In Estonia, a law has been in force since 1995, which allows people to register their companies at any address without the need to receive consent from the property owners. According to the Ministry of Justice, abuses of this law are extremely rare, as knowingly providing false information can still lead to criminal prosecution.
There is currently little to stop a business owner in Estonia from registering their company at Lossi plats 1 for instance, where the Riigikogu is located, or in the building of the Ministry of the Interior. In fact, it is possible for a company to register at any address, even if it has no direct connection to the business or its owner. There are however potentially serious repercussions for those who knowingly provide false information when registering an address.
The law, which allows the use of an address without the consent of the owner of the property at that address when registering a business, has been in force since 1995. Previously the consent of all adults living at the location indicated as the company's address had to be provided, Viljar Peep, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Justice's Judicial Administration Policy department, told ERR.
"However, the fact that a company can be registered at any address does not mean it is exempt from its legal obligations. Furthermore, knowingly submitting false information can lead to criminal prosecution if the circumstances dictate it," Peep said,
Procedural documents sent to a postal address are, according to case law, considered to have been received, for instance. Therefore, if the address provided is not valid, the registrar, Tartu County Court, can repeatedly fine the legal entity and all its board members until the address is corrected.
If it transpires that false information has been deliberately provided to the court, there is potential for criminal liability, Peep said.
"Intentionally submitting false data to the court registry is tantamount to a criminal offense and, in the worst cases, could lead to imprisonment," he said.
If someone discovers that an unknown or unwanted company has been registered at their address, they should report this to the registry department of Tartu County Court, Peep said.
"Generally, the registration of a business at an arbitrary unconnected address for these reasons is a rare and exceptional situation. It is more often the case that people simply forget to report a change of address," said Peep.
If the owner of a property discovers that an association or company has been registered at their address without permission, hey currently have no real means of preventing it.
Editor: Michael Cole