Property Management Blog

What Should Landlords Do with Mail from Past Tenants?

Pinnacle Property Management - Thursday, March 16, 2023

Have you ever looked at a pile of mail addressed to previous tenants and wondered what to do with it? Do you toss it? Forward mail to their new address? Return it to sender? Hold onto it indefinitely? It can be a confusing and frustrating situation for landlords to deal with, but there is a proper way to handle it.

In this guide, we'll explore the options available to landlords when dealing with mail from previous tenants and provide tips on handling it in a way that is responsible and beneficial for your business. 

How to Stop Mail from Previous Tenants

If you’re looking for ways to stop getting mail from previous tenants delivered to your property, there are a few things you can do. 

First, contact the post office to have mail addressed to the previous tenant forwarded. This relatively simple process requires providing some basic information, such as the former tenant's name and forwarding address. The post office will forward any remaining mail for up to one year after the tenant moves out.

Secondly, you can mark the envelopes you receive with "return to sender" or "no longer at this address". This way, when the postal carrier receives the mail, they will return it to their office and return it to the sender.

A variety of sizes and colors of envelopes

Some Commonly Asked Questions About Previous Tenant's Mail

Why Should I Be Concerned About Having a Tenant's New Address?

Having a previous tenant's new address is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it allows you to return any security deposits that haven't been collected. Additionally, if any legal action is ever taken against the former tenant, having their address will make it easier to send letters and notices as needed. 

Can I Open and Check Mail Belonging to a Previous Tenant?

Opening someone else's mail, even if delivered to your property, is illegal and can result in hefty fines or prison time. So you should always avoid opening mail belonging to a previous tenant. Instead, write “not at this address” or “return to sender” on the envelope and place it in a mailbox.

What Happens If I Don't Forward the Mail or Return It?

If you do not take proper steps to handle the mail from a previous tenant, someone may take legal action against you for negligence. Therefore, taking measures to responsibly manage your tenant's mail is essential.

Should I Fill Out a Change of Address Form for the Previous Tenant?

Filling out a change of address form for the previous tenant is a federal crime and can result in fines or prison time. The only people allowed to file a change of address form on behalf of the former tenant are an executor, guardian, or authorized agent. 

A USPS truck parked on the side of the road in a residential neighborhood

Anyone else attempting to do so will be subject to legal consequences. It is best to contact the post office and have the mail forwarded instead.

Can I Throw Away Mail from My Previous Tenant?

Throwing away mail that is not yours, even if it is addressed to a previous tenant, is illegal and can result in severe consequences. It is best to contact the post office and have the mail forwarded or return it as "no longer at this address" instead of discarding it. Landlords are not allowed to throw any mail, even if it's junk mail addressed to the previous tenant. 

What If My Former Tenant Has Passed Away?

If your former tenant has passed away, it is essential to contact the deceased's next of kin to inform them of the mail that has been received.

Another option might be time-consuming, but you may also enter your deceased tenant's name on the Direct Marketing Association website. It takes about three months for the request to be processed, and all mail addressed to that person will stop. If this doesn't work, you can also write "deceased, return to sender" on the mail's envelope and drop it back in the mailbox.

Do I Need to Hold onto Mail for an Extended Period?

No, landlords are not responsible for holding the mail they receive for the old tenant for any extended period. Once the Postal Service has been notified, it is generally best to keep any mail received until it is returned or the sender stops sending mail altogether.

The back of a mail van full of stacked boxes and packages

If you see a pattern of mail continuing to arrive for the former tenant, it may be a good idea to contact them and inform them that they should update their mailing addresses. This will help ensure that any important documents are recovered in the process. Additionally, if a former tenant refuses to fill out change of address forms, you may have grounds for legal intervention.

Role of USPS in Managing Tenant's Mail

The US Postal Service has a vital role in managing tenants' mail. The USPS has a process for managing tenants' mail when tenants move or pass away. The USPS will first look for any endorsements on the mail; if none are present, they may legally discard it. 

If there is an endorsement, like "forward," then the USPS will attempt to locate the intended recipient and reroute the mail accordingly. If the USPS is notified of a tenant's death, they will work with the next of kin to stop any further mail from being sent. 

Additionally, the USPS website allows landlords to request that all incoming mail be stopped and returned as "no longer at this address”.

Final Words

Landlords and new tenants need to understand that handling mail from previous tenants properly is essential not just for legal purposes but also to ensure that important documents are preserved. You always want to maintain a positive relationship, even after tenants have moved out.

It is also important to contact the post office and have them forward any mail received from previous tenants until it stops coming altogether. Taking these steps will help ensure that all mail is handled appropriately and that no one is subject to any penalties.

If you want to stop worrying about previous tenants’ mail altogether, let Pinnacle Property Management help you. As a full-service property management company, we take care of everything, including previous tenants’ mail. Get in touch today to learn more about our services! 

Pinnacle Property Management
CA DRE # 01905815
22700 Crenshaw Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90505
Ph: (310) 530-0606
Fax: (310) 626-9786

We are open from 8:30am to 5:00pm M-F.

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