What to do with mail for a previous resident?

You are probably frustrated about receiving bundles of mail addressed to somebody else. Getting past unwanted junk mail to reach for your own can be understandably difficult. The good news is that there are ways to stop receiving mail addressed to a previous resident.

Image of a mailbox

Care to mention “not at this address” on the outside of the envelopes

Sometimes, this is all you need to do. Collect each envelope in your mailbox that belongs to the previous resident and write “not at this address” or “return to sender”. Then drop those mails into any outgoing mailbox. 

This mention should be enough for your mail carrier to understand that the receiver does not live at this address. This would ascertain that the mentioned mail is delivered back to their respective senders. You can then hope that they will update their addressee information.

This solution will work swiftly for mails coming from small enterprises and businesses. The same holds for individual persons who may be known contacts of the previous resident. Larger corporations, however, update their addresses based on the National Change of Address database.

Cross out every barcode on the envelope

Mentioning “return to the sender” may not work if the mail sender is a large corporation and doesn’t pay attention to such mails. Crossing out the barcode on the envelope may solve this problem. 

The United States Postal Service uses an automated system to sort the mail before delivering it. Our postal system’s barcode dependent automated sorting may try to re-deliver the mail to your address even with the “not at this address” note. However, if you cross out the barcode and write “not at this address” on the envelope, that would automatically make the postal system label this mail as ‘undeliverable’. 

Stick a note on your mailbox

Write down a small note that says “[previous resident’s name] does not live here”. After reading the note, the mail carrier should ideally check for any mail addressed to the previous resident and not deliver that mail to you. 

If the small note doesn’t work, try to make the note elaborate. Make sure that your note is within the visual range of the mailbox so that the mail carrier can clearly see it. Additionally, make sure that your note is legible. 

Talk to your mail carrier about the issue in-person

This may be the easiest method of solving this problem. If you come across the person delivering the mail, communicate this problem directly to them. Politely ask them to stop delivering any mail addressed to a previous resident’s name to your address. You could also show them the mail which you may have previously received. 

Addressing your problem to the mail carrier might make them consider it and act on it. They could look deeply into the matter and check if the previous resident has filed for any change of address. 

If talking to the mail carrier doesn’t solve your problem, you could address this issue to your local post office’s station manager. 

Don’t accidentally commit a crime related to someone else’s mail 

Most of the mail you may receive addressed to a previous resident may be junk mail. However, don’t assume that all of it is unimportant. It is not okay to meddle with somebody else’s mail even when it is delivered to your address. 

You should never open a mail addressed to someone else

The U.S. law considers this act a federal offense. If you open and read any mail that is not addressed to you, you could be punished to varying degrees based on the extent of damage it could cause. In simple words, the law may consider opening someone else’s mail as theft.

In case you were not paying attention when sorting through your mail and accidentally opened a previous resident’s mail, follow these steps: 

  • Use tape to fix the envelope as neatly as possible.
  • Mention “not at this address” or “return to sender” upon the envelope.
  • Put the mail back into the mailbox. 

Try not to obstruct the delivery of mail to the concerned person. They might be as much worried as you are frustrated about the sender delivering their mail to your address.

Try not to discard somebody else’s mail

Discarding a mail addressed to a previous resident could lead to a recurring problem. You may continue to get the mail and the previous resident may never get the mail for them. This won’t help any of you.

Don’t submit a change of address form on behalf of a previous resident

You may think this is the most obvious thing to do. However, doing so may be unlawful. Instead, you can inform the previous resident to do it if you know them. 

Only the previous resident, their guardian, or an officer authorized for the job can file a change of address. If you do it on their behalf, they will be notified via mail at their current address. The previous resident could take serious action against you for filling out a form without their knowledge.

The solutions listed here should stop the mail addressed to a previous resident for most of you. Post offices and mail carriers generally do pay attention to the mentions on the envelope.

Taking efforts to stop the mail addressed to a previous resident may not be a task you would want to spend your time on. However, do for them what you would want someone else to do for you.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: