What to Do With Mail for a Previous Resident

It’s a federal crime to tamper with mail that is not addressed to you, so it’s important to know how to handle getting a previous resident’s mail.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
It’s very important not to open, throw away, or destroy any mail meant for the previous resident of your address. To stop receiving the previous resident’s mail, write “no longer at this address” on the exterior of the envelope and put it in outgoing mail, leave a note for your mail carrier, or go to the post office directly. 
You’re just settling into your new home when you notice a new name among your bills, coupons, and subscriptions. Upon further inspection, you notice that just the name is wrong while the address is correct—so it must be intended for the previous resident. 
Before doing anything with it, keep in mind that it’s a federal crime to tamper with mail that isn’t yours. 
To help you avoid any actions that could land you in legal trouble,
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What to do with mail for a previous resident 

It can be a little surprising to see mail addressed to someone else coming through your mailbox. However, it’s actually not that uncommon for current residents to receive mail from the previous resident of their house. 
People are supposed to file for a change of address prior to their move to a new residence, but that doesn’t always happen. Perhaps it did happen but the system is taking some time to catch up, or the paperwork slipped through. The USPS handles millions of pieces of mail a day, so mistakes can surely happen. 
Regardless of the reason, you’ll want to make sure you handle any mail for a previous resident carefully. It is a federal crime to open, throw away, or destroy mail that isn’t addressed to you. Until you’re able to put a stop to receiving their correspondence, you should gather all of the previous resident’s mail in one safe place. 

How to stop getting mail for a previous resident 

So, what? You’re supposed to just keep receiving these pieces of mail that aren’t meant for you and risk legal trouble if you do the wrong thing with them? No! 
You are not responsible for holding onto someone else’s mail. It is important, however, to protect yourself from legal repercussions, and treating that mail with care is a good way to do that. 
There are a few ways to stop getting a previous resident’s mail so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. If you know the previous resident’s new forwarding address, the best course of action would be to forward their mail to them. 
If you do not know their forwarding address, write something like “return to sender,”“not at this address,” or “moved” on the outside of the envelope, cross out the barcode on the envelope, and stick it in your outgoing mail. The mail won’t be able to scan with a crossed-out barcode and will thus have to be inspected by hand. 
You could also place a note in your mailbox or somewhere conspicuous where your mail carrier will find it or speak to your mail carrier directly. Politely explain that the previous resident does not live there anymore so your mail carrier can take note and adjust. 
Another option is to head to the post office and ask to speak with the Postmaster or manager to explain the situation and ask for the previous resident’s mail to be rerouted or otherwise held. 
If all else is failing, it’s a good idea to contact any companies that are sending the previous resident’s subscriptions to your home and let them know the subscriber no longer lives there

How to easily find renters or home insurance 

After you feel good about what to do with mail for a previous resident, check another home task off your list—getting a great renters or home insurance policy! 
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There are a few ways to stop mail for a previous resident. You can write “return to sender” or “no longer at this address” on the envelope and put it in your outgoing mail. You can also speak to your mail carrier, the post office, or the companies sending the mail directly to let them know the previous resident moved. 
If you’re still receiving their mail, be patient. It sometimes takes a while for the system to catch up.
No. It is a federal crime to throw out, open, or otherwise tamper with mail not addressed to you.
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