We’re often having conversations in our KoffeeKlatch customer support group about whether it’s safe to publish your home address when you run a business from home. There are legal reasons for doing so, but there are legitimate safety and security concerns.
Is there a legal requirement to publish your home address?
Information you have to make available to your prospects and customers is set out in the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 (the Regulations). This includes:-
- your business identity
- your contact information
- geographic address
If you are using a KoffeeKlatch contract, you will do this in your booking form.
Regulation 4 makes it clear that geographic address is “where the business of providing services is actually carried out”.
What’s the problem with sharing your home address?
In an age of 4G and mobile working, you may be providing services from your home on Monday and the local coffee shop on Tuesday. The law has simply not kept up with the way we work today.
In theory, we would have updated our contracts twice today already!
It can be frightening to give your address to strangers who may turn up at your home thinking it is an office building.
And we’ve heard some worrying tales of amorous clients and, worse still, unwanted ex-partners.
This issue is officially recognised for company directors. If you are a company director, you have to provide your home address to Companies House, but you can keep it private. The company’s registered office must be publicly available and is always visible on the register, so don’t ever use your home address as your company’s registered office. But there is no parallel provision for sole traders.
In an age of electronic communication. where legal documents can be served online, this seems strangely old-fashioned.
Alternatives to sharing your home address
P O Box
You could get a PO Box address at your local Post Office delivery office. This is not technically compliant because a PO Box does not give an address of a building. And a company cannot use a PO Box for their registered office – you must have a building’s address for that.
But one purpose of the Regulations is to make sure your business is contactable by post, and a PO Box does that.
Your accountant or a local business centre or serviced office will usually be happy to be your official address and forward your mail to you. This will probably be more expensive than a PO Box. But you will have a “geographic address”. Don’t be surprised if they want to confirm your identity before they do this.
Many companies use their accountants’ office as their registered office – Companies House are happy with this.
If you are not working from that address, from the point of view of the Regulations this is not compliant. But we have never heard of anyone getting into trouble for this.
What if you don’t share your home address?
Selling to consumers (B2C)
Trading Standards are responsible for enforcing the Regulations. You are unlikely to get a call from trading standards if you: –
- provide contact details for post, telephone and email, and
- respond properly to genuine complaints
But just in case you get the call, keep records to show that you have been contactable and you have responded.
Selling to business (B2B)
There is no official enforcement of the Regulations in favour of business customers. The business customers themselves can make a claim if you not following the Regulations has caused them financial loss. On its own, this is unlikely. Like so many other compliance issues, it might be added as ‘and another thing’ when something else has gone wrong … but I can’t imagine how they could have lost money as a result.
What if it goes wrong and everyone wants to sue?
There are real issues around litigation if one party or another has not disclosed their address. It does not mean no-one can sue anyone, just that there are extra steps needed to get things working as they should. Not publishing your address does not mean no-one can find you or sue you.
If you belong to a regulated profession or professional group you may be obliged by your membership to publish your address. And they may have directories that share your address. You should talk to them if you have specific concerns about your safety or your family’s safety.
Your family comes first
There is no reason to expose your home address or family to business visitors as long as you are trading in a visible and contactable way. The Regulations are concerned with stopping ‘fly by night’ traders from taking people’s money and not delivering a service at all. And they are aimed at making sure people have a way to contact you, both to discover about your services and to complain if something has gone wrong.
You should not be living life in fear of an unwanted customer visit or worse. It is time the Regulations were brought up to date to recognise the way we move around and work in the 21st century. And it would be great if the law would also recognise the increasing number of businesses run from home and the reality of the home office and digital nomad.
Don’t worry – just make a decision about what is comfortable for you, complete your booking forms accordingly, and issue your KoffeeKlatch terms of business. You can always pop over to our customer support group for a chat if you want to.