Deadbeat Landlord Disappears; What Now?
April 19, 2007 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Our landlord/property manager has disappeared. The phone number and fax are disconnected. Emails are bouncing back. The website is gone. Now what do we do?

My friends and I rented a cabin for Jan/Feb/Mar for ski season. We sent an email about a week after our lease was up that did not bounce back, but for which we did not receive a response. Now the phones, fax, email, and website are all gone, and we can't figure out what happened. How do we find the landlord to attempt to get our deposit back? How do we find out if the property management agency simply went out of business/declared for bankruptcy, rather than skip town with our (and others') deposit money? Any suggestions as to the best way to handle this?

We've considered small claims court, but we don't really know who to sue. We know the rental agent's name and last known address, but she is not the owner.

If this was simply a matter of the landlord not getting us our deposit, I would know what to do. But what do we do when we can't even contact the landlord?
posted by BloodyWallet to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If that cabin has a mailing address, you can take that to a Real Estate or Title company, and if they are willing they can give you the contact information of the property owner.

Other than that.... did you just inherit a ski cabin..?
posted by Industrial PhD at 11:04 AM on April 19, 2007

Local property records will tell you who the owner of a property is.

Your bank can tell you who cashed your check, and what account it was deposited into. Who did you write the check to? Person? Corporation? Last known address? Come on, you're omitting tons of information which you clearly know.

The rental agent can spill her guts with whatever she knows about the owner (and she can be compelled to do so if she is recalcitrant, if you file a lawsuit).

Unless you gave cash to a masked man in a dark alley, it's usually quite easy in modern society to track down people if you have a few threads on which to pull. You have tons of threads, including addresses, property records, bank records, and business associates.

It may be that the property management company was a corporation, and that it took your money and imploded. If that is the case, you should have no problem suing the owner of the property itself to recover your damages (after all, the property company is acting on behalf of the owner). If nothing else, you can put a lien on the vacation home and recover your money when it is sold.
posted by jellicle at 11:05 AM on April 19, 2007

Agreeing with jellicle. Contact the county assessors office. They will tell you who the current title holder is. If you are lucky, they have a searchable database online, like my county. If not, you're in for a trip to the county hall. If the place has been foreclosed, you'll know since the lender's name will be on the title.
posted by kc0dxh at 1:12 PM on April 19, 2007

Did you not have a written rental agreement? It should spell out who they are and, likely, who they were representing as a rental agent. It should also indicate the terms under which you're entitled to your deposit back.

If it comes town to suing you'll want to name both the rental agent and the owner they're representing.
posted by phearlez at 2:53 PM on April 19, 2007

Call the police.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2007

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