Dear PoPville – How Do I Get the Previous Tenant’s Mail to Stop Coming?

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

Dear PoPville,

Two years ago, I bought a fabulous home. The previous homeowner (whom I only met once, at the closing) never bothered to request mail forwarding/change of address service from the post office, and as a result, I’m still getting his mail daily–I’m not just talking about Wine of the Month catalogs and ads, but things like his 401(k) statements, tax bills, health insurance cards, etc. I’ve tried posting a sign for the postal carrier (who seems to change every week) not to deliver this person’s mail to my box, but that has had little to no effect. I’m getting sick of writing “return to sender/not at this address/please forward” on dozens of items (for 2 years!), but I don’t believe I have the right to request forwarding someone else’s mail from USPS (and I also don’t have his forwarding address). Any advice from others who may have dealt with a similar situation?

51 Comment

  • throw the mail out. Seriously its been two years and if this fool isn’t wondering where is 401k is then its not your problem.

    • I have the same problem…going on three years now. I’ll never understand how someone wouldn’t notice all the mail they’re missing. I haven’t had much luck with the post office (but I’m going to look into the form JB mentioned). I know it’s a hassle, but I’ve had more success directly contacting the organizations sending the mail and asking them to stop.

      PS. M. Wardian: if you’re out there, please update your address. 🙂

    • Emmaleigh504

      I agree. After 2 years they don’t care, so why should you?

      Speaking of mail, my mail man is AWESOME! I just have to brag about him. In November I went out of town for a funeral at the last minute & forgot to stop my mail. After a few days he asked my apartment manager if I was ok, because I hadn’t checked my mail. Then my apartment manager contacted me. I have the best mail carrier in the city.

  • my postal carrier had a form that asked for the names of the persons you wanted mail delivered to at that address – he wouldn’t deliver mail for anyone else after receiving that form. might be worth trying!

  • Get a “Return to Sender” stamp so you don’t have to keep writing it?

  • We have the same problem – our predecessors were running all kinds of scams and we still get letters from credit agencies and insurance agencies addressed to them all the time (three years after buying the house) My husband has called a few of the senders directly (like the dialysis center that was sending bills to our house every week or so) and explained the situation, which seemed to work.

  • I had a similar problem when I bought a house that had formerly been a group house.

    Originally I was forwarding everything to the seller, who had been the tenants’ landlady… but I don’t think she was sending any of it to them.

    Finally, in desperation I tried tracking down the individual tenants on Facebook. (Fortunately they had distinctive names.)

    Did your settlement documents have this person’s new address? I would try that and/or looking him/her up on Facebook.

    • My house was also a former group home. My husband and I have the exact same problem. We’ve been getting a lot mail for several past residents for the past 2 years. We have tried various tricks, but haven’t had any luck.

  • I’m having this problem in my apartment building too. I’m receiving mail for at least three different people. And important things, too. Who doesn’t forward their mail?!

    • I think that the USPS forwarding system expires after six months. Also, sometimes things slip through even though the forwarding system is in place. I’ve had that happen with several roommates who moved out. Luckily for them, we’re friends so I just forward it to them myself.

      • When I moved between DC addresses, I filled out a change of address form and even the confirmation was sent to my old address. During the initial 6 months, my old roommate constantly got mail for me. At my new address, despite the fact that both the mail and mailbox are clearly labeled with apartment numbers, all the mail goes to the upstairs neighbor 9 times out of 10. Maybe I just have bad mail karma, but this seems to be general DCPS incompetence.

    • To be fair, having moved less than a year ago, my old postal carrier has been DREADFUL about actually forwarding my mail (and yes, I filled out a form). Called numerous times to complain. Was told every time that they’d talk to my carrier. Finally have admitted defeat. One piece of mail has been forwarded in ten months time.

      • it is not the carriers responsibility. it shouldn’t even make it to the carriers bag. you need to go higher up.

    • At this apartment complex we actually have our tenants not to put the unwanted mail on the mailbox top so it blows all over the courtyard but to simply throw it away along with all the ads we get every Wednesday.
      There is nothing illegal about throwing mail away that is addressed to your apartment/house. As with most people “mail” is the last thing they think about when they move from apartment to apartment complex especially if they are being evicted or their house has been foreclosed on. say if you have been living there more than 2 months trash it.

