How to Find Your Landlord

Learn how to find your landlord.

There are several situations where communicating directly with the owner of the property is the key to good results: anything from getting past the little people with power managing the unit to suing the landlord directly or negotiating in person at their home. They can abuse you indirectly, and order the managers to refuse to identify who they are, but the buck stops at the owner. The owner can fire the managers. The owner pays out of pocket. You can only sue the owner in most instances, because the managers are just agents of the owner with no accountability to you.

You may THINK you know who the owner is, but you may have been lied to. You may know a name but not that he/she is the managing member of the LLC , or the trustee of the trust, or the president of the corporation that is the LEGAL owner.  A trust, like a revocable living trust, is run by its Trustee(s), so the owner is XXX, trustee of the YYY trust, not the individual person.

Who owns the property is no secret –  quite the opposite. To become the owner of property, the buyer has to record a deed in the County Recorder’s Office, to tell all the world who the owner is. It is public record. In most cases, the buyer has a loan secured by a Trust Deed, where both the loan and Trust Deed are signed by the same person. Before the deed can be recorded, the buyer has to informed the County Tax Assessor of who the new taxpayer is, and where to send the bill, and if that changes, the new address.  Therefore, the Tax Assessor has updated information on where the owner is. If you have a friend in real estate, they can quickly and inexpensively print out the deed and trust deed, and even the chain of title.

Go online to the County Tax Assessor for your county, to the webpage to pay your property tax. It asks for the street address which you put in, and it gives you a parcel number: ####-####-###. These numbers refer to the Book of Maps, by book number, page number in that book, and lot number on that page, respectively.  Armed with that number, you then call the tax assessor and say you want to know the name and address of the taxpayer for this parcel number. They give it to you, because it is public information.  If there is more than own owner, they only give the first one, but if it is a business or trust, they give you that name.  They have the most updated address.  Now you are on the right track. You can also go to the County Recorder’s Office and get a copy of the Trust deed and grant deed, and any liens against the property, loan default notices, foreclosure sale notices, and anything else recorded, and have the papers “certified” as official copies to use by themselves as exhibits in court.

If the owner is a business entity like a corporation[Inc], limited partnership [LP], or limited liability company [LLC], you then go to the California Secretary of State Business Search webpage, . You see the choices of corporation or LP/LLC, and you pick one and then put in the name in the Search Criteria box and click Search.  There may be several similar names, so you have to pick the right one. The Status column shows if the entity is Active [alive] or not [cancelled or suspended], and the Agent for Service may look familiar to you. Click on the name and you get the page with the official business address, “agent for service of process”, and PDF files to download.  The Registration gives you some information, and the others will identify the people running the business, like the general partner, the managing LLC member, and the corporate president. That’s Mr. Big, the one who probably signed the Trust Deed and the one you want to find and talk to. The company might even have a website with pictures of Mr. Big and other useful information.

There may also be a fictitious business name, like Money Investments or Windsor Place, that might be identified as the landlord on your rental agreement.  Each County has their own section, usually the County Clerk, where you can look up the name to find out who the owner is that is doing business under this name. This is also public information, for the purpose of letting everyone know who the owner is.  If the landlord uses a fictitious business name as the landlord in your rental agreement but has not registered and published that name as required, he can’t evict or otherwise sue you, as a punishment for not registering, until that is completed.

So, you may have several layers of none-of-your-business-who-we-are: a resident manager, a management company using a fictitious business name, the owner using  fictitious business name, a corporation managing an LLC, and the president of that corporation, Mr. Big.  Mr. Big is so insulated from you by these levels that he may be very easy to find on line, like Facebook, Google searches, white pages, and so forth.  You could even return to the County Recorder’s Office and look up Mr. Big in the Grantor-Grantee index, and find his home address on the deed to his house.  You might find pictures of Mr. Big on line that are worth keeping, and through GoogleMaps, get a picture of his home, and a map and directions of how to get there from your building.

You could circulate this information in a flier to your neighbors, who also may be disgusted with the management and want to take action up directly with Mr. Big. Here is Mr. Big, his picture, home address, picture of his house, map and directions of how to get there, even a phone, email, etc. information.  This is the owner LLC or whatever to name as a defendant in your lawsuit,  and Mr. Big is its leader.   Here is where to serve Mr. Big with lawsuits, discuss matters directly with him, or even picket his house with “Slumlord” signs for his neighbors to see and laugh at, or have a press conference right there in front of his home complete with TV cameras.  You can knock on his door and talk directly to him, and if he’s not responsive, show him the flier you are about to distribute to your neighbors.  You could even take a picture of him angry at you for daring to come to his home with this, and use that one the flier instead of the nice one.

If there is interest among other tenants in your building, you could have small claims complaint forms ready to go, needing only the other tenants’ name, unit #, and signature to file.  You DO NOT want to threaten or suggest any violence or criminal conduct against the landlord.  Granted, there may be people angry enough to do such things, but you can’t really stop that.  The idea is for people to be able to just talk to the owner directly to get past the resisting managers who refuse to do their job, or who are treating you unfairly.  In fact, the owner might have no idea how bad management is, having trusted them. He/She may be shocked at how badly the tenants have been treated, in which case you might join forces with the owner to fire and replace the managers and sue them as the common problem.