Dear PoPville – How Do I Stop Receiving Previous Homeowner (Deceased) Mail?

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“Dear PoPville,

I bought a house a few years ago that was actually an Estate sale. However, from time to time I still receive mail from the DC government (voter card, etc) addressed to the deceased which I drop back in the mail with “Return to Sender.” However, this seems like it will continue unless someone is notified in an official way. Any ideas who to contact?”

22 Comment

  • The only way to get out of a brush with death is to experience a fate worse than it: You’ll have to go to the post office.

    When there, get a change of address kit and in the ‘from’ address put the deceased’s name and your address. Then in the ‘to’ put “return to sender, deceased” and the postie will take care of the rest. If you’ll getting mail under different names fill out one card per name.

    Then no more wrong mail.

  • Instead of “Return to Sender” — not helpful! You know they’re dead and don’t have a forwarding address! — instead write “Recipient Deceased. Please remove from registry” or something more to the point.

  • I’d love to hear some responses to this question. I still get get mail for the previous owner of my place who passed away about 2 years ago! For important/official looking letters I just write return to sender and put them back in the mailbox. Eventually that mail stopped coming. Now I just throw out all other junk mail. But, my god, the catalogs! They never stop mailing those! The previous owner seemed to shop exclusively from mail order catalogs, and they just keep showing up in my mailbox every month.

    • call the company whose catalogue it is and tell them to stop sending them.

    • You can stop the catalogs by going to You can also visit the website for each catalog sender and enter the code on the back to get off their list. It’s a small hassle up front to save years of dealing with the recycling (not to mention the paper!).

      • Sweet, I didn’t know about that website. I started calling the companies when I moved in, but I get so many catalogs that I just got lazy and starting tossing them all into the recycling bin.

      • Thanks for the heads-up about that. I get tons of catalogs, not just from retailers I patronize (and even then, I don’t want their print catalogs) but from retailers that seem to have bought my name from a similar retailer or magazine subscription list. Side rant: while I agree with most of their missions, in my experience, the animal charities are THE WORST at re-selling your address and deluging you with solicitations. I make a small annual gift to Farm Sanctuary, and…Holy Jesus, now I get all manner of fundraising appeals from all sorts of animal rescue organizations at every address I’ve lived in the past 5 years (and I know they’re still coming because I lived at my mom’s briefly before moving to my current place, and a friend is subletting my apartment from before the pitstop at mom’s, so I hear all about the wave of junkmail they still receive on my behalf). It honestly makes me NOT want to donate any more.

        • Having worked non-profit a considerable amount of my career, it behooves all donors to check the privacy policy of the organization(s) they are donating to or volunteering with. Larger, nationally recognized orgs should (I said SHOULD) have a policy on donor/volunteer privacy posted on their website. While I have never worked for an organization that shared or sold donor information, political .orgs are fairly notorious for sharing/selling donor information with a consortium of like-minded causes/campaigns.

    • You can register on the Deceased Do Not Contact list to try to reduce direct mail:

  • tonyr

    Related question …… I get mail, addressed to a person whose name I won’t mention for obvious reasons, from the DC Department of Corrections. I write “Person not at this Address” and send them back, but they still keep coming. I really don’t want to have to deal with the department directly, but I worry that at some point they’ll make a “personal” visit. What are my chances of being dragged away in the middle of the night?

    • Deal with it directly.

      A previous person at my house continued to use his DC license with my address for a while after he moved. One night a nicely dressed black man knocked on my door from what was some sort of public defenders office or agency. Thankfully I was upstairs and just opened the window and I told him X hadn’t lived there for a while (at least a year or two). He was very pleasant and I had not problems but it seriously freaked me out. I also got legal mail from Maryland for court appearances for him.

      The second occurrence happened last year and wasn’t for someone who ever lived there. The US Marshall’s were looking for someone with my same last name and whose name started with the same letter as my first name. I had my phone number in the phone book that way so someone didn’t know my first name just by looking there. They were eyeballing my house while I had a guest over one morning so I went and got the paper. A few seconds later I got a knock on the door cause middle age white chick was not likely to be a 30-something black dude with legal problems. He was very polite when I told I was not the person but all I could see was what if they had just breached the front door with an assault team.

      • Would you have been “seriously freaked out” if it had been a nicely dressed white man at your door looking for the previous resident?

        • Yes – was just providing a description. The freaky thing was that he was from the corrections/penal area not that he was a stranger or black. I wouldn’t have been freaked if he was selling something despite the time of the night.

          Please don’t read more into comments than there actually are. Sometimes commenting on a person’s race is just by way of a description and not some deeper meaning.

    • If your send-backs aren’t doing any good, at this point, your best option is probably just to call DOC and try to get them to resolve it over the phone. Probably be a hassle, but doesn’t sound like the minimal-effort approach is working. Also, there is a chance that the intended recipient may not be involved with DOC in the criminal sense and they won’t eventually come barging to your place looking for someone. Could be a relative of an inmate. Or, I know in some states the DOC sends status updates to people connected to the case–like notifying a victim every time the offender gets a parole hearing or something. (Not sure if/how DC does this, though).

  • I bought an estate sale a few years ago. The mailman told me to write “Not at this address” on the envelope and give it back. It took a little while for everyone to get the point, and we still very occasionally get one addressed to the previous resident, but for the most part it’s worked.

  • I have lived in my house 12 years and up until a few years ago I would still get the mail. If it was “serious’ mail I would put it back in the mail with a DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE on the outside. Yeah it took many years but I wasn’t willing to spend any more time or money dealing with it.

  • If you haven’t already sent back the voter registration card/post card, please do! Please write deceased and return it to the BOE. The District’s voter rolls are over inflated by probably about 100K people and the only way to properly purge them is to rely on current residents as much as possible to send stuff like this back to the BOE.

  • Throw it in the trash. Living in DC, I’m sure you get plenty of other mail the ends up in the same place.

  • Collect a month’s worth of the mail and put it in a street post box. It will come back to you but just keep repeating that until the amount of mail will not fix in your mailbox.

  • I am dealing with this situation as well and really glad you asked the question. I went into a panic once when I absent-mindedly opened a letter from the IRS stating that a balance $2,300+ was owed and that interest was going to keep accumulating until the balance was paid and the missing tax years were filed. As I knew I was all paid up with The Man, this caused a 30 second anxiety attack until I realized the statement was for a deceased former resident.

    I have even made the gesture of buying a shredder to shred the mail of all prior residents and there were at least 5 for whom I still receive mail. This is a serious pain in the arse and I truly hate the shred pile that requires my attention every month. I know, it’s my choice to shred their mail but I wouldn’t want credit card offers in my name just lying around so as I handle my shredding, I also take care of theirs. I’m really effing nice!

  • If you do put “Return to Sender” or whatever on an envelope and put it in a mailbox, make sure to cross out the bar code too. Otherwise the item will come right back to you.

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