"Owner" doesnt own rental

63 Replies

Ive been staying in this house for over 18 months. Recently did a search and found the taxes (up til 2 years ago) was paid for by a finance company, then they quit paying them. I tried to find info on this company to possibly buy the house, or atleast find out more info.  Found out this company was merged with CitiFinancial.  Cant seem to get a hold of anyone with a clue.  The guy who claims he owns the house is and never has been on any paperwork ive found on the house. Im afraid to pay the taxes, then have the house taken.  Ive looked at adverse possession, but not sure what steps i should take... "color of title" and all that. IMO this was an abandoned house.

Yes... the supposed "owner" is not the owner.  He doesn't own the house at all.  His name is on NONE of the paperwork, nor has he paid taxes on the house at any time.  But as i stated, i can not get ahold of anyone from the actual firm that owns it.  There address listed is now owned by another unrelated company, the phone number is disconnected.  They merged with citifinancial, and cant get ahold of any one from there that knows what im talking about.  Its like the property got lost in limbo and this loser took advantage.

Im just afraid to take "ownership", pay taxes, file any docs, then the original firm comes by and says "hey... get out", but at this point in time, seeing as i cant contact anyone from the original financial firm, dont see any other option.  The financial firm is on record of ownership from 1999 to date.  Although they havent paid taxes on property for 2 years now.

I just recently found all this information and havent confronted the man, because of interest to take ownership/buy the house. He has claimed he is the actual owner.  The financial company that IS on record for ownership merged with another company and i cant get ahold of.  I did research and found they have MANY properties they have not paid taxes on in recent years and some has eventually gone to county for auction.

Hiring an attorney or going to see city records office is only way to find out. 

Offer to buy and see if the guy says no. If he says yes, any title company worth their salt will find the issue.

Or (highly unethical), stop paying and see if you get an eviction notice from said owner.

I think an attorney might be best option.  Ive looked at tax records, county ownership history, and about every document i could find ha.  It has been in the same financial firms name since 1999.  1 previous tenant offered to buy the house and was turned down from this guy.  

Originally posted by @James Johnson :

I just recently found all this information and havent confronted the man, because of interest to take ownership/buy the house. He has claimed he is the actual owner.  The financial company that IS on record for ownership merged with another company and i cant get ahold of.  I did research and found they have MANY properties they have not paid taxes on in recent years and some has eventually gone to county for auction.

 How are you so sure he’s NOT the owner? Due to how I setup my ownership I used to get potential renters question if I was the owner. They’d always think they had some “gotcha” based on something they looked up. Some would ask me for my proof by supplying them my deed or tax returns. 

Uh no. If you want to lease, cool. If not, go away. 

This is just to say please make sure you’re right before confronting the guy 

Cody.. just a little fyi.  Renters ask for proof... Sec. 92.202. LANDLORD'S FAILURE TO DISCLOSE INFORMATION. (a) A landlord is liable to a tenant or a governmental body according to this subchapter if:
(1) after the tenant or government official or employee makes a request for information under Section 92.201, the landlord does not provide the information; and
(2) the landlord does not give the information to the tenant or government official or employee before the eighth day after the date the tenant, official, or employee gives the landlord written notice that the tenant, official, or employee may exercise remedies under this subchapter if the landlord does not comply with the request by the tenant, official, or employee for the information within seven days.
(b) If the tenant's lease is in writing, the lease may require the tenant's initial request for information to be written. A request by a government official or employee for information must be in writing.

A title search has shown 4 owners since 1984

Financial serv 1999

investment group 1996

marketing corp 1991

original builders 1984

I have done a little research before i came here for advice.

And i dont plan on confronting the guy.  No need.  i know hes not the owner.

Are you curious from a tenant perspective that you might be able to take over a zombie house because you think no one owns it? And that you're paying a mystery person money and being scammed?  

or are genuinely interested as a buyer to buy a possible distressed property?

