How long is an old tenant’s mail my responsibility?

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RETURN TO SENDER By: di bo diCC BY 2.0
I’m a college student currently camping out for one year in a small studio apartment. The girl who lived here before was here for five years of grad school, so naturally she still gets a lot of mail.

Most of it has trickled off in the last six months, and I feel comfortable throwing out the coupon fliers and things (although I hate the wasted paper), but at one point I got a FedEx delivery where she had ordered something online and they’d used her old address. I also got what appeared to be a Valentine card for her, with no return address. Honestly, I feel like someone who was really involved in her life would know that she doesn’t even go to this school anymore (cue Mean Girls quotes).

But at what point do I give up on reuniting a former tenant with her lost mail?


What say ye, Homies?

Comments on How long is an old tenant’s mail my responsibility?

  1. I have lived in my house for almost three years now and I still get mail for 3-4 people who used to live in my house. I used to diligently send it back with “not at the address” written on it, but three years now?? Now, I usually toss it unless it looks really really important.

  2. Like everyone else, I cross out the address line and write “No Longer at This Address, Please Return to Sender”, and leave it for the mailman to pick up. I live in Canada, so I think it’s a universal method used.

    However, I throw out coupon flyers, junk mail, and postcards from their dental office.

    But I do have a problem with something else. I own (as in – pay a mortgage) a condo, so naturally there are other owners (and renters in some cases) in my building…but I keep getting a monthly magazine for someone who lives elsewhere in the building, but the magazine has my address for delivery. I just leave the magazine out to let them pick up. But it’s getting so annoying because it’s been going on for over a year and the dingbat hasn’t changed the delivery address. I’m considering doing the same “does not live at this address” and getting it sent back. I think this girl relies on me setting her magazine out for her and doesn’t see the problem…

    • Wow, that is annoying! Maybe she did it on purpose because she doesn’t want her roommates to know what kind of magazine she is getting. 🙂

      That actually happened to my parents when I lived at home! Our neighbor was getting his porn mags delivered in our mailbox because he didn’t want his wife to find out. Once we found out, we just put the magazine in his mailbox…and then it never happened again.

  3. This happened to me at my old place. I was getting like 3 different peoples’ mail. Stuff that was obviously junk like catalogs and direct mailings, I tossed in the garbage because I didn’t figure they would miss it. I got a lot of stuff from the Veteran’s Administration for a girl who’d been in the Army, though, and I figured that was important enough that I should “return to sender/not at this address” it. Still, it kept coming, sometimes even the same pieces that I’d already sent back. I called the VA trying to let them know that they were sending this girl’s private mail (including at least one check) to the wrong address and they acted like I was trying to scam them and refused to talk to me about it at all. And unfortunately, this is the sort of town where, if I were the sort of person who wanted to fraudulently cash someone else’s check, it would not be that hard for me to do so. Finally, I went down to the main post office in person and they were able to track down the girl through a change of address form she’d filed and get her mail to her. She changed her address officially with the VA and that fixed the problem. She was also really nice about it.

    That was a case, though, of really important mail. Honestly, if it were the occasional card and mostly junk, I’d just trash it because I’m a terrible person. And if I got someone’s laptop in the mail and returned it to them only to have them be a douche about it, I would defiantly make sure the next package addressed to them that I got “accidentally” was delivered to a puddle.

  4. We’ve been in our house for a year and still get mail for the previous owner.

    The mail box is only two blocks away, so I keep writing addresse moved, return to sender on it, and sending it back.

    If there was no return address, I’d just pitch it.

  5. I have this issue too, the only catch is that I am friends with a few of the previous tenants. They’re happy to come get the mail, but I really don’t like that I need to bring it inside, sort it and store it until they get around to picking it up. I know it sounds silly, but our place is really small and it’s hard enough to keep organized without being responsible for someone else’s mail. This is kind of ranty, but it’s reminded me to send a note reminding those folks to change their addresses. I know we’re friends and I’m pretty dependable, but that doesn’t mean I want to sort and send out their mail.

