What To Do With Mail From Previous Tenants


Moving into a new place is exciting, but it can also bring unexpected challenges. One such challenge is finding yourself sorting through mail addressed to the previous tenant. No one wants to be stuck holding onto someone else’s bills or personal letters, especially when you just want to settle into your new home.

This scenario recently happened to my friend, Tom. Imagine his surprise when he found a stack of envelopes bearing someone else’s name! He wasn’t sure what to do, and neither did the previous tenant seem particularly helpful. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to resolve this sticky situation.

Ways to Stop Mail from Previous Tenants

There are a few steps you may take in the correct order to ensure that mail for past renters is no longer delivered.

Using the Postal Service to Stop Mail

  1. Not at this address

Put “Not at this address” on the envelope’s outside. (First-class mail only will work with this.) After that, put the mail in any mailbox that is leaving. This could be used to inform the sender that the recipient is no longer residing at that address. After that, the original sender can amend their records and, hopefully, you won’t receive any more correspondence from them.

  • The likelihood of a response from individuals and small businesses is higher than that of large corporations that depend on the National Change-of-Address database for address updates.


  1. Place sticky notes

Put a post-it note in your mailbox or on it. Put “(Former Resident’s Name) does not live at this address” on the memo. Put the letter inside the mailbox or on the door’s interior. This will act as a continual reminder to the mail carrier to sort through the incoming mail and eliminate any mail that may have been sent by a prior resident.

  • Alternatively, you might write “Only the following live here:” on the sticky note and then enumerate the people who are allowed to receive mail at your home. Once more, this enables the mail carrier to separate their upcoming delivery of mail from that of other people. Having a visual reminder is quite beneficial.


  1. Cross out the barcode

Mark the barcode with a cross. Because of the automated mechanism, the postal service uses, sometimes stating “Not at this address” does not accomplish the desired results. Every letter that is sent by the US Postal Service has a bar code printed on it that shows the address it is being sent to. These bar codes are used by USPS to sort mail. The bar code is likely to send mail back to your address even if you have already written a “Return to sender” remark on the envelope. Write “Not at this address” next to the mailing address on the envelope and cut through the bar code at the bottom.

  • Here’s how to completely “remove” a bar code: Use a black-ink pen, and draw numerous short, vertical lines between the lines of the bar code. Do this for a half-inch or so anywhere on the bar code. This will obliterate the bar code (which is not illegal, by the way) and make it impossible for a postal sorting machine to send the letter back to your address.
  • Marking out the bar code (and the address) will cause the system to consider the mail “undeliverable.”
  • Mail carriers receive mail in bundles for each address. The previous resident’s mail could be in between pieces of mail that are actually for you.


  1. Approach your mail carrier directly

Tell the clerk or postmaster at your neighborhood post office, or your particular postal carrier, about the issue. Request that they no longer deliver the former resident’s mail to your mailbox. Be kind in your conversation. Any first-class mail you receive that was addressed to a former resident, give it to your mail carrier. Compared to just sticking a note in the mail, this might be more successful.

  • Any bulk-rate mail that isn’t for you can be thrown away because it can’t be returned or forwarded. Bulk-rate mail returned to the post office will just be disposed of.
  • If you have a face-to-face conversation with your mail carrier, they might investigate the situation and see if a change-of-address form has been submitted.

Respecting the Law Regarding Mail from Other People

  1. Do not open the mail

Refrain from opening the letter. Opening mail that is not addressed to you is illegal in the United States. First-class mail should be taped shut if it is accidently opened, with “Not at this address” written on it, and returned to the mailbox. First-class mail is delivered by someone else; if you discard it after opening it, you are impeding that person’s mail delivery.

  • Opening someone else’s mail can get you fined heavily or put in jail for up to five years in certain countries.
  • Since first-class mail is forwardable, opening someone else’s letter is especially regarded as stealing.


  1. Do not throw away mail that bears first-class postage

First-class mail should not be thrown away. Another kind of mail theft is when you throw away someone else’s first-class mail since you are preventing them from receiving it. Throwing away someone else’s first-class mail is not only illegal on the federal level, but it is also ineffective and won’t resolve your issue.

