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How to run a business license search in the City of Los Angeles

Camila Lopez - Los Angeles - August 26, 2022

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As you prepare your Los Angeles small claims lawsuit, it is important to sue the correct person or business. If a business is doing business in the City of Los Angeles, they may be required to obtain a business license with the City of Los Angeles. Their business license information will provide you the details you need regarding the official legal entity behind the business.

In this article learn about:

  • The importance of suing the correct legal entity.

  • How to search for a business license registration in the City of Los Angeles.

  • How to file a complaint against a business that isn't registered with the City of Los Angeles.

  • You may be rewarded money for reporting an unlicensed business to the City of Los Angeles.

The Importance of Suing the Correct Legal Entity

Here are the reasons why you need to have the correct business name prior to suing in Los Angeles small claims court:

  • You might sue the wrong business entity. For example, you had roofers come to your home to install new roof tiles but they damaged your roof instead and don't want to pay for the property damage. On the invoice you see XYZ Roofing. However, just because you see XYZ Roofing on the invoice doesn't mean this is the correct business entity. XYZ Roofing may be a "fictitious business name" or "DBA." Learn more about DBA's here. XYZ Roofing may actually be a sole proprietorship meaning you would be suing the owner of XYZ Roofing, John Smith, as XYZ Roofing doesn't exist as its own legal entity.

  • You need to know who to serve. When a business is a corporation or LLC, they are required to appoint someone as their "registered agent." This person (or business) is responsible for accepting legal documents on behalf of the business. In the case with XYZ Roofing, you would need to know the exact legal entity name to look up the businesses information on the California Secretary of State website. You may find XYZ Roofing, LLC or XYZ Corporation. You may need to have additional information to determine which one is the correct entity for XYZ Roofing.

  • If you win your lawsuit and the business you sued does not pay, you may run into issues collecting the money owed to you. For example, if XYZ Roofing doesn't pay you when you win, you would need to collect from a bank account registered to XYZ Roofing. But if XYZ Roofing doesn't exist because it is really John Smith doing business as XYZ Roofing, then you would have a hard time collecting because you didn't sue John Smith.

Read More: Complete Guide on how to sue a company in Los Angeles small claims court.

How to search for a business license registration in the City of Los Angeles

One way of learning the legal entity information for a business, is to check their business license registration. If the business does business in the City of Los Angeles, they may be required to register their business. Here is how to run a business license search for a business located in the City of Los Angeles:

  • Over the phone: (844) 663-4411 (Press 5), open Monday- Friday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.

  • Schedule a phone appointment: You can schedule an appointment here.

  • Online on the the City of LA's public records portal here.

What to ask for:

  • You can provide the City with the business name and address that you have available.

  • Make sure to ask for the legal entity name that registered the business license. If the business is a sole proprietorship, ask for the name of the sole proprietor.

  • If they provide the name of an LLC or Corporation, then the next step is to run a search on the California Secretary of State's website to learn who the registered agent is. Learn more here.

If you find that a business is not licensed, you may want to consider filing a complaint against them with the City of Los Angeles Business Tax Whistleblower Program.

Read more: Here are other ways of learning the legal entity information for a business.

How to file a complaint against a business that isn't registered with the City of Los Angeles

If a business is not registered to do business within the City of Los Angeles, you may be able to report them to the Los Angeles Office of Finance. One way the City of Los Angeles generates tax revenue is through their business license registration.

What is the Whistleblower Program?

The Los Angeles Office of Finance oversees the business license whistleblower program. The whistleblower program provides a money rewards to a person who gives information that leads to recovery of money from a business underreporting their city taxes.

Am I Eligible to File a Claim?

There are only 2 conditions which may disqualify you from receiving a reward:

  • You worked for the Office of Finance when you obtained the information of an a business not reporting their business taxes.

  • You are currently or were at one point a City of Los Angeles employee and received the information during your official duties.

How To File a Claim For Reward

There are 2 ways to submit your whistleblower complaint:

Online

Use the Whistleblower complaint online portal.

  • First, enter in your personal information (unless you prefer to stay anonymous).

  • Second, enter the business information related to your complaint.

  • Third, enter the location of the business.

  • Fourth, enter the details you have available plus any evidence you have.

Via Mail

Print out the Business Tax Whistleblower form and complete it. You may submit the form in person at one of the Office of Finance or by mail to the address below:

City of Los Angeles, Office of Finance

c/o Whistleblower Program
P.O. BOX 53200
Los Angeles, CA 90053-0200

Make sure to include as much information as possible and attach as much evidence as you have available.

Here are some examples of important evidence that may be helpful to the City's investigation:

  • Tax years involved.

  • Where to find the business.

  • Your interactions with the business.

How much is the money reward for reporting an unlicensed business:

  • The money reward cannot exceed ten percent (10%) of the amount of money the City recovered as a result of the information you provided.

  • You will not receive a reward if the information you provided results in the City recovering less than $50.00. 

Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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