  6. I get a lot of mail from the previous owner of my house, who died after being here 40 years. No forwarding address there. The only thing that makes me scratch my head is getting checks for him…

    I think the moral of the story is: fill out that mail-forwarding form when you move. And then change your address, everywhere. Don’t be that guy/girl.

  7. After my last move I sent a nice card to the new tenants with a load of labels with our new address in them, including three that said “running out of labels” on them. I included my email address and a little bit about how much we loved that flat and hoped they were happy there. The new person sent me a really sweet email and pops our post in the post every few weeks. We try to keep our our half of the bargain by changing anything that comes to us through them (we did all the major stuff but some things got forgotten).

  8. Having moved several times in the past 10 years – I gave up. I tried being kind a few times – calling a previous resident about a package or seemingly important envelope. When we moved in to our current house, the old couple left a forwarding address. I utilized that a few times, wrote ‘not at this address’ on a bunch of stuff, and now I just throw things away. Seriously, you aren’t getting paid to hold this ladies mail, even if she is your friend she needs to get her address info straight with the world and not expect you to take care of her problem!

  9. We got, and continue to get, all sorts of mail from previous residents in our home. I remember about 6 months after we moved in, the doorbell rang and the man on the doorstep demanded to know who I was. I (politely but assertively) pointed out that as he was on MY doorstep, the onus was on him to introduce himself first. With rather poor grace he did so and explained he was a private investigator, then asked after someone who I’d never heard of (we never met the last tenants). I explained they didn’t live here and he demanded again to know who I was. I told him we were the new tenants. He didn’t seem to believe me when I explained we had no forwarding address for the last tenants and was rather cross I suggested he contact our letting agency who could perhaps help him. He eventually departed, giving me dirty looks as he did so. I’m of mixed ethnicity and easily look like someone of full ethnicity, coincidentally similar ethnicity to the previous tenant. It’s not like it’s unusual round here- perhaps this PI thought I should know the whereabouts of every person of my half-ethnicity in the city?

  10. Check the law in your area. It’s illegal in Australia to dispose of someone else’s mail, according to the university accommodation’s office I live in.

  11. I have a similar problem with my house! We married and moved into our house in 2011, set up all our necessary post items to be forwarded from our parents’ addresses, and everyone was just fine. The problem arose with the daughter of the lady who owned the home before us. I will call her S. S was apparently a real nutter, tried to cheat her mother out of money, goods, food, used the house as personal storage for her stuff, her children’s stuff, and lived there completely rent-free all the while lying to her siblings about their mother’s deteriorating condition. Finally the siblings caught on, took care of their mother, and the offending freeloader was removed from the premises. The executor of the lady’s estate (another daughter) decided to sell the home, and the listing on a local realty website had the address hidden so S wouldn’t find out.

    When we went to look at the home, we saw there were no-trespassing sheets on EVERY window and EVERY door because S had tried to break in once or twice before to “get her stuff.” The Google Maps image of my home shows her… and two squad cars with 2-3 police… in broad daylight. The police warned her not to set foot onto the property again or she would be arrested for trespassing.

    The seller let us know we might continue to receive mail for this lunatic for a little while but that she would be taking care of setting things right with post office and with S. However, due to the volume of mail we STILL receive for S, it is my personal belief that she is continuing to give out our address as her own. I wonder if she still thinks she’ll be able to just waltz onto the property some day and try to kick us out of our home! Just today I received two collection notices for her, and will of course be putting “No longer at this address, please forward.”

