Ownership of property—land and buildings—is the basis of tax revenues for many local governments, which tend to keep careful records on who owns what. City and county governments generally treat property records as public records, which means they can be viewed by anyone with an interest in them. Some jurisdictions place property records online, making access very easy, but even offline records can be viewed to learn who owns a particular lot of land.
Identify the address of the lot. Looking up property records is generally easiest with an exact address for the property, consisting of a number, street name, city and state. If the lot is unnumbered, you can often make a reasonable guess based on nearby addresses.
Find the local property tax office. Property taxes are most often collected by the county, although some larger cities manage their own property tax systems. The local "blue pages" in the phone book include listings of government offices. You can also search online for the state and county or city name along with the phrase "property tax" or "tax assessor." Review the search results to identify the county property tax office.
Check the procedure for viewing property records. If property records are available online, often a simple search of the address is enough to identify the lot owner and provide contact information. Each jurisdiction has different protocol, however, so it's important to clarify the process in your area. If access is not available online, call the property office or tax assessment office, and that may be all that's needed. The office may be able to provide the information over the phone. If not, you may have to visit the office in person to inspect property records.
David Sarokin is a well-known specialist on Internet research. He has been profiled in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post" and in numerous online publications. Based in Washington D.C., he splits his time between several research services, writing content and his work as an environmental specialist with the federal government. David is the author of Missed Information (MIT Press, 2016), a book exploring how better information can lead to a more sustainable future.