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articles > A Guide to Finding Who Owns an Empty Property
Article > A Guide to Finding Who Owns an Empty Property

Article kindly provided by Rick Mobbs

Finding empty property is a good way to buy below market value property. The property is often in poor condition and ripe for development. The owners may not be bothered with it, they may have forgotten about it, died or moved abroad. They may sell to you at a low cost as the least hassle way of disposing of it.

Q. How can I trace the owner of an empty home?

  • Get the Post Code for the target property. If you do not have a post code log on to type in the name of the nearest town or village to your target location. Bring up a 1:25,000 OS map of the area. Use the red triangle keys on the edge of the map to move the map until the target location is visible on the map. Click the mouse on the target location. The yellow arrow should now point to your target location. Go down to the bottom of the web page and there is a blue banner. Click “here” on the banner taking advantage of the opportunity to convert the co-ordinates. A new page will come up offering among other things the post code. Make a note of the post code. You can also get this information from the Royal Mail website.
  • Check to see if the Land Registry has a record of the owner. Log on to Enter the post code of the property. A list of properties that the Land Registry knows about will be presented. If you are lucky your target will be among them. You will need to buy a copy of the register (£3) and it is also worth buying a copy of the plan (£3) just to make sure the map covers the area of your target property. If you cannot find the property it is probably unregistered. Many properties are unregistered and you will now need to do some detective work to get the owners.
  • Phone up the Council Planning Department for the area. If they have dealt with planning or building regulations applications from the owner (e.g. for permission to build an extension), they may have a file. Check on the phone if they have a file. If they have then you are in luck. Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act you are allowed to see this file. Book a time with the planning department for you to visit and view the file. The file will nearly always reveal the owner, their address and other useful information. If there is no file then it is back to the detective work.
  • Check the electoral roll at your local library or town hall to see if anyone is registered to vote at the property. This register is updated every year.
  • Phone up the Council Empty homes officer. Every council has one of these, usually part of their Estates Department. This officer can be asked by you to trace the owner. Unfortunately unless you are lucky they will not tell you who the owner is. They will however pass on a letter to the owner on your behalf. The empty homes officer has some powerful tools for tracing owners. The council can also use their powers to apply for a compulsory purchase order on the property or to enforce the sale. They can also apply for an order to force the owner to renovate a property. If they do this at the same time as a letter from you arrives you may get lucky and be able to buy the property from them. If there is no luck with the council then it is back to detective work.
  • Posting a notice on the door of the empty property stating that you would like to contact the owner.
  • Talk to neighbours and any neighbourhood community groups as well as local shopkeepers - they may well know something about the owner. This method costs nothing and can often yield valuable information about an empty property. It does however reveal your interest. If the property is in a rural area, you could contact the local parish council. The Parish Clerk may be able to help.

  • You could contact your local neighbourhood watch group – they might know about the status of the property. For details of your nearest neighbourhood watch group, contact your local police station.
  • Phone up the Utility companies, Gas, Electricity, Phone, Cable, and Water and ask them if they know who the owner is. They will usually not tell you who it is but you should be able to find out if they know a name and have an address.


Q. I have a name and possibly an address, now what do I do?

  • If you have a name and address write to the owner. Offer to buy the property. Google their name and address and see what turns up. You may be lucky and get a phone number or other useful information. If you just have a name then you need an address or phone number as well.
  • Trace the owner 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 owner’s whereabouts, but you will have to pay a fee which can range from about £20 to around £200. Search on a useful online facility for which you buy credits to perform searches.
  • Try using online genealogists web sites with access to wills and probate information. 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 and there will be a question mark over who is responsible for it. If you know the name of the former owner, you could try using a firm of genealogists, who specialise in family trees and tracing heirs to wills. Look in the phone book or search the Internet for ‘genealogists’. Fees charged by genealogists will vary.



Rick Mobbs Serendipity Property

Rick Mobbs is the MD of Serendipity, which is a privately owned property investment company specialising in quick acquisition of properties throughout the whole of the UK. They specialise in new builds, rennovations, development, BMV property trading, property services.

Serendipity operates independently of estates agents and developers. They purchase properties using prearranged financing from financial institutions and private investors.




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