    Thanks for the information! It was so good I thought I’d share a story in return. 🙂

  12. Oh god, this is so relevant to me right now.
    I ordered some dog clothes on eBay a few days ago, but hadn’t used the account since I moved two years ago, so it had my old address! (Every other online website I use makes sure you check your address before ordering, but nooo, not eBay! I realised a split second after what happened, but it was already too late.)
    I immediately messaged the sender, but it’s one of those huge companies in Hong Kong, so by the time they got the message it had already been sent out. And they don’t track packages, so I couldn’t just call the post office and have them redirect it.
    After freaking out for a few days, trying to figure out what to do, I decided to send a letter to my old address asking them to please forward the package to me when it arrives and I’m going to enclose $10 in a money order for the postage. But I’m worried that they’re going to ignore it or just not care :/

  13. Ugh. I have a similar problem. We rent space for our company on the 4th floor of a mill building. We were the first ones, so we became Suite 401. There are about 5 other small businesses on our floor, and none of them picked up their keys for their mailbox. So I get the mail for the rest of the floor. It’s ridiculous.
    I tried to put down that I’m not the mailbox for the floor, but the postman just circles “or current occupant.” Well, no! I’m not the current occupant of Company A at suite 402, Company A is the current occupant.
    Since nobody cares that my time is worth something, and they haven’t gotten their keys, I’ve just been throwing things away. Most of it is just junk, which I don’t think I should have to pay to throw away, but at least I’m not a personal mail carrier.

  14. Like most posts above I have a problem with previous peoples mail coming to my address. What’s even a bigger problem they are still using my address and special agents/police come to my door looking for him. The guy is a criminal, few nights ago, they woke me up at midnight with guns drawn…the guy was black that lived there, and stole a white bmw, so they came looking for him. As soon as they saw me (im white) they knew it wasn’t me so they put their guns down and told me the story. I told them i lived here for over a year at this house, and the cop said he recently renewed his drives license to this address so that’s why they came. So they were going to update it in their system. Luckily i was home when this happened, if I wasn’t they would have broken in i think. So now I just trash their mail, tired of writing anything on the envelope.

  15. There are some wordy comments in here, so I may be repeating someone. But when I bought my house in Massachusetts, the previous homeowner (a realtor himself), left us 10 manila envelopes, addressed to their new house, with his office as the return address, and a roll of stamps. When their family’s mail came to us, i shoved stuff in the envelopes (disregarding junk mail) until they were full, and then mailed then off. I did the same for our tenants when we moved to Alaska and its worked out. Nothing has really slipped through after the first year or so.


  16. Previous tenant in our place, we know, left very suddenly and did NOT tie up loose ends. Sketchy.
    Decent amount of mail always came for them.. we always returned to sender.
    Last summer, nearly a year into living there, I got a postcard-shaped envelope. No return address, but the name of someone I didn’t recognize.
    For whatever reason, I was in a really bad mood and decided, “screw it! I’m opening this!”
    So I did. Yes, yes.. I know that’s illegal.
    Inside was – I can’t make this up – a picture of a (black) penis. With the words “Thinking of you” on it.
    Not a Kodak picture with handwriting, but one that looked like it has been printed from somewhere and the words in the pic as well.
    I opened a snail mail dick pic.
    I facebook searched the name and found a religious-seeming man in our general area. I didn’t contact him.
    I learned my lesson… though a few weeks later, on the ground near out mailbox was a similar envelope.. I held it up to the light and could tell it was the same thing!

  17. Keep in mind we all are receiving mail at our past residences even if you filed a COA (change of address) – they expire!
    Just handle past tenant mail as you would your own.
    First class/priority mail is important mail that the individual needs.
    1. Check with USPS to see if there is a current COA – expired extend.
    2. If unable to extend or the individual did NOT submit a COA – contact sender and inform them of the situation. Do NOT open this mail! Find the senders contact info via the web.
    All other mail – aka junk mail
    1. Contact sender and remove the individual from their mailing list. If you tried to RTS-NOT at this address the post office will just trash it. So before YOU trash it remove them from the mailing list.
    2. If you feel uncomfortable opening this mail – find info via web. And then write RTS – NOT at this address (Mark out bar code) and place in a “blue” box for return. Your postman may refuse this mail so that is why you place it in the blue box.

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