  • Kindling?

  • I’ve printed up labels that say “not at this address,” and I slap them on each piece of mail I get for someone else, then put them back in the mail. It usually works, because frankly, most of the people/companies sending the mail don’t want to send it to the wrong address.

  • The mail never stops! It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There’s never a letup, it’s relentless. Every day it piles up more and more, and you gotta get it out, but the more you get out, the more keeps coming in! And then the bar code reader breaks! And then it’s Publisher’s Clearinghouse Day!

  • same thing here, going on 2 years. I used to write “return to sender” on every piece and place it back in my mailbox, but the mail carrier keeps bringing it and I just throw it right in the trash, jury summons, tax documents, speeding tickets…all of it.

  • I had great success with the flip side of this problem. I forwarded my mail to my second home, but then after the 6 months they stopped forwarding and started to place a yellow return to sender at the Post Office for mail that was for me but was headed to my first house (which I still own). I had to call the supervisor at the mail center where your mail ends up before the mailman puts it in his bag. She was a great help and after a few more follow ups to make sure the message was heard loud and clear, they began not putting a return to sender stamp on it and letting it pass through.

    SO — figure out by contacting the local Post Office for your neighborhood which facility/group handles all the mail. Then call the place, get the supervisor for the route. Get their fax number. Put your request in writing and follow up to make sure it has sunk in. Would be something along the lines of — Please return to sender all mail sent to my address which has the recipient name of XYZ. They no longer live at this address. The only residents at this address are XYZ.”

  • Ten years later!!!! I still get Christmas cards addressed to the lady who owned the house before I bought it. I just toss ’em now.

    • You win. I thought I was going to take the prize, with near-daily mail 6.5 years after buying the place. And I think the previous owner (who had been here 30 years) must have been renting out rooms or something, because there are at least four unrelated names on the mail I keep getting.

      In addition to the catalogs for plus-sized ladies, I get their jury summons, bill collectors, child support orders, tax documents… For the first year, I wrote “not at this address” and religiously returned each piece. For the second, sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. Since then, all of it goes straight in the trash.

  • We’re going on 6 years of getting mail for the former tenants of our house. W2s and stuff like that, even. I have recently started throwing away everything that’s of any lesser importance than a W2. I give up.

  • RTS

    Addressee not at this address

  • Had/have this problem for the past two years and it is so annoying to be sure! For anything clearly not important, I just toss it – flyers and catalogs. Anything looking to be important (or that says confidential), I return to sender. Trust me – I know how annoying this is to do each and every time. I’m not sure if the problem is with the mail carrier or the people sending out the mail. Well, actually, the problem is with the nim-wit who won’t do a change-of-address. Because I am who I am, I will still return to sender anything of seeming importance. However, I have wrote notes to the sender to stop sending mail because said person is not at this address. I had to do this every other day for a few weeks but a couple of them finally stopped, for now at least.

    Not sure what more you can do. I was told that after 2 years, you should be able to toss everything. I can’t quite do that but I’m getting pretty close to, as it really is annoying.

  • tonyr

    I keep getting mail for (name redacted) from the “Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for DC”, inter alia. I do wonder if, at some point, a SWAT team is going to break down my door and drag me away.

    • Some people don’t foward because they don’t want to be found. A few months after we moved into our house ( a flip job that had been vacant for long time) we got a knock on door on a sat morning from Child Protective Services to investigate a complaint against someone with the last known address of our house. She was quite pleasant and we did have to show her IDs to prove we were not the family she was looking for. I still get random pieces of mail from previous owners and I just toss it. I am impressed at the effort so many people make to find owners of lost mail!

    • I had this same type of mail coming to my house and was also awoken several times at 6 a.m. by police looking for the offender. The police told me that I should open the mail and call the listed office to inform them that said offender no longer resides at the address on file. The police may come, at unfortunate hours, to verify this information.

  • ha ha we have been doing this for 3 yrs. the funny part is if we post the ‘return to sender’ mail in the mailbox on our block the same letter gets delivered back to us. So now we have to blackout our address and the barcode so our mailman doesn’t deliver it back to us.

