Moving out can be a stressful time for both landlords and tenants. During this time, property owners have to schedule property inspections, send tenants their security deposit, and advertise their rental to find new tenants.
Meanwhile, renters have to pack and coordinate their move. With so much on their mind, it’s not uncommon for tenants to leave things behind when they move out. One of the biggest problems landlords face after a tenant has moved out is continuing to receive mail addressed to them.
Whether it’s junk mail or packages, dealing with mail from a former tenant can be stressful. Knowing how to deal with this problem can go a long way. To help you, the experts at Vesta Property Management have written this guide. Keep reading to discover the best practices for disposing of mail from previous tenants.
Legal Considerations Regarding Mail from Previous Tenants
As a landlord, you must familiarize yourself with many local and state laws. Its key for handling mail addressed to former tenants. After all, opening or disposing of someone else's mail without their consent is a serious offense that carries legal consequences.
The privacy of mail is protected by federal law under the United States Code, Title 18, Section 1702. According to this law, anyone who intentionally opens, destroys, or steals mail not belonging to them can face costly fines or up to five years in prison. The offender may be subject to civil lawsuits for damages.
To avoid breaching privacy and confidentiality laws, it’s crucial that you, as a landlord, know how to deal with mail addressed to former tenants. Before diving into the best ways to deal with this situation, we’ll go over what you should never do with mail from previous tenants.
If a tenant moves out and you keep receiving mail addressed to them, avoid doing the following things:
- Opening or Tampering With the Mail:. It cannot be stressed enough that you should never open or tamper with mail addressed to a former tenant without their explicit consent. Doing so is not only a breach of privacy but also a serious legal offense. If you accidentally open mail addressed to a former tenant, don’t worry! You can avoid problems by simply resealing the package and returning it to the sender.
- Ignoring the Issue: Ignoring the mail until it stops is not an ideal solution. Unclaimed mail will pile up and become a logistical headache. This could also lead to important documents being lost or misplaced, which can become a huge problem for you.
- Shredding or Disposing of the Mail: Even if it’s junk or advertisements, you should never destroy or dispose of mail addressed to a former tenant without their consent. Doing so is considered a serious offense that can have legal repercussions.
- Recycling the Mail: While it may seem like a good way to dispose of unwanted mail, you should never recycle mail addressed to a former tenant. This would be considered a form of tampering with the mail, which can have serious legal consequences.
Best Ways to Dispose of Mail from Previous Tenants
Above, we covered what you should never do with mail addressed to a former tenant. Now, we’ll go over the best ways to deal with this problem effectively.
Contact the Previous Tenants
Establishing clear communication channels with outgoing tenants can go a long way. Previous tenants make great forms of word-of-mouth advertising. Having the contact information of a former tenant can help you solve this problem more effectively.
If you continue to receive mail from a previous tenant weeks or months after they moved out, reach out to them. This way, you can set up a time and date for them to pick up their letters and packages or get their new address to forward them the mail.
You can also request that they submit a Change of Address form with the USPS to put a stop to the problem altogether.
Forward It to the Tenants’ New Address
If you have your former tenants’ new address, you can forward the mail to them. All you have to do is go to your local post office and provide them with your tenants’ new address.
The USPS will then make sure that the correspondence reaches the intended recipients. Keep in mind that this is not a definitive solution, but it can be a temporary solution until tenants update their details with relevant entities.
Create a Mail Collection System
If former tenants prefer not to share their new address with you, you can set up a time and date for them to collect their mail. However, it’s important to remember that mail can pile up rather quickly. So, you may have to designate a specific area for collecting mail addressed to your former tenants.
Keep in mind that you, as a landlord, aren’t legally required to hold mail from previous tenants for extended periods. So, inform the tenant that you will hold onto their mail for a certain period, during which they can arrange to collect it or update their address with the necessary parties.
Put Up a Sign
If the problem persists, you can put up a sign next to the mailbox that says, “[Former Tenant] no longer lives here” or “[Tenant’s Name] moved.”
This way, the post carrier won’t leave any correspondence addressed to the former tenant on your property. If they have their new address, they might even forward them the mail.
Return or Contact the Sender
If the mail is marked with a return address, you can send it back to the sender. All you have to do is write “Return to sender” somewhere visible on the package and put it back in your mailbox. Your local post carrier will take care of the rest!
If you keep receiving mail from the same sender regularly, you can contact them to let them know that the former tenant no longer lives on your property. This proactive approach can go a long way in helping you stop receiving unwanted mail.
Knowing how to deal with mail from previous tenants is an integral aspect of responsible property management. After all, you never know when such a situation may arise, so you need to be prepared to handle it efficiently.
Now that you know the legal considerations and best ways to deal with the problem, you can ensure you solve the issue quickly and remain compliant with privacy laws.
Need help dealing with mail from a previous tenant? Contact Vesta Property Management! Our team of legal experts and property managers is ready to help!