Even if your tenants have moved out when the lease ended, there are still some important factors to consider. For instance, you may still be receiving mail from such tenants.

Sometimes, tenants forget to update their address, which can require landlords to do additional tasks for previous tenants. If you’re dealing with this issue, there are ways to manage this situation. Read our article for tips on what to do with mail intended for a former renter.

Tips to Stop Mail from Former Renters

Here are tips on what to do when mail arrives for former tenants:

Give the Mail to the Postal Carrier

When doing this, use any of the following messages on the back of the envelope:

  • Return to sender
  • No longer at this address
  • Moved

The postal carrier will send the mail back to the originating post office. Should a forwarding address appear, then the mail will be redirected to the tenant’s new address. If no new address was shared, the mail goes back to the sender.

If the mail contains a barcode, an automated system will be utilized by the post office for sorting the mail. The barcode will match the delivery address, so any message you wrote on the envelope will be overridden by the barcode-encoded address. What landlords can do is mark the barcode and write the phrase, “Not at this address” next to it. Doing this can lead to the post office system categorizing the mail as “undeliverable”.

letters varying in size inside a black, open mailbox

If the mail gets routed back to the sender, the address can be updated to the new one and the mail can be delivered to the current address of the tenant. The post office can then perform a record update to ensure that all the succeeding mail is delivered to the present address.

Leave a Message in the Mailbox

Scribble a friendly note inside the mailbox of the former occupant with “Former Renter (name) is no longer living in this address, please leave mail for Current Renter (name) only.” Upon seeing this message, mail carriers are likely to make note of the change.

Leave a Return to Sender Message

If you find that the mail continues to be delivered despite leaving a clear message of “Return to Sender” to the mail carrier, it’s time to be more direct. Speak respectfully to the mail carrier or head to the post office to directly inform the Postmaster.

Q&A About Receiving Past Tenants’ Mail

The following are some common questions asked regarding the handling of a former tenant’s mail:

Is It Required to Learn the New Address of a Previous Renter?

Yes. Aside from redirecting mail intended for a previous tenant, it’s vital to know the forwarding address to send back the security deposit. If any legal issues come up, you’re also obliged to send letters and notifications to the former renter, as required by a small claims court. Not knowing the address will make it difficult for you to comply with this directive.

a blank envelope with a red pencil on top

Can a Landlord Open, Tear, or Discard a Previous Renter’s Mail?

Legally, landlords are not allowed to read, destroy, or throw away the mail of former tenants. This can lead to serving a prison sentence of five years or paying a steep penalty since going through someone’s mail is a crime

Can Landlords Fill Out a Change of Address Form on Behalf of a Renter?

The guidelines are strict for completing a form of Change of Address. Only executors, guardians, and authorized agents are entitled to do so. If a person besides the aforementioned decides to fill out the form, then this counts as a federal crime, which could result in a prison sentence or a heavy fine.

What Should be Done if a Former Tenant is Deceased?

If a tenant has passed away, the family may forget to attend to their mail. In this situation, landlords can search the Direct Marketing Association website and list the name of the deceased renter.

Typically, an update will be made in about three months. Landlords can also opt to write the message, “Deceased, Return to Sender” in the mail. If the mail continues to arrive, you can speak with the mail carrier or visit the Postmaster to inform them. You can also contact the companies sending the mail but this can require a lot of time.

hand placing yellow envelope into a silver mailbox

Can You Discard Mail from Previous Renters?

When renting out a property, neither the landlord nor new renter, are permitted to throw away or destroy mail intended for a former tenant. Under the law, this constitutes a federal offense. It does not matter whether it’s junk mail, it’s still covered and protected under the law. However, it does not mean that landlords are bound to hold the mail indefinitely. If the former tenant does not fill out a Change of Address form, you can ask for legal assistance.

What to Do To Stop the Receipt of Mail from Previous Renters?

Landlords have several ways to keep from receiving the mail of former tenants. They can:

  • Write the new address of a previous renter to forward the mail
  • Write“Moved” or leave a message for the mail carrier, explaining that the renter has transferred to another residence

How USPS Can Help

Even if landlords are not permitted to throw away the mail addressed to their previous renters, United States Postal Service can reroute letters that contain the message, “Not at this address”. After the mail is labeled undeliverable by USPS, it can legally be destroyed as long as there are no endorsements provided on the mail.

Bottom Line

Mail delivered for previous renters can be a headache, but following the steps above can make this situation easier for landlords to manage. The most essential thing is to ensure that the mail is safe and untampered to avoid being subjected to fines. If you’re seeking a trusted property manager to help you handle these tricky situations, contact Brentwood Square Management Services today!