Tracing an unknown/absent owner is the first step towards bringing an empty property back into use. The following steps outline the steps you can take to find the name and whereabouts of an owner.
- Start by posting a notice on the door of the empty property stating that you would like to contact the owner. Talk to neighbours, they may know something about the owner. This method costs nothing and can often yield valuable information about an empty property.
- Next, try a search of the District Land Registry, which has information on all owners of registered land. Land Registry can be contacted on (0191) 301 3500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org This is a useful way to find the owner’s name, but the address given is often the same as the empty property address. If the land is not registered, the Land Registry will not have any information.
- If unsuccessful, try a search of the Land Charges Registry. This will reveal the owner’s details if there are any charges against the property (e.g. a second mortgage) or if bankruptcy papers have been filed. Land Charges Registry can be contacted on 01752 635 600.
- Once you know the owner’s name, it may be possible to trace him/her via a search agency – look in your local Yellow pages under “Detective Agencies” or contact the Talking Pages. This is often the easiest way to trace an owners whereabouts, but you may have to pay a fee. Fees for such services can range from £20 to around £200.
If the owner of the empty home has died and the will is disputed or the heirs do not come forward, the property can sit ‘in limbo’ while the identity of the new owner is being established.