If you have the street address of a piece of property, you can find the owner's name by searching public property assessment records. Go to the assessor's office to search those records in person, or use online searchable databases offered by that office.
Find the Appropriate Assessor's Office
States and counties tax real property. That means that every state and many counties have assessors' offices. The job of employees in those offices is to value real estate within their jurisdiction. Many assessor-type agencies operate at a county level rather than a state level. They are not necessarily termed "Assessor" either. Look for names like State County Records, County Auditor, County Clerk, Treasurer or Office of Real Property Taxation.
Use the internet to figure out how your state organizes its real property valuation – it should be easy to find websites that provide that information. One to look at is the Free Public Records Directory. It publishes a website where assessor and property tax regulation is presented state by state. Select the appropriate state from the menu to read about the office that values real property in the relevant area. Often, contact information is also included.
Alternatively, do your own internet search using "assessor" and the city and state where the property is located as search terms. In case of a dead end, call the mayor's office or city hall in that city and ask for the name of the agency that assesses property values.
Using Information from the Assessor's Office
Visit the appropriate office, once you have found its name and location, and ask for help to search its files. Provide the street address of the property. Often a clerk is available to assist in these types of inquiries. The office may even accept phone inquiries about property ownership, and more than a few provide a database for an online search.
Take California as an example. In this state, real property assessment and property tax records are maintained by the county assessor in each county. Most of these offices provide a database that is online and searchable by parcel number and address. Some offices, including the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office, provide an interactive map that makes it easy to identify the property you want information about.
Acquiring a Title Company Property Report
Title companies are in the business of finding information about property, including finding an owner by address. Request that a title company put together a property report on the property address of interest if you are willing to pay for it. That way, you can find the property owner of an address without having to do any personal searching.
Further, a title report provides more information than just the name of the property owner. If you are interested in purchasing the property, it may be well worth your while. With a title report, you get the legal description of the property, all open recorded liens or known liens, property tax status and property assessed value and completed chain of title assignment information.
- In many places, this information is available on the internet. Go to the website for your county or city to see if property records are available online.
- Bring cash when searching for records, and plenty of coins, too. Most offices will charge you for copies, if you need them.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.