There is often a back story behind ownership and tittle, (that requires attorney and title search) thats not made to make sense to a tenant or general public. 

  "Im afraid to pay the taxes, then have the house taken " why would you start paying taxes?

"company was merged with CitiFinancial. Cant seem to get a hold of anyone with a clue".  Banks  etc, will not talk to you...you will not be given a clue.

You're living in an off market possible deal, to possibly acquire...make it a duplicatable learning experience, ie, make an offer, run your numbers, get an attorney, do a title search.

Dont do wild odd things like stop paying you're rent, and start paying ownership taxes, equating, over-stepping your boundaries, disrespecting contract agreements, etc... 

Little of both Matt.  I am curious but me and my wife have been talking about making an offer for months.  Went to look up the taxes to get an estimate of value, and thats when i started digging further to find out he's not the actual owner and never has been.  Done a title search, no clue where to go from there as i cant get ahold of anyone from the real owner, a financial serv, or their parent company.

5 minutes in the courthouse and you can search the info yourself . Not rocket science . This isn’t crazy or weird . It’s very common to have a scenario where folks use llcs , trusts , land contracts ,owner financed ,silent money partners and other means to secure a property . What’s the issue ?  If the numbers work and you can get it legally, I’m failing to see why this concerns you ? There’s a dozen reasons it could be this way . None of my properties have my name listed under them and for good reason . If I had a potential tenant confront me and wanted to verify my ownership by looking at my deed I would laugh at him and inform him to go pound salt ...Neeexxxxttttt 

Dennis, the owner of record has been on record since 99.. the supposed "owner" supposedly bought it out right 5 years ago.  The financial company on record has paid taxes on it up until 2 years ago.. see the discrepancy?  If i sold a house, i sure as hell wouldn't continue to pay the taxes over the next 3 years, then stop for the next 2. "Get it legally" is what im trying to do.  But unable to get ahold of the owner, the financial service, that is no longer there is what the problem is.  As i stated before, there are several (over 20) properties in the city under their name. All but 1 in arrears in taxes (that one is valued at over $200k).  One is 4 years $2500 behind.  There have been several taken by the county and sold for auction.  Id like to take SOME kind of action before this one goes too far and taken by the county.
Originally posted by @James Johnson :

Little of both Matt.  I am curious but me and my wife have been talking about making an offer for months.  Went to look up the taxes to get an estimate of value, and thats when i started digging further to find out he's not the actual owner and never has been.  Done a title search, no clue where to go from there as i cant get ahold of anyone from the real owner, a financial serv, or their parent company.

I would approach it in a normal fashion.  Simply contact him and tell him that you and your wife really like the house and were wondering if he'd ever thought about selling it.  Leave it at that.  Any of the other information is offputting and will not be well received. 

The entity's franchise tax responsibilities ended because the entity has

ceased to exist in its state or country of formation or has ceased

doing business.  So much for contacting the owner of record lol

@James Johnson even you pay taxes the house will not be yours. There is a provision for 3/5/10 yrs for tax paying position and then take the case to litigation where court will appoint an Attorney to track down the owner . By the time all those happens , the true owner will be tracked down and you will loose the amount of tax that you have paid . 

Make your life easy and enjoy the free ride :) 

@James Johnson Please update this post and your profile to inform readers what state you and the property are in.  It makes a difference.  You have a fascinating situation.  I've worked similar situations since 2003 as a hobby.  You may find it of interest to check out my blog https://www.biggerpockets.com/member-blogs/12388-abandoned-property-adventure-on-wildside .   I like @Theresa Harris 's advice,  "Simply contact him and tell him that you and your wife really like the house and were wondering if he'd ever thought about selling it. Leave it at that."  

Only I would not leave it at that.  If the person you are paying rent to says he'll sell it to you then go on to discuss his ownership entity until you are satisfied that you understand it.  If he says he is not inclined to sell it, or not yet, or if he declines to discuss his form of ownership, then tell him directly that you're aware his name is not on the title and that he has not been paying the taxes and that you have legitimate concerns about how those facts will affect your tenancy.   

