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updated: 5/22/2011 8:17 AM

Law talk: How to finds a property owner

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Q. There is a house in my neighborhood I am interested in purchasing. The woman who lived there died in December and I haven't seen anyone at the house since. How can I find out who is in charge of the home and whether or not it might be for sale?

A. The property may be subject to probate proceedings, which could explain the lack of activity. Possibly the family is still deciding what to do and possibly there is no family and nothing is happening because there is no one to make it happen.

One suggestion would be to write a letter to the prior owner addressed to the property. If someone is in charge of the decedent's affairs, that person is probably receiving her mail. Indicate in the letter you are interested in purchasing the property and provide contact information. If you don't receive a response, you will probably need to wait until you see the for sale sign.

Q. There is a piece of property in my neighborhood that no one seems to own. The property is adjacent to a park, but when I talk to the village they tell me this parcel is not part of the park, although people who use the park use this parcel as if it was part of the park. Is there a way to find out if this is public or private property and if private, who owns it?

A. Each village and/or county has maps, often referred to as Sidwells, that depict all the parcels in the village/county with the corresponding tax identification number. Start with the village and ask to see the maps covering the park area. If the village does not possess the maps, go the county offices.

With the map, you should be able to determine the tax index number. With that number, either through the county treasurer's website or at the county treasurer's offices, you should be able to determine the party paying taxes on the property. You could also go to the county recorder's offices or website to learn who owns the property.

If there is no tax index number assigned to the property, it is probably public property.

Q. I signed a one-year lease last May, which ends at the end of this month. I would like to stay but the landlord told me he is not renewing the lease. I have not received anything in writing from him saying he would not renew the lease. Does he have the right to terminate the lease without giving me any notice?

A. The landlord is not terminating your lease, he is electing not to enter into another lease with you. These are two entirely different situations.

Read your lease. Some leases do provide that one or both parties must give written notice in the event the other party is electing not to continue with the tenancy. Absent that language in your lease, the lease is up at the end of May along with your legal right to occupy the property.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to or call (847) 359-8983.