Posted in Moving Tips&Tricks on May 22, 2021
Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

Your Guide to How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents

As many of you realize, every relocation has its ups and downs, and it can be both exciting and nerve-racking. But, one of the causes of stress may be someone else’s letters that keep coming. Learning how to stop getting mail for previous residents is necessary for many reasons, the first of them being the inconvenience of the fact that they can’t be thrown away.

Relocation is packed with many tasks, from figuring out how to get a job in a new city to avoid those nasty moving scams, and after you get all of that behind you, you expect the unpacking part to be the only thing left to do. You’ve settled, checked your surroundings, and ticked everything off of your to-do list. And then letters and all kinds of magazines keep arriving, but most of them don’t have your name on it, and the heap just keeps growing. At that point, you will need to stop receiving mail from a previous resident, but you’ll probably need some advice on how to do it.

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Sending and Receiving Letters Is Fun, but Only if They’re Addressed to You

In this day and age, most people have lost the habit of writing letters, but a handwritten note is still an exciting thing to share and receive in your mailbox. But, are you aware that there used to be a time when you could have mailed a person? A little girl by the name of May Pierstorff was sent through the post for just 53 cents in 1914. She was sent via train by her parents from her home in Idaho to her grandmother in another part of the state. It was the time when the price for sending chickens under 50 pounds has cost less than a ticket, so they took advantage of it. The practice of sending people through the postal service was forbidden in 1920. Right now, our Postal Service processes almost half of the world’s letters and packages, and it does so through one of the largest civilian fleets in the world, which has more than 200,000 vehicles. It works perfectly to deliver you all of your letters, but what happens when it delivers someone else’s?

A pile of letters and glasses
Receiving letters is still an exciting surprise

Not Updating Your Address May Have Happened to You in the Past

Most Americans have moved at least several times in their lifetime, and there’s a chance that this isn’t your first move either. If you had to move in a rush, you are aware of how easy it is to skip a step in the relocation process, with so many things to do and organize. Forgetting to update your address is more common than you think, but here are some of the companies and institutions that you must give heads up on your move:

  • The USPS office,
  • Your employer,
  • Utility companies,
  • Cable and internet providers,
  • Tax agencies,
  • Banks and credit card companies,
  • Insurance companies,
  • Loan providers,
  • Subscription services,
  • Online shopping websites,
  • Friends and family (of course).

Sure, it looks like a lot of work, but doing this on time will save you from headaches and let you focus on adjusting to your new home. It is equally important as hiring a long-distance moving company and preparing your car for auto transport – and if you started everything on time it won’t be a too demanding task. Just keep in mind that it’s easier to set everything up prior to your move than to try and locate your missing items, just like it’s happening to the ex-tenant whose letters and spam you keep receiving. If you’re interested to see how to update your address, watch the following video.

Is It Illegal to Throw Away Someone Else’s Mail?

However tempting it may seem, throwing away or opening someone else’s letters is a federal felony crime. If you search for the information online, you’ll find that the federal statute states it’s illegal to open correspondence that is addressed to someone else other than yourself. This means that how to stop mail for previous residents must be added to your new apartment checklist, so make sure you take everything out of your mailbox and sort it out.

What Do I Do If I Receive Someone Else’s Mail? First of All, Don’t Worry, It Could Happen to Anyone

Now that you know that throwing away or opening someone else’s letters is out of the question, you’re probably wondering what to do with mail for a previous resident. The most important advice is not to get too stressed about it, as it could happen to anyone, and even you. These things happen when relocating, whatever your reasons to move may be. Relocation takes a lot of organizing and hard work, and if you don’t inform yourself on all of the moving hacks, and you forget to change your address while planning a move to another city, you won’t receive anything mailed to you in your new home.

