Can Landlord Withhold Mail? Is It Legal? Answered

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Tenant-landlord relationships may not always go smoothly.

It’s even more complicated when the landlord and the tenant living on the same premises. Some mail goes missing and is never accounted for. If you’re not getting your mail, USPS never delivered them, or someone else is taking them. You may be asking the question: Can Landlord Withhold Mail? Is It Legal?

Here is the answer:

Your landlord can withhold your mail, but it’s considered a federal crime in places like the United States. Each state has a different statute on whether a landlord should take a tenant’s mail. As a crime punishable by the law according to the United States Code, Section 1708, it’s a criminal offense. 

Some tenants move out of their homes and forget to forward their new home address to the United States Postal Service (USPS). In such cases, the mail keeps going to their old address, and someone has to take them. Knowing how to handle your tenant’s mail is vital to avoid conflicts if you are a landlord.

Is It Legal For Your Landlord To Go Through Your Mail?

It is illegal for your landlord to go through your mail. As a renter, you have the right to privacy, which means you can keep your mail, belongings, and other private items away from your landlord. The landlord cannot go through your mail or any of your possessions without your permission.

If this happens, you should try to get evidence of this violation. You can do this by taking photos and documenting the incident’s dates, times, and circumstances. If you find that your landlord has been going through your mail without permission, you can confront him or contact a lawyer to file a lawsuit against them.

Is It Legal For A Previous Landlord To Withhold Your Mail?

It’s illegal for a landlord to withhold a tenant’s mail even in their absence. The U.S Postal Inspection Service says that landlords have no right to take mail intended for tenants who have moved out of their homes. They can’t open or destroy the mail either.

You must know your rights when it comes to your mail if you’re moving out of a rental property. If you suspect that your previous landlord has been withholding your mail, contact the USPS so that they can investigate further into the matter.

What Do I Do If My Landlord Withholds My Mail

If you’re not receiving mail and you suspect your landlord is withholding or disposing of them, confront your landlord about the missing mail. If he denies that he took the mail and you know it’s untrue, go ahead and file a report with the police on mail theft.

The police will demand evidence to back your claims. So make sure you have something tangible to show them. It must be that you’ve been getting mails before your landlord started taking them; use your old mail as proof.

The U.S. Postal Inspectors ensure recipients receive their mails at the right place and time. Federal statutes protect tenants from mail thefts. They also ensure that a landlord does not unlawfully withhold or dispose of a tenant’s mail. You can take measures as a tenant to retrieve your mails if your landlord has taken them unlawfully.

1. Confront Your Landlord

If you no longer receive mail and you’re sure they were dispatched, you should ask your landlord if he knows anything about it since it’s just you and him living there. If you are sure, he’s the one taking your mail, confront him boldly. That may be all you need to make him stop stealing your mail.

Even if you moved away or traveled, your landlord has no right to tamper with your mail. He can only mark them “Please Return to Sender” and not keep them. When asking him about your mail, make sure he understands that mail theft is a punishable crime that he could go to jail for.

2. Report To The United States Postal Service

If you’ve confronted your landlord, but he won’t stop taking your mail, your next line of action is to report to the United States Postal Service. They’ll examine the case and ascertain if the mail was delivered to the right address or if your landlord is taking them. You’ll file a complaint called PS Form 2016. They’ll review it and commence an investigation.

3. Contact An Attorney

A more intense way to deal with a landlord taking your mail is to serve him a letter from an attorney. He’ll take your claims more seriously if you involve a Tenant’s rights lawyer. The lawyer can also represent you if it results in a court case.

4. Report To The Police

File a missing mail case with the police; mail theft is a crime. The police are in an excellent position to investigate the crime, but they’ll demand a form of evidence from you. You can use the last mail you received as proof that you were getting mail.

Mail theft is a crime, but it’s not one that many people think about when they report their landlord to the police. It is one of the most common crimes committed against individuals and businesses. If your landlord is proven guilty, you should consider relocating to another house to avoid future occurrences.

Can My Landlord Return My Mail To The Sender If I Still Live At That Address?

If you’re still living at the address, your landlord cannot return your mail to the sender. It’s illegal. When the post office dispatches your mail and your landlord returns it, it’ll look like you (recipient) don’t live there anymore, and the post office should stop sending you mail to that address. 

This can be a problem if you move away temporarily. Your mails won’t get to your home address, and you will miss them. If you move out of an apartment, you must submit a “Change of Address” to the United States Postal Service so they can send you mail to the new address.

Is It Legal To Share A Mailbox?

You can share a mailbox with co-tenants and everyone else living in the same building as you. The United States Postal Service does not prohibit landlords from sharing mailboxes with their tenants, as long as both parties agree. A shared mailbox is still an authorized depository and legal. 

If you live in an apartment building and all tenants share the mailboxes, it’s legal for you to share your mail with your neighbor.

This is common in big cities like NYC, where there aren’t enough street addresses for everyone.If you live in cooperative housing or condos, each condo unit has its box where all residents can put their mail without any risk of theft or loss by USPS employees (because they’re not allowed to open other people’s mail).

Is It Legal To Throw Away The Previous Tenant’s Mail?

If you are a landlord and your tenant moves out, you may be tempted to throw away all of their mail. However, this is illegal. The US Postal Service has specific rules about what can be done with mail that is addressed to a former tenant. You cannot throw mail away.

If a tenant moves away, attach a “Please return to sender” sticker on one of the envelopes. The delivery guy should take notice and act accordingly.

How Can I Avoid Mail Theft?

Mail theft is a crime, and a lot can go wrong if your mail gets stolen. To avoid mail theft, get a P.O. box. This will save you the stress of reporting to USPS each time your mail gets missing. Also, check your mailbox regularly and take out your mail on time.

Sharing a mailbox with your landlord increases the chances of him stealing your mail. If you receive sensitive documents such as tax receipts, passports, or cash, you should consider securing your mail against theft.

1. Get A P.O. Box

Your best shot at preventing mail theft is to receive your mail in a P. O box. It’s secure. This can be useful if you want to keep your address private or are concerned about identity theft.

2. Check Your Mail Regularly

If you live in a rented apartment where everyone shares a mailbox, check the mailbox regularly and remove all mail addressed to you so no one else does.

3. Don’t Receive Sensitive Documents Through Mail

If you live in a place hee mail theft is common or in a rental with a nosy landlord, don’t receive cash or other sensitive documents like credit cards.

4. Sign Up For Informed Delivery USPS

The United States Postal Service has a digital feature where users can see which of their mail will be dispatched soon. If you sign up, you can keep track of your mail and remove them from the mailbox as soon as they deliver it.

Conclusion 

As a renter, you deserve as much privacy as the landlord. It’s not okay for your landlord to withhold your mail or dispose of it. In the U.S., mail theft is a crime punishable by law. If your landlord takes your mail, confront him boldly and if that doesn’t deter him, contact an attorney to take up the case.

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