By Lydia Blair
Remember privacy? It’s what most Americans enjoyed a few decades ago. Today, it’s elusive and rare. It’s simple for any of us to find just about anyone with a few clicks on a keyboard.
In an effort to reduce the solicitations for carpet cleaning, bogus tax filing services, mortgage insurance scams and such, I tried to make the information on my recent home purchase a little more private. The result was somewhat effective.
How do these companies and salespeople find out you’ve purchased a property? It’s highly unlikely that they got it from the title company or real estate broker. We don’t share information with third parties unless we must. Government entities are about the only ones we disclose details.
However, property owner information is public and online in Texas. Our county tax appraisal sites allow people to search the owner of a property by property address or owner name. It’s pretty hard to make your ownership information private on those county web sites. But, I’ll explain how below:
County web sites aren’t typically the source for the first wave of solicitations. The updating of owner information on public county web sites can take months.
Most of the junk mail will first come from folks who find you when you turn on your utilities. That’s the first line of defense for your privacy.
Place privacy on all of your utility accounts. That includes water, gas, and electricity. Chapter 182 of the Texas Utilities Code (subchapter B) requires public utility companies to make your personal information confidential if you request it. It may involve filling out a form, but it will keep the public (and scammers) from obtaining your address, phone number and social security number.
Call or look up your city’s utility provider and ask how to do this. In Dallas, the form to make your water account confidential is available online here.
Atmos Energy provides gas service to Dallas and a quick phone call to them gives you the opportunity to place a passcode on your account to prevent your information from being shared with third parties. For confidentiality on your electric account, contact your electricity service provider.
Request confidentiality on your mortgage account. Most mortgage companies (or mortgage servicing companies) will share or sell your information with “affiliated or non-affiliated third parties” for purposes of offering you additional products. You can ‘opt out’ of allowing them to share your personal information. Just contact them.
Become one of the select few to make your information private on your county appraisal and tax sites. There are basically three ways to do that:
- Work as a judge or peace officer. These folks may omit their residence address in lieu of the courthouse address where they serve.
- Show proof that you are a certified participant in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) for victims of family violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- Create a trust or entity and place the property under that name instead of your own.
If you have a tip on how to add more privacy to your property ownership information, please share it with the rest of us.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem.
Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Carlisle Title, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.