As a landlord, it's important to have a clear understanding of what you should do with mail addressed to tenants who have already moved out of your rental unit. The first and most obvious option is to forward the mail to the tenant's new address.
The easiest way to do this is to write "Return to Sender" on the envelope and include the tenant's new address. The post office will then forward the mail to the correct address. Alternatively, you can contact the post office and request a mail forwarding service for your former tenant. This option is easy if you have the tenants’ new forwarding address.
What if your tenant didn’t provide their new address? After the lease term ends, tenants who move out of the property should provide landlords with a new forwarding address.
Tenants are also expected to give the same to USPS so that mail addressed to their previous rental unit will be forwarded to their new address. However, tenants who have already moved out of a rental property sometimes forget to do so.
Landlords are expected to handle former tenants’ mail properly, as failing to do so can result in legal consequences for you and inconvenience for your former tenants. Here are some steps that you should follow to ensure that you handle mail for your former tenants correctly:
Contact the Tenant
If you have the contact information of your former tenant, it's a good idea to reach out to the renter and inform them that they have mail that needs to be collected.
You can call or email them and let them know they have mail waiting for them at your property. If they live close by, you can also arrange a time for them to come and collect their mail.
Hold the Mail
If you can’t forward the mail or contact the tenant, you can hold onto the mail for a certain period. However, you should only do this for a short period of time, as holding onto mail for too long can result in legal issues. It’s important to include a provision in your lease agreement about this policy to set expectations clearly.
Return to Sender
If you are unable to forward or hold onto the mail, or contact the tenant, the best course of action is to return the mail to the sender. Write "Return to Sender" on the envelope and put it into a mailbox. This will inform the sender that the intended recipient is no longer at the address.
Do Not Open or Tamper with Your Tenant’s Mail
It's important to note that opening or tampering with someone else's mail is illegal. As a landlord, you should not open any mail not addressed to you, even if it is addressed to your property.
Make sure that you handle mail for your former tenants in a respectful manner that follows legal regulations.
Mark the Mail as "Not at This Address" or “Moved”
If the previous tenant has not provided a forwarding address and you can’t return the mail to the sender, you can mark the mail as "not at this address" or “moved.” Doing this will inform the post office that the recipient is no longer living in your rental unit. Usually, the post office will attempt to update their records so you will no longer receive mail for your previous tenant.
Leave a Note On or In the Mailbox
You also have the option to leave a friendly note on or inside your mailbox informing the postal worker that your former tenant no longer lives at the address. You can write the note using the following format.
[Name of former tenant] no longer lives at this address. Please only deliver mail addressed to [name of your current tenant(s)].
Important Things to Remember When Handling Your Former Tenants’ Mail
Don’t open, destroy, or throw out the mail: It is illegal to open, shred or destroy, and/or throw out your previous tenants’ mail even if they no longer live at the property. If you commit these actions, you may end up serving at least five years in prison and paying hefty fines.
Don’t fill out a change of address on behalf of your tenant: Only an executor, guardian, or authorized agent is allowed to file a change of address on behalf of another individual.
If you fill out a change of address without proper authority, you could go to prison or be fined for committing a crime.
Write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the mail if the former tenant is deceased: If your former tenant passed away, you can write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the mail or speak with your mail carrier. You can also go to your local post office and inform the Postmaster that your former tenant is recently deceased.
Update your rental agreement: Make sure your lease agreements include a clause requiring tenants to provide a forwarding address when they move out. This will help ensure you have the information you need to forward mail to the tenant's new address after they move out.
Getting your tenant’s new forwarding address is crucial because you need it to send any remaining security deposit funds. Moreover, you need this address in case of any possible disputes or legal actions that could result in you attending small claims court after the tenants move out.
Going to court requires notices and letters to be sent to the parties involved, including your former tenants.
Seek help from the United States Postal Service (USPS): While it’s illegal for individuals to ignore or destroy mail addressed to someone else, USPS can legally discard mail when it is returned with a “not at this address” label and is deemed undeliverable.
There are several ways landlords can forward mail addressed to previous tenants. By following the above tips, landlords can help avoid legal issues and ensure that their tenants receive their mail.
Working with a professional property management company can ensure you won’t have to deal with this kind of trouble yourself. To access top-tier property management services, reach out to the experts at Taylor Street Property Management.