    • If you block out your address and bar code, then write “return to sender” on the envelope, how will the sender ever know to drop your address since they will be unable to see it? I don’t get the point. Seems like just throwing it away would have the same result.

  • PDleftMtP

    A stamp is a great idea. I’m getting one.

  • i used to give the mail to the carrier. on a couple occasions it was actually resent back to me even after i had tried to correct their mistake. now, i open the mail and read it! i have received and used a couple promotional coupons that probably would have gone to waste otherwise. yes, i know its mail fraud, but who loses? it is unlikely that the mail would have found the addressee. the post office gets to pare its ridiculous losses a tiny bit. i am entertained. its win-win-win.

    • Those of you who open and use people’s mail or throw it away with no concern for others are probably the one’s who cheat on their taxes or don’t pay them at all! SHAME ON YOU!! CATSTER, MATT91, Turn off Tune in…to name a few!!

      • Really? Come on now. Catalogues – please. These are mass-mailings. The address line even states it. It is usually addressed to “specific person/name.” The next line says “or current resident”. It’s this line precisely that gives current resident the right to toss away former resident’s mail away or whatever they please to do with it (e.g. use it as kindling for fires).

  • God bless ya for being a kind caring soul that cares about it when most people either would not or would take advantage of it by opening the mail to see what they could scam. The world needs more people like you.

    Now that said, considering the over generous time frame the simplest answer is the best, pitch it. If he don’t care after all this time you should not care. It should not take up time in your day or your thoughts at this point.

    Thanks for being you and doing the right thing, your reward is being giving the OK to pitch the mail that is not yours. : )

  • It’s ILLEGAL to open US Mail that is not addressed to you including your spouse’s or children’s mail. It is also ILLEGAL to or throw away any US mail that is not addressed to you.

    As a former US Mail carrier, you are required to bring all mail to your carrier or better yet to take it to the Post Office nearest you and hand it over only to a supervisor or Post Master to ensure that you will not receive previous renter/owners mail.

    Under US laws, if you want to receive mail – a free service to you, you must obey the US Postal laws. Otherwise use another service like Fedex or UPS to get your mail. The US Postal Service is a quasi-governmental agency that makes no profit and has suffered in it’s ability to carry out better service due to the Internet. Imagine how much money the postal service loses if you had to pay 40 cents for every Facebook post or article rant to get your message or point across to each individual who receives it. Please do what I recommend above and be courteous to your postal workers. We deserve as much credit especially considering there are fewer of us to do the job.

    • You’re joking right? We’re responsible for people who don’t change their address? We’re supposed to go out of our way and collect this idiot’s mail every day and then take it to the post office? I don’t think so. If the USPS hasn’t figured out a solution to this problem, then that’s all on them.

      • all you have to do is label it and put it back in your mail box. we really need civics classes for adults it seems.

        • Hey Anonymous,
          Civics classes is Ok as long as those that move without changing their addresses take a “Responsibility Course”.

    • I changed my address with my bill collectors/banks etc AND did a change address order and, as far as I know, all my mail has arrived in my box. It really is a simple process.

      Also, if after 10 years these people who seem to be friends with the previous owner, don’t know this lady doesn’t live here anymore — these are personal cards, not bills or whatever — then I am certainly not spending time hunting her down.

      More importantly, if the mail carrier, whose job it is to deliver mail to the right address and who was told back in 2002 (!!!) that these people don’t live here anymore can’t be bothered to get their mail to them, why does the onus fall to me to make sure they get it?

    • I used to work for the Postal Service… as a Carrier and then a Clerk.

      While it is technically illegal to open someone else’s mail, the likelihood of having charges brought or paying a fine in this situation would be null.

      As for your “the Post office is losing 40 cents a message” rant… LMAO… I’d have to be stoned, literally and figuratively to take that seriously. Still LMAO…

    • Hello, Newman.

  • “Under US laws, if you want to receive mail – a free service to you, you must obey the US Postal laws. ” Someone paid for it to be delivered, so suck it USPS. I’m keeping my mistaken subscription to sport illustrated.

  • Lets we please not pretend that the mail is a “free service.”

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