Our offices Get in touch

Is a Virtual Office Legal?

Is a virtual office legal?

Are you operating legally?

With the new changes to UK company law, you may have found yourself wondering if using a Virtual Office is legal? In short, the answer is yes. Virtual Offices are completely legal, and are in high demand with freelancers, SMEs and businesses that operate remotely. This guide will walk you through the legalities of a virtual address and how to go about obtaining a virtual office the right way. So, let's dive in and make sure that you and your virtual office are operating on the right side of the law.

Read more about the changes to UK company law

What is a virtual office?

A virtual office is a modern and flexible business solution that provides a professional image and essential office services without the need for a physical office. A virtual office allows a business to use a commercial address for trading/marketing purposes and/or for registration with Companies House, without the business occupying any physical space at the premises. Any mail received at the office would be handled for you, so it enables businesses to operate remotely and know that their correspondence is safe. It also enables businesses to operate remotely whilst maintaining a prestigious business address, telephone services, and administrative support. Alongside the handling of business mail, Virtual offices often offer a range of add-on or supporting services such as call divert & forwarding, and meeting room and co-working access, allowing organisations to establish a presence in different locations without the costs and commitments associated with maintaining a physical office space. It’s worth reading up on how a virtual office works to make sense of the concerns that are discussed within this guide.

What legal issues surround virtual offices?

Since the increasing popularity of virtual offices, and with the need to maintain corporate transparency, some business owners may be hesitant to make the move. Whilst perfectly legal, Virtual Offices are subject to strict regulations, so it is incredibly important now more than ever that you opt for a reputable provider who knows their stuff. Below are a few legal considerations to think about whilst researching providers and before investing in a virtual office:

A registered address

To register a company in England and Wales you must register an address in either of these locations. This address doesn’t have to be your ‘trading address’ or the address you run the business from, but should be an appropriate address to receive important correspondence from HMRC and Companies House. This address will also be displayed publicly on Companies House.

The government and London Trading Standards highlight that if a business is using a virtual office address for their Registered Address, they must not also be using a mail filtering service, meaning that only mail from Companies House and HMRC is forwarded and all other mail discarded. This is usually the case if a provider offers a ‘Registered Address Only Service’ offering a very cheap price to use the address for this purpose and only receive certain mail, but this is illegal. You can read more about this here (link to our other blog on this). Virtual HQ only offers a Registered Address service as an add-on to the standard virtual office package, meaning ALL mail would come to your attention, official or not. With us, you can rest assured that you won’t be falling foul of this rule!

Changes to UK company law coming into effect from March 2024 stipulate that there must be a person at your registered address who can accept correspondence on behalf of your company and ensure it is brought to your attention. This means that PO boxes are now not able to be used as a registered address. PO Boxes should not be confused with virtual offices and this information does not mean that all virtual offices are no longer permitted too. However, some cheaper providers may be selling a virtual office service for what is essentially a PO Box service, from an address with no on-site staff. This is where choosing your provider is more important than ever!
At Virtual HQ, all of our virtual office locations comply with new laws surrounding Registered Address use. They are all real, working office buildings, with onsite staff during business hours. Any mail received for our virtual office clients will be accepted securely, and be promptly brought to your attention.

Virtual Offices are legal and a great way to encourage remote working

Virtual offices are completely legal, and can be a cost effective solution for your business.

PO Boxes can no longer be used as a registered address.

You can no longer use a PO box as a registered address, so why not opt for a virtual office instead?

Virtual Headquarters support businesses that operate remotely.

A virtual office can give you the freedom to work remotely.

Changing your registered address

If you need to change your registered office address, you must file an AD01 form – it is your responsibility to keep this address up to date and accurate and ensure all important documents are sent to the correct address. Should you not receive these important letters then your business falls into the risk of being dissolved. Virtual HQ are here to support you. Perhaps you’re currently using a PO Box or inappropriate address as your Registered Address and need help fast to become compliant. Don’t want to use your home address and have your private details displayed publicly? We can help you find the perfect virtual office solution for your needs in one of our locations throughout the UK. Better yet, to really take the stress away we can even update your Registered Address to your chosen virtual office on your behalf, with our Registered & Directors Service Address Update add-ons. Take a look at the services we have to offer here (link to services).

Setting up your virtual office

Virtual office providers (also known as Company Service Providers) are subject to the UK Anti-Money Laundering regulations, which mean the provider must verify the company and Ultimate Beneficial Owners prior to the provision of services. This involves providing a copy of your ID and proof of address and answering a few questions relating to the nature of your business, before you’re permitted to use the address. If you opt for a provider that doesn’t perform these checks or doesn’t seem to be performing them thoroughly, they aren’t abiding by the regulations and you should be wary. The checks safeguard not only the provider but also your business. You don’t want to be sharing your address with illegitimate businesses, harming your business reputation.

Have we answered your questions?

We hope we’ve clarified a few of the important areas to consider when opting for a virtual office but if you have any further questions about how a virtual office works, the legalities involved, or want to have a chat – just get in touch.

Ready to choose your perfect location and start utilising a virtual office now? Check our locations here.

Francesca's knowledge of the industry and business support is second to none. She's personally handpicked each one of our virtual office locations.

Francesca Dixon
Francesca Dixon

Sales & Operations Director

Recent blog posts