If you see a house you'd love to buy or you're having problems with an absentee landlord, learn the name of the owner of the property by reviewing the recorded property information in the county where the property is located. This may be the county recorder's office, the property assessor's office or a government office with another name, but it is usually the office where property taxes are assessed and liens are filed.
Reasons to Find the Owner of a House
Some people shop for real estate by driving around a specific area to locate houses that look like promising investments. If you are one of them, you'll also need to know how to find the homeowner. But that's not the only reason for needing to know the identity of an owner of a house. For example, you might be renting a room from a tenant who won't give you the homeowner's name or a vacant property down the street is causing neighborhood issues. In these cases, too, you'll either need to contact the property owner or provide that information to the authorities.
Find the Owner of a House
Real estate ownership is a matter of public record, with deeds and assessments recorded by government agencies for various purposes including collecting property taxes and notifying the public of property ownership. You can discover the name of the owner of a house by going to the agency that maintains these records. First, locate the agency in charge of property records. If you are a homeowner in the area, the agency you are looking for is probably the place where you pay your property taxes. If not, look on the internet or call the town mayor's office. The agency is likely called the recorder, assessor, county clerk, treasurer or real property tax office.
Search the Property Records
The easiest way to search property records is online. Check the relevant agency's website to see if this type of search is possible. If you don't know how to begin, go to the the county or city website and choose the property assessor, the tax assessor or whatever other name the local government gives to its property tax authority. You can also look at the register of deeds or recorder of deeds.
The website should provide links to each state's online property records or other information about how to locate records. For example, California counties and some cities offer online searchable databases. The first on the list is Alameda County. If you click on "Assessor," the link takes you to the Alameda County Assessor's office and its various search engines.
Although the Alameda County Assessor's office does not include homeowner information in its database because of a law prohibiting agencies from posting the home address of any elected or appointed official, it specifies: "Ownership information is available free of charge by visiting our public records section during normal business hours. Public records are located in the County Administration Building, 1221 Oak Street, Room 245, Oakland."
San Francisco County will give you property information online if you visit the website of the City and County of San Francisco, Assessor-Recorder's Office. Locate the property you are interested in on a map or type in the street address. Look at all of the recorded documents dealing with the property you're interested in, including the deed. A current property deed shows the name of the owner of the property.