Having a tenant vacate your rental property should be a simple process. Unfortunately, it’s not always this way. After a tenant leaves, you may have to deal with the mail and belongings they’ve left behind.
Ideally, tenants always give the USPS or their old landlord their new address when they move out. However, this doesn’t always happen and it’s up to you as a landlord to figure out what to do with any mail being delivered to the address.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation or want to avoid dealing with this in the future, the experts at Windermere Property Management can help! In this guide, we’ll dive into the best way to deal with mail from previous tenants and how to avoid this situation with future renters.
Can I Open or Shred a Previous Tenant's Mail?
No, you can’t open or destroy another former tenant’s mail. Federal laws prohibit you from destroying, hiding, opening, or embezzling mail that isn’t addressed to you. Obstruction of correspondence is a felony for which you can potentially be fined or face up to five years in prison.
If you accidentally open the mail of a previous tenant, don’t worry! You likely won’t be liable. The best option, in this case, is to re-seal the mail, write “return it to the sender,” and put it back in the mailbox.
Though destroying or disposing of someone else’s mail is illegal, you, as a landlord, aren’t responsible for holding the mail that you receive for the old tenant for an extended period of time.
The best course of action is to get in touch with tenants to have them collect their mail and change their shipping address.
What Can I Do With Mail From Previous Tenants?
What happens if you’ve reached out to a previous tenant to ask them to collect their packages, but their mail is still being delivered to your property? There are a couple of things you can do to put an end to this:
Send It to Their New Address
If you know your former tenant’s address, you can forward their mail to them yourself. Just cross out the USPS barcode and their old address, write their new address, and put it in the mailbox. The mail carrier will do the rest!
It’s important to note that this practice isn’t very sustainable in the long run, as it’ll require you to put in a lot of time and effort to continuously mail your old tenants their packages.
Return the Mail
If you don’t have your former tenant’s new address, you can just leave their mail out for the postal carrier with a note that reads “Return to Sender,” “No longer at this address,” or “Moved” on the envelope or package.
In addition, if there's a barcode on the envelope, cross it out. Once you’ve done this, the post office will forward it to your tenant’s new address if they have it. If they don’t have it, they’ll return the mail to the sender.
Then, that business or individual will update their records and stop sending mail to your property. The post office will also take note of this and update their records.
Put up a Sign
If returning the mail doesn’t work, you can try leaving a note inside the mailbox that says something like, “'Former Tenant's Name' no longer lives at this address.”
If you have new tenants living on the property, you’ll want to add something such as “Please deliver mail only to 'Current Tenant’s Name'.” Most mail carriers will pay attention to this and sort out any mail addressed to the previous tenant.
Talk to the Postal Service
If the problem persists, you can speak directly to the postal service to resolve the issue. You can also go directly to your local post office and speak to the station manager. They’ll sort out the mail from your previous tenant directly.
How to Stop Receiving Mail From Previous Tenants in the Future
The best way to avoid having to deal with mail from a previous tenant in the future is to ask them to change their shipping address once they move out. It’s a reasonable request that can save you many headaches.
If you have the tenant’s new address, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands and fill out the Change of Address form for them. This isn’t a good idea.
To fill out such a form and file a change of address, you must be the previous tenant, an executor, guardian, or authorized agent. Filling out a Change of Address form without being one of these persons is a federal crime. You could be fined or go to prison.
If you’ve asked your previous tenants to fill out a Change of Address form but you’re still receiving their mail, you can reach out to them once more. If the issue persists or you don’t have their contact information, then you can return mail to sender or talk to the postal service to put an end to this issue.
Dealing with a previous tenant’s mail can be a tricky situation. You can’t simply shred or throw it away, as this could have serious legal repercussions for you.
Instead, you can send it back to the sender, forward it to the tenant’s new address, or talk directly with the postal service to resolve the issue.
If you have more questions about what to do with a tenant’s mail and possessions after they’ve moved out, contact Windermere Property Management today!
We have the experience and tools to help you deal with any of your property management needs in a simple and stress-free way.