A written letter
It’s illegal to open someone else’s correspondence

How Do I Stop Getting Old Tenants Mail? Here’s One of the First Things You Can Do

You’ve used the long-distance moving services to relocate, paid for the packing services, and unpacked all that the cross-country movers have packaged. And now that all of those tasks are done, you’re wondering what to do if you get mail for a previous resident. The simplest way to approach this problem is very much like when you’ve packed bathroom items for moving – with determination and a good plan. So, the first step is the one you can do without leaving your house. Take all the letters and magazines you’ve received that don’t belong to you and write with big letters “return to sender.” When you’ve done this with each piece, take them out and place them inside the outgoing mailbox.

An envelope on a table
Try to write “return to sender” on the letters and packages

Another Step Is to Cross Information on the Incorrectly Addressed Letters

Maybe you have moved to another state alone and right now you are trying to figure out how to live on your own. Or you have relocated for love to be with your significant other. In any case, someone else’s spam, bills, and letters piling up in your home should be out of the question. If the “return to sender” trick didn’t work, here’s what to do when you get mail for the previous resident in the next step. Take a marker or a pen and cross the barcode on the envelope, and that way, if the workers overlook your writing, the crossed barcode will make the piece undeliverable.

It Sounds Silly but Leaving a Sticky Note May Be the Best Method

You probably remember how you searched for all the smart packing tips for moving and how using sticky notes and other kinds of labeling has done the trick. You probably had to label the boxes with all the fragile items, including your packed plates and even all the packed dishes, and the professionals knew to take good care of them. The problem with someone else’s letters may require a similar approach. Take a sticky note and make sure you point out clearly that the person whose packages you keep receiving does not live at that address anymore.

Sticky notes and colorful pens
Use sticky notes and markers to get your mailman’s attention

How Do I Stop Someone Else’s Mail From Coming to My House? Talk to the Letter Carrier

It may happen that all of the advice didn’t work at all, and this task by now seems more complicated than packing shoes. If you’re still stressing about what to do with mail from the previous tenant, USPS carriers might be the solution. Approach the carrier next time they bring you your packages and let them know about the problem. There’s a high probability that this will definitely solve your trouble.

Mailwoman on a bike
Talk to your USPS carrier

Visit Your Post Office and Talk to the Manager

To avoid something like this from happening to your letters, remember that changing your address is not something that your cross-country moving company can do for you. You can ask them for storage service, as well as moving insurance, but you’ll have to update your address by yourself (the step that the ex-resident obviously forgot.) But, by now, the pile of letters for a person that is no longer living there just keeps growing. If you still don’t know what to do with mail for a previous resident, USPS will solve the problem for you. When you arrive at your United States Postal Service office, talk to the station manager and let them know about your trouble.

USPS entrance
Visit the post office and talk to the manager

Avoid Filling Out the Form For the Letter That’s Incorrectly Addressed

There’s a probability that you actually know the address of the ex-resident. Perhaps they gave it to you, along with some other contact information, so they could give you advice or two about what you need to rent an apartment. Nevertheless, avoid filling out the address change forms in the name of another person. That is actually something you should leave to the post office workers to do.

A hand, writing on paper
Avoid filling a form for someone else

Try Contacting the Companies Directly

Thinking about contacting the sending companies directly likely means that all the above steps were taken and failed. But, don’t worry, finding their contact information may be just as easy as finding “long-distance movers near me.” This advice could finally do the trick, so you can focus on decorating your interior by looking at some small apartment ideas.

Man talking on his cell phone
Contact the sending companies by phone

How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents if Nothing Else Works – File a Complaint

It may seem that you have already pulled every trick and tried every hack, and that is probably true. While preparing a move to another state checklist and your move-out day were ages ago and are slowly fading from memory, there’s only one thing left to do, and that is to file a complaint. You can do this online or by phone, but perhaps the best option is to visit the USPS office nearest to you and file in person.

Filling papers with a pen
File a complaint in person

In the End, It Will Get Sorted Out

The relocation process is demanding in itself, but there are things for you to do after you move in. You are probably feeling really tired and thinking if all of your belongings you kept when you moved were necessary. Receiving someone else’s packages for days and maybe weeks, or even months was not something you have expected to deal with. But, however impossible stopping other person’s letters may seem, it’s doable, and it will eventually resolve.

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