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Why isn't City Assessing searchable by owner anymore?
By BB from Dot on Mon, 10/18/2021 - 3:14pm
Until fairly recently it was possible to search the City of Boston's assessing site by owner's name. Now it seems to only be searchable by address, which is a hindrance if one is trying to find out how much property someone (such as an absentee landlord) owns.
Does anyone know why this was changed?
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I can say this much
According to the Wayback Machine, between June 8 and 12, 2020 they removed name from the search options, though by "options" I mean examples. That said, I've had issues searching for owners before that.
It's off to Suffolk Deeds for you.
Which has 38 pages for the person I am looking for. Yikes!
It's a pain to get to what you want through them, as anything that is filed with their office is scanned as part of a separate file. But it's what we have.
I guess we can be thankful that we can still track down the owner of a particular property, which is a more important thing.
Oh this is interesting.
The form element for "owner" is still there in the markup, but it's commented out. The form uses `GET` requests (not `POST`) so it's possible to pass a value directly in the URL that will be processed.
Unfortunately, it looks like something was changed in the backend - or perhaps more likely, broken, which prompted them to comment out the form field - because it doesn't give the expected results. It's definitely being processed though because passing `owner` changes the results.
The results are just unordered
It's caching results by query, but if you change from one non-existent name to another, that invalidates the cache, so you just end up with a different ordering of names.
That said, a programmer could pretty easily write a script to scrape this DB and offer it for download. There's a clear xxyyyyyzzz pattern to the parcel IDs, and I bet they increment within each section, so you could probably enumerate all parcel IDs. Alternatively, you could get a street listing and perform searches for every [single digit] [street name] combination and grab the results. (That would take far fewer requests and would be less likely to get you blocked.)