How to Avoid Mail Tampering Legal Problems

Knowing how to properly handle mail intended for a tenant, past or present, can help property owners and their future tenants avoid unwanted legal trouble. There are serious legal implications for mishandling a tenant’s mail. But sometimes, mail from former or even current tenants just keeps coming. In such situations, property owners must take appropriate steps to legally handle situations of excessive or unwanted mail.

Grey mailbox with letters coming out

When a tenant moves out or leaves the property for long periods of time, what to do with their mail can quickly become a time-consuming hassle. Some tenants move out without providing a forwarding address or may go on vacation or travel for long periods of time without requesting an official hold from the local post office. When mail for an absent or former tenant is piling up, property owners must take action to prevent a small nuisance from becoming a big legal problem.

The United States government takes the matter of mail delivery very seriously. It is common knowledge that under our current postal system, a citizen’s mail is considered personal property. It is delivered to them by authorized mail carriers and is intended only for those to whom the mail is addressed.

Under federal law, taking or moving mail from the intended delivery location is considered a felony offense. So is preventing delivery by withholding a tenant’s mail, as well as opening, throwing away, or destroying mail not addressed to you. Known as mail tampering, any of these acts may result in criminal charges, fines, and even jail time.

So what should a property owner do to curb the tide of unwanted mail and prevent future tenants from tampering with former tenant’s mail? Because mail falls under the definition of personal property, it must be handled carefully.

For example, if a tenant has moved out, a property owner could instruct a current tenant to write “return to sender” on the envelope and place it back in the mailbox for collection. Property owners could also write a note to the mail carrier, informing them that the addressee is no longer at the address and request that mail delivery to them stop.

Old fashioned letter plate for mail

However, if the tenant is currently under a lease but simply absent from the property for a vacation or other reason, handling mail delivery can become a bit more difficult. The best way to handle mail delivery during an extended absence is for the addressee to contact their local post office themselves and request a hold. If a tenant has failed to do so, the mail will continue to pile up, creating a potential legal nightmare for property owners.

If a property owner collects and keeps the mail for the tenant and that mail becomes lost or damaged, the tenant could potentially accuse an owner of mail tampering. In such circumstances, the best thing for a property owner to do is to contact the Postmaster of the local US Post Office and request that mail delivery be temporarily suspended. If they are unable to deliver mail, usually a post office will hold the person’s mail at the office until they come and pick it up in person.

Dealing with a hassle like mail delivery is not complicated, but it takes time. For property investors, time is one of your most valuable assets. Protect it by hiring Real Property Management to assist with tenant mail delivery problems and all other aspects of tenant relations.

We can handle all of a property’s needs, which includes everything from the basic day-to-day tasks to the more unusual situations. With Real Property Management on the job, you can be confident that your tenants, and your property, are being professionally and legally cared for.

For more information, please contact your nearest Real Property Management office.

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