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How to Find Business Records in Ohio

Searching for Business Records in Ohio

A number of business records are considered matters of public record. Therefore, even if you do not own an ownership interest in a business, you are entitled to view and copy certain records for corporations and other business entities. In Ohio, these records are maintained by the Ohio Secretary of State.

What Records Are Maintained by the Ohio Secretary of State?

Businesses may take several different forms, all of which are recognized by most states as independent entities that are separate from the business’s owners or founders. A business may be a corporation, a partnership, or some variation of these. Some states, including Ohio, also permit entities called limited liability companies, or LLC’s, which have certain advantages of a partnership and certain advantages of a corporation. All of these entities are required to file certain documents with the Secretary of State, giving notice of their formation.

Additionally, businesses can file UCC, for Uniform Commercial Code, forms. These forms demonstrate liens in collateral that are held by individuals or businesses in exchange for value.

Businesses may register trade names under which they do business, even though this name is not the official name of the company. Additionally, “foreign companies,” meaning companies incorporated outside the State of Ohio, will file documentation of their corporate status in order to do business in Ohio.

Why Would a Business Not Have Documents On File?

Individuals may own a private, non-incorporated business and run it themselves. In this case, the business is called a “sole proprietorship.” However, most states, including Ohio, do not consider a sole proprietorship to be a separate legal entity, and therefore sole proprietorships are not required to file documents with the Secretary of State giving notice of the formation of the sole proprietorship.

Additionally, some businesses that are not incorporated may have a business name, known as a trade name. In Ohio, non-incorporated businesses are not required to register their trade name with the Secretary of State, although they may. Therefore, if you are searching for documents pertaining to a business name that is not on file with the Secretary of State, it may be that the business in question is not incorporated and the business name for which you are searching is an unregistered trade name.

If you do not find documents pertaining to a particular business filed with the Ohio Secretary of State, you should not immediately assume that the business is not incorporated, however. There is another reason that could explain why no documents are on file with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office: in the United States, businesses are not required to incorporate in the state where their main office is, or even where the business owners live or where the company does its business. Instead, businesses are permitted to pick and choose among the fifty states, based upon the laws of those states as applied to businesses. If a business decides that another state’s business laws are more advantageous to the business, the business may incorporate in that state by filing its formation documents with that state’s Secretary of State’s office. Therefore, if you are unable to locate documents for a particular business that operates in your state, the reason may be that the business has incorporated elsewhere. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be sure without searching the Secretary of State’s records for all fifty states. To shortcut this process, however, it is important to note that many businesses elect to become incorporated in the State of Delaware because of its advantageous business laws. Therefore, if you must search records outside of your state to locate the documents for a particular business, the Delaware Secretary of State’s office is a good place to start.

How Can I Search for Records Maintained by the Ohio Secretary of State?

If a business has been incorporated in the State of Ohio, the business documents are available for viewing both in person and online. The address of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office is in the Borden Building, 180 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. The office is located one floor down from the ground level, and employees at the office can assist you in obtaining the documents you wish to view.

If you wish to view business documents online, the Ohio Secretary of State’s website may be found here: www.sos.state.oh.us/. From the website, viewers may select “Search Business Filings.” From this page, viewers can scroll to the bottom in order to select “Search Database.” This will take viewers to a screen listing the items by which a viewer may search the records, including business name, charter/registration number, agent/contact name, document ID number, prior business name, or (in the case of churches), church name. After clicking on one of these selections, viewers will be taken to a screen where they can input the information for which they wish to search.

If viewers wish to search UCC filings, they may select “Uniform Commercial Code” from the home page, and then scroll to the bottom of the page to select “Search Filings.” This will take viewers to a screen where they can select the type of information for which they wish to search, including financing statement number, miscellaneous number, debtor individual, debtor organization, secured party individual, or secured party organization. After selecting one of these options, the viewer will be taken to a screen where viewers may then input the information for which they wish to search.

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