How to Claim Unclaimed Land

by Trudy Brunot ; Updated September 14, 2015

Unclaimed property can be the result of a death in the family, a move, or perhaps simple abandonment. Every state has laws set aside for claiming property after a period of three to five years. While banks, insurance companies and other firms are required to attempt a return to the owners, they might be unsuccessful. If they are, the property is turned over to the state's abandoned land or property department. Some states have land dating back to the late 1800's.

Claim "virgin" unclaimed land. In theory, land that has never been claimed is up for grabs and can be claimed by anyone for ownership. The reality is that very little unclaimed land is good for settling or even reachable by human means. Mountain areas close to international borders are in dispute along with other uninhabited places. Territorial waters of any country extend 12 nautical miles (and beyond) from the land.

Call or write the unclaimed property department in the state in which the property is located. A link to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is in Resources. It provides contact information by state for unclaimed "virgin" property and property that was once owned.

Fill out an online form or speak to a representative. Be prepared to provide the office with your name (including maiden name and other names), Social Security number, and addresses (including all previous addresses where you lived in the state).

Look for a form to fill out in the mail. If the office finds a match they will send a form. You must provide proof of ID (i.e., photocopy of driver's license), proof of residence (utility bill or tax return), and proof of property (any documentation proving connection between you and the property). It might take up to two months to receive the deed to property or cash in lieu of the value of the property.

Contact the FHA (Fair Housing Act) Support Center at (800) 697-6967; the support center is housed under HUD. HUD is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have offices in each major urban area and can provide information on property resources in your local region. You can also go to the HUD search engine on the HUD website or write to HUD, Distributive Shares Branch, PO Box 23699, Washington, DC 20026. Questions about refunds may be emailed to sf_refunds@hud.gov.

About the Author

Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.

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