Find the name of a business and the agent for service

To sue a business, you need to know their official business name and their address. This may be different from what they advertise. If you're suing a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership, you'll also need to the name of the Agent for Service of Process. This is who officially accepts legal papers for the company.

How to find the information you need

  • Check county records for business and owner name

    You will want to check the county clerk/recorder's office where the business is to find out the business owner’s name. Look up Fictitious Business Name (FBN) records. If the business has a fictitious business name, it will show that the business could be owned by a person or another type of business. You can search by owner and by the business’s name.

  • Check County Assessors, Auditors, Clerks of the Board, and Tax Collectors

    They can search the property tax rolls for you. The tax rolls list the names and addresses of property owners in the county by both owner name and address of the property. You can search the records online.

  • Check city clerk's office, tax assessor, and permit division 

    It keeps a list of the names and addresses of most people licensed to do business in a city. You can check for real property ownership at the county clerk/recorder’s office.

Check California Secretary of State

Do a business search for a corporation, limited partnership (LP), or limited liability company (LLC). 

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If you find the company there, you'll also want to get the name of their Agent for Service of Process. This is who officially accepts legal papers for the business. Write down this name and address.

To do business in California, Corporations, LLCs, and LPs must register an Agent for Service of Process with the Secretary of State. If they do not list one, or the information is out of date, you can ask the court for an order that says you can do service through the Secretary of StateCorporations can also be served by serving an officer of the company. 

If you only know the phone number:

  • Look up telephone and reverse directories. The address will not show up in the reverse directory if the phone number is unlisted.
  • Try using a search engine like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo to search the phone number. You may get the address you are looking for.

A business can use a trade name or other business name

You may end up having to check multiple places to get all the names of the businesses. 

  • EXAMPLE: suing a business using a trade or fictitious business name

    An apartment complex could be called Willow Park Apartments.

    • When you check with the county clerk/recorder's office you find Willow Park Apartments is owned by ABC Corporation. The records also show that ABC filed a fictitious business name statement to do business under the name Willow Park Apartments. This may also be called a dba, which stands for doing business as.

    • Then you look up ABC Corporation on the Secretary of State's website to find out who the agent for service of process is. You'll need that information when it's time to serve your lawsuit.

    On your forms, you would write: 

    ABC Corporation, DBA Willow Park Apartments

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If you get stuck trying to identify the other party, you may want to hire a private investigator to help you get the information.

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