives in Massachusetts, it is less expensive to act as your own agent rather than hiring a service. While this is the route many businesses take, there are a few reasons to consider hiring a service.

  • Privacy – The address of the Resident Agent becomes public record and is available for anybody to see. This can be especially concerning if someone is doing business on the side, and they don’t want their employer to know about the business. Also, if the business is sued, the notice will be delivered to the address on file. This could mean employees, customers, or even neighbors witnessing the event. There is also the remote possibility of a vindictive litigant or upset customer showing up at your house.
  • Availability – Massachusetts requires the Resident Agent to be available at the principal address during regular business hours. The biggest issue with availability, especially if a home address is used, is if the agent goes on vacation or is otherwise away for some period of time and can’t be reached.
  • If the Business Expands to Additional Locations – If the business has a physical presence in multiple states (offices, warehouses, employees, etc.), a foreign entity registration will often need to be filed with those states. A Resident Agent will need to be appointed with a physical address in each state.
  • Due Date Reminders – Resident Agent services provide annual report reminders and updates on any state requirements.

How much does a Resident Agent service cost?

If you act as your own Resident Agent, there is no cost. Depending on the services provided, a commercial Resident Agent typically costs between $100-$150 per year. Northwest Registered Agent’s service is $125 per year and offers several extras such as document scanning and mail forwarding. Some entity formation companies like IncFile, include a Resident Agent at no cost for the first year when you register your corporation or LLC with them.

Can a Resident Agent be changed?

If the Registered Agent changes, the entity is required to file a change of Resident Agent.

A registered agent can be changed by submitting the Statement of Change of Registered Agent / Registered Office along with the filing fee to the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Is a Resident Agent liable for the actions of the business?

The only liability a Resident Agent faces is from a lack of timely transmission of correspondence. If the Resident Agent is negligent in sending documents promptly and the entity suffers a financial loss, the Resident Agent is responsible for paying those damages.

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