  • First-class mail may not reveal to the sender that the recipient no longer resides at your address if it is thrown away.
  • Remember that the addressee might have submitted a change of address, or the Postal Service might have made a mistake. Most likely, the recipient still desires their first-class mail. Show consideration and assist that individual.


  1. Do not fill out a change-of-address form

It could be alluring to reroute the former resident’s mail. Please do not send a change-of-address form to the Postal Service, even if you are aware of the prior resident’s current residence. To register a change of address on their behalf, you must be the former resident or serve as their executor, guardian, authorized officer, or agent. If you are receiving first-class mail from a prior resident, you can request that the USPS complete form 3575Z (internal COA).

  • It is illegal at the federal level to file a change-of-address form on someone else’s behalf. You risk jail time or a fine.
  • To determine whether the change truly reflects the addressee’s intentions, a customer notification letter will be immediately sent to their new address if you do register a change of address for someone else. You could likely run into legal issues. However, there won’t be any repercussions for you if the former resident doesn’t object to the fact that you submitted a change of address on their behalf.

Stopping Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person

  1. Report junk mail

Go to the “Deceased, Do Not Contact” registration page on the Direct Marketing Association’s website (DMAchoice.org). Input the deceased individual’s details to quit getting bulk-rate correspondence directed to them. The implementation of the adjustments may take up to three months.

  • While the amount of bulk-rate mail addressed to the deceased may not entirely cease, this should reduce its volume.
  • Along with your name, email address, and relationship to the deceased, you will also need to enter the name and address of the deceased.


  1. Write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the mail

Reinstall it in your Inbox after that. This will inform the original sender and the post office that the recipient has passed away. Notify the mail carrier that this former resident has passed away as well.

  • Visit the post office to talk with the station manager if this doesn’t work.


  1. Contact mailers directly

You should get in touch with the sender(s) of any periodicals, charity solicitations, or subscription services you are receiving and inform them that the recipient has passed away. Although it takes longer, this will probably solve the issue. If you would prefer not to get in touch with the sender(s) directly, you can keep writing “Deceased — Return to Sender” on these items.

  • Even if the deceased is registered with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), subscription services and magazines will continue to send out letters. DMA will only notify businesses that make use of mailing lists and marketing.
  • If the deceased’s legal representative feels inclined to bring it up, it is illegal to open and read their mail.

How USPS Can Help

While it is against the law for private individuals to throw away or destroy mail that is addressed to another person, the USPS follows a somewhat different procedure. Generally, the USPS can reroute mail appropriately when they receive letters returned with the marking “Not at this address.”

The USPS will treat these letters following the item’s endorsements, which the sender lists on the letter if it is determined to be undeliverable. The USPS is legally permitted to trash mail that does not contain endorsements.

What Landlords Are Saying About Former Tenant Mail That Isn’t Forwarding

It shouldn’t take a landlord a lot of time to handle correspondence from past tenants who don’t have a forwarding address. A few easy measures should solve the issue in no time.

This is a screenshot of landlords debating this issue in our exclusive landlord Facebook group.


Navigating mail from a previous tenant requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. Learning from real-life experiences, such as Tom’s, underscores the importance of effective communication, technological solutions, collaboration with property management, legal awareness, and persistence. By incorporating these insights, you can navigate this common challenge with respect and professionalism.


Q: What do I do with mail for the previous tenant?

A: Write “Return to Sender” on the envelope and put it back in your mailbox. Inform the mail carrier and consider contacting the sender for important items.

Q: Can I open mail for someone else?

A: No, it’s illegal and disrespectful.

Q: What if I keep getting their mail?

A: Be patient, updates take time. If it persists, contact the sender and consider asking the previous tenant for forwarding info.

Q: What if there are sensitive documents?

A: Don’t discard them. Return them securely or contact the sender for proper disposal.

Q: How can I prevent future misdirected mail?

A: Update delivery addresses for subscriptions and online accounts. Let the post office and mail carrier know about the previous tenant.

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