It may be that this guy is aware of the other properties and is attempting to rent them all out.  I would ask him directly about his alleged ownership until you are satisfied that you understand it, and definitely ask him when he plans to pay the past due property taxes as well.

However, even if the person you are paying rent to is not the legal owner, he still is in control of the property.  If anyone is entitled to eventual adverse possession of the property, it will be him.  So long as you pay rent, your only rights to the property flow through the landlord.  So long as you are paying rent, the landlord gets credited for your possession.  That is a well established legal principle -not likely to be different in any state.  So if you have the idea of eventually obtaining the property through adverse possession, you will need to stop paying rent.   If the landlord, won't give you clear evidence of his ownership, tell him now that you can not pay any further rent to him, until the ownership issue gets sorted out.  

If he is not the owner, and he knows what he is doing, he can evict you.  I think an eviction attempt from a scammer is highly unlikely, and easily resisted for a lengthy time.  Please consider posting your rental agreement to this thread -after redacting personally identifying information.  Let us know how it goes.

@James Johnson in my State, WA, the phrase "Color of Title" is a term of art (has specialized meaning).  It refers to a written document that purports to convey good title but that for some reason that is not apparent from reading the title document (deed) does not convey legal title (or does not convey full title).

You do not have color of title.  However, in most states color of title is not necessary to complete adverse possession.  Indiana has passed a new law requiring color of title to perfect an adverse possession, but even in Indiana, the courts have construed the law to permit adverse possession without a written document purporting to grant title.

Many states require a "Claim of Right" -which can just be that you've been in exclusive possession for the period required to claim adverse possession.

@James Johnson in regard to paying taxes, you should first know who really owns the property, but as a tenant, most courts will recognize your right to pay past due property taxes in order to preserve your tenancy.  You can then file suit against the owner of record to be reimbursed for the taxes you've paid.  Since, in this case the owner is not likely to respond, just hire a decent para-legal to prepare the documents and file them yourself.  If you file properly, including proof of service or notice by publication, you would get a judgement in your favor that can then be turned into a judicial lien on the property.  You would get repaid for the taxes + interest (12% here) , no matter who ends up with the property..

@James Johnson ,

If you have honest concerns that the house you're renting is not legitimately represented, my sincere advice is to move as soon as you can.  There are many unknown parts to the equation you presented, but there are some easy answers to other parts.

1) If your landlord owns the property, he can sell to you if he chooses, or not sell if he wants to keep the house.  Ask him.

2) If your landlord does not own the property and some unknown financial institution owns the house, the odds of this mystery financial institution selling the house directly to you (on your timeline, no less) is ZERO, NIL, and NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  If the financial institution discovers the property is being illegally rented, the mostly likely course of action is going to that any tenants (YOU, in this case) will be legally evicted - and once the property is vacant, it will be placed on the long, slow, slow, slow trail toward auction.

3) If the landlord is legally renting the house to you and you stop paying, you will most likely be evicted very soon.

4) You've mentioned several times about wanting to buy the house but not wanting to pay property taxes in case the sale is not valid.  It sounds like you might be planning to purchase the house on a Lease-To-Own contract.  Is that true?  Have you discussed with the landlord if he would even consider participating in a L2O contract?   

"Recently did a search and found the taxes (up til 2 years ago) was paid
for by a finance company, then they quit paying them. I tried to find
info on this company to possibly buy the house, or at least find out more
info. Found out this company was merged with CitiFinancial. Cant seem
to get a hold of anyone with a clue. "

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You're looking in the wrong place. Ownership goes with title, not who's paying the taxes. Go to the recorder of deeds office. Look at the chain of title. The last DEED TITLE holder is the person you should start with. Taxpayer is a red herring.