When the time comes for tenants to leave your rental, things can get hectic, especially if they were long-term tenants. After all, arranging the move and ensuring everything in the property is in good condition can be stressful and time-consuming for your renters. That’s why it’s not uncommon for tenants to leave things behind upon their departure.

An issue that many landlords face is having to deal with mail from previous tenants. Before moving, renters should inform the USPS of their upcoming address change. Unfortunately, they don’t always do this. So, their landlord ends up having to deal with any letters, packages, or documents addressed to them.

Knowing what to do with mail from previous tenants is crucial, as opening or destroying mail not addressed to you can lead to serious legal trouble. Luckily, the experts at DRP Management are here to help you! In this guide, we’ll go over the various ways and considerations for effectively dealing with mail from previous tenants.

What Not to Do with Mail from Previous Tenants

Before learning how to deal with mail from previous tenants, it’s important that you know what not to do. Here are some things to keep in mind if you ever receive a package addressed to a former renter:

• Don’t throw it away
• Don’t open it
• Don’t destroy it
• Don’t hide it

The previous actions would be considered an obstruction of correspondence, which is illegal in all states. If you destroy, hide, open, or embezzle a previous tenant’s mail, you could face a pricey fine or up to five years in prison.

person holding brown package

Another thing you should never do is fill out a Change of Address form for your tenants. Even if you have their new address, you can only request a change of address at your local postal office if you’re an authorized agent. Otherwise, you could be fined or even face some time in prison.

What Can I Do If I Accidentally Opened Mail from Previous Tenants?

Opening mail not addressed to you is often a crime. But you should worry if you’ve opened a previous tenant’s mail by accident, as you’re not likely to be liable.

But, once you’ve noticed your error, it’s important that you re-seal the package or envelope. Then, write “return to sender” where it’s easily visible and leave it in the mailbox. USPS will take care of the rest!

What to Do with Mail from Previous Tenants

Landlords are not legally required to hold former tenants’ mail for an extended period. Storing all letters and packages that are sent to your address can be inconvenient and unsustainable in the long run. Here are four things you can do instead:

Contact the Former Tenant

If you have your previous tenants’ contact information, give them a call or send them a quick text letting them know you’ve received mail addressed to them. This is where having a good landlord-tenant relationship and proper communication can help.

person in suit talking on the phone in an office

This way, you can schedule a time for them to pick up their package, or they can give you their new address so you can send it forward. It’s also important to ask them to fill out a Change of Address form with the USPS to avoid this issue in moving forward.

Return to Sender

If you cannot contact your previous tenant and don’t have their new address, it’s best to return the package. You can do this by simply writing “Return to sender” in the package and putting it back in the mailbox. The post carrier will ensure the package is sent to your tenants’ new address or back to the sender if they don’t have their address on file.

Put Up a Sign

If you’re receiving too many packages addressed to a previous tenant, you can put up a sign in the mailbox that says, “(Tenant’s name) no longer lives here.” You can do this even if the rental is closed for renovations or the like.

This saves you the time to write “Return to sender” on every package or letter but the result will be the same. Just make sure that your sign is in a visible spot and that it’s not displaced or damaged as time goes on.

Contact Postal Services

Talking to your mail carrier or the station manager at your local post office is a simple way to stop receiving unwanted mail addressed to previous tenants. After you’ve let them know the former tenant no longer lives in your property, they’ll add it to their file to ensure you stop receiving any mail addressed to them.

person looking at packages in a post office

As you can see, dealing with mail addressed to a former tenant is not complicated. However, writing “Return to Sender” on every package or contacting postal services can be annoying and time-consuming. That’s why it’s better to take a preventive approach to avoid this issue.

So, before their lease is up, make sure to remind tenants to fill out the Change of Address form at your local post office. Also, let them know how you’ll be dealing with any mail addressed to them you receive after they move out. This can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Bottom Line

Dealing with mail addressed to someone else can be rather annoying. Unfortunately, this issue is not uncommon for landlords, as many tenants forget to fill out a Change of Address form with the USPS before moving out.

Now, you know that destroying and disposing of mail from a previous tenant is not the right course of action, as this can lead to serious legal repercussions like pricey fines.

Instead, you can return the packages to the sender, forward them to your tenant’s new residence, or contact postal services to have them deal with the problem. While time-consuming, these actions will solve the issue while keeping you safe from liabilities.

Do you need help to deal with mail from previous tenants? Do you want to learn how to keep your property protected and in good condition when tenants leave? Contact DRP Management today! With over a decade of experience, you can rest assured that your rental will be in good hands with us.