Who Owns That Property?

  • Have you been looking at that empty property for years?
  • There are ways you can track down the owner

Are there empty, rundown properties near where you live – properties that have been empty for years?

You would like to chase the owner of one of those properties, right? Perhaps bag yourself a bargain? After all, rundown properties usually need some serious fixing up.

But how do you go about finding the owner of a property that has been empty for years?

This blog looks at 10 steps you can take to find the owner of an abandoned property, what it might cost you to do so and your chances of success.

Ten things you can do to find a missing property owner are:

1  Knock on the door!
2  Speak to neighbours
3  Contact local letting and estate agents
4  Speak to the post person
5  Ask at the local shops
6  Speak to people in the pub
7  Grab hold of any passing senior!
8  Address a letter to the occupier
9  Do a Land Registry ownership search
10 Use a search agent

1  Knock on the door!

Don’t ignore the obvious. A property may look uninhabited and you may not have seen anyone coming or going in years. However, there is nothing to lose in knocking on the door.

The property could be occupied by trespassers and as people with access to mail, they may have information about the owner or an agent of the owner.


2  Speak to neighbours

You will of course be most interested in speaking to immediate neighbours, especially the people living next door.

Of course, in all your conversations in your attempt to find the owner, you will want to be discreet, courteous and affable.

Don’t be surprised if some neighbours are unhelpful or even hostile.

Ideally you will want to find out the name and contact details of the missing owner, but any information you can gather may be of use.

For instance, if you find out that the property was most recently rented, you may be able to trace the letting agent and make further progress from there.

If you are able to speak to neighbours who have lived in the area for a very long time, you will have a very good chance of uncovering at least some useful information which you can work with – such as details of relatives.

If you learn that the owner has died, you can open a line of enquiry by obtaining a copy of the death certificate and considering any will or grant of probate which can be obtained online.

If you don’t feel able to deal with these matters yourself, you can engage a specialist agent or solicitor to assist you. That will of course involve charges, but you can ask for a fixed fee quote so that you know the sum payable from the outset.

READ: Probate property rocks (the steps and benefits when buying probate property)

3  Contact local letting and estate agents

Even if you have no information leading to a specific letting or estate agent, you can still contact agents on a speculative basis – informing them that you are interested in buying the property.

Contact all the agents in the area. If you know the property was most recently rented, concentrate on letting agents.

Once agents learn that you are a potential buyer, they will see the opportunity of a fee and they may be encouraged to speak to others in the trade who may have useful information.

At the same time as contacting agents, contact the local council in case the property is owned by it.

Since agents are in the business of selling and renting properties, there will be a strong chance that at least one agent will prove helpful in some way or the other.

It will however be time-consuming to speak to all local agents – even in a small town, and not all of them will be willing to help you fully.

An agent with information as to the identity or whereabouts of a missing owner may want to withhold it until they can secure their opportunity to earn a commission.



4  Speak to the post person

Talking to the post person is worth a try, especially if they have been delivering mail in the area for years.

This however is a long shot as clearly post persons are bound by rules and there will be a limit to the information they can divulge.

READ: Buying a UK property (must know steps when buying in the UK)

5  Ask at the local shops

Speak to all local shopkeepers to see what you can uncover. Naturally you are most likely to gather useful information from shops which have been operating in the area for many years.

Even if a shop keeper does not know the whereabouts of the owner, they could talk to customers who may have useful information.

6  Speak to people in the pub

The local pub is always a great place to look for information, especially after a few pints have been downed!

Once again, you should target establishments which have been around for years – looking out for those customers who look as if they have lived in the area for ages!

7  Grab hold of any passing senior!

If you are looking for someone who lived in an area long ago, it is logical to focus on people who have lived in the area for a long time.

That means you will be focusing on seniors – the older the better.

If the property is one you walk past on a regular basis, be alert to the opportunity to question any senior who happens to be passing the property at the same time as you!

When dealing with seniors it is especially important to be disarming, friendly, kind and polite.

This method is a bit of a remote possibility but, given the opportunity, it is certainly worth a try.

READ: Why become a homeowner (the many benefits enjoyed by homeowners)

8  Address a letter to the occupier

Sending a letter to a property known to be unoccupied for years may seem a bit stupid, but there is always the possibility that someone is checking the property for mail or the Post Office’s mail re-direction service is in place.

It is also good to persist with this strategy, repeating it every 6 months if you are super keen on getting the property.

The more letters you send, the more likely you are to make contact. Also, if the owner is not minded to sell initially, they may change their mind at a later date and your repeated contact could mean that your name is the first one that comes to mind when they decide to sell.


9  Do a Land Registry ownership search

The Land Registry operates an online property search service where, on giving the address of a property, and paying a small fee, you can obtain a register of the property and plan.

The register will give you the “registered proprietor” or owner along with their address. However, the address given is often the property address itself.

Current Land Registry rules do not permit you to use the name of the owner if you decide to write to them at the property. Your letter would need to be addressed to “the owner” or “occupier”.

However, having the name, if you did not have it already, is clearly valuable information in your quest to trace the owner.

READ: 10 easy ways onto the property ladder (must know ways to become a homeowner)

10  Use a search agent

You can also use a professional search, enquiry or tracing agent to find the owner of a property. The reputable agents who advertise as being able to trace beneficiaries in a will are especially good at tracking down people.

However, you will probably want to consider them as a last resort since their fees can be high, and there may be no guarantee that they will be successful.

However, in most cases they will be your best chance of tracking down a missing owner.


The amount of time, effort and money you spend on finding a missing owner will very much depend on all the circumstances.

If you are serious about buying the property and are likely to have the finances to do so, you will want to look at all the options – including the expensive option of engaging a professional tracing agent.

Have you ever tried to track down the owner of an empty or abandoned property? Were you successful? Please leave your observations or comments below.

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Dalton Barrett
Rebel Property Coach

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