If you’re sick and tired of having your mailbox overflowing with envelopes addressed to other people, it’s about time you learn how to stop getting mail for previous residents. Solving this problem should be one of the first things you do after settling in, as mishandling documents that aren’t yours is a federal offense. Thankfully, this guide will take you through all the do’s and don’ts, allowing you to deal with the issue without a problem.

Suppose the former residents were relocating without getting any professional moving services in Philadelphia. In that case, there’s a good chance they forgot to update their mailing address, causing their misdelivered letters to pile up over time. Fortunately, there are several ways to solve this problem, allowing you to deal with their packages without breaking the law.

Knowing What to Do When You Get Mail for Previous Resident Will Save You a Lot of Trouble When Relocating

Filing a Change of Address (COA) request is one of the most common things people forget to do when they move. If you’re relocating to a place whose former residents didn’t update their home number, their packages will continue to arrive at the residence until you do something about it. Although this might seem like a minor nuisance at first, you’ll quickly become overrun with letters that aren’t even yours. Besides having a continuously stuffed mailbox, misusing other people’s documents is a federal offense. If you want to avoid breaking the law by accident, it’s best to learn how to handle this situation right away.

Don’t Open Other People’s Letters Unless You Have Their Permission to Do so

Considering the US Postal Service delivers all sorts of personal documents, you’ll often have access to other people’s sensitive information. However, according to the US Code ยง 1708, opening letters that aren’t addressed to you is strictly prohibited. The action is punishable by law, meaning you could face up to five years in jail for breaking the code. However, there are some exceptions, but they require a special permit only given by the appropriate authorities. If you genuinely opened someone else’s letter by mistake, avoid potential charges by taping the envelope and sending it back in the outgoing mailbox.

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

Old envelopes with personal documents are among the most commonly forgotten things to pack, meaning there’s always a good chance the former resident left something behind. However, if you were planning to throw out their paperwork, think again. Disposing of other people’s letters is also a federal offense, meaning you’ll have to find another way to resolve the situation. The same goes for brand new deliveries, as there’s a very simple explanation as to why you’re still receiving packages that are addressed to somebody else. Most people aren’t experts at organizing important documents, so it’s entirely possible the last person living there didn’t have time to learn how to change an address before they moved out.

A person about to open the bill they got from their Philadelphia movers
Make sure the letter is addressed to you before opening it

What Do I Do With Previous Residents Mail? Writing Down Return to Sender Should Be Your First Step

One of the simplest ways you can stop receiving mail from the previous resident is to write down “not at this address” or “return to sender” on the envelope. This will inform the sender that the intended recipient doesn’t live there anymore, stopping the misdeliveries from continuing. Remember to do this with any letter that isn’t addressed to you before returning them to the nearest outgoing mailbox.

A person inserting a letter into a mailbox
Write down “return to sender” on all envelopes and packages that aren’t addressed to you before placing them back in the mailbox

Notify the Postal Carrier That the Person Doesn’t Live There Any Longer

Although postal carriers are perfectly capable of handling hundreds of packages and letters regularly, they are still human, meaning mistakes are bound to happen every once in a while. Considering the nature of their day-to-day work, they might not be aware that the former residents don’t live there anymore and have continued to deliver the packages as instructed. This is particularly common for large Philadelphia neighborhoods, which receive an incredible amount of deliveries each day. In that case, talking to the postal carrier directly might be the best way to solve the issue. If they claim that they are aware of the problem but still do nothing about it, feel free to file a complaint with their superiors.

Leaving a Sticky Note Is Also a Good Method of Notifying the Postal Carrier Without Having to Talk to Them Directly

If the thought of talking to the postal carrier gives you nightmares, know that you can also notify them by leaving a sticky note at the mailbox. A well-placed piece of paper stating that the former residents have moved out should remind them not to bring their letters to your doorstep. To ensure any post office worker gets the message, remember to leave an additional note on your front door, as that’s where most large objects and packages with fragile items are left when delivered.

A postal carrier deploying receipts from several Philadelphia moving companies
Notify your local post office worker about the misdeliveries

Crossing Out the Barcode on Any Envelope That’s Not Addressed to You Should Halt Further Deliveries

The US Postal Service is an independent government agency responsible for providing postal service in the entire country, delivering about 500 million letters and packages every single day. This is all possible thanks to a sophisticated system that prints a unique barcode on everything that goes through it, which corresponds to each recipient’s unique home number. However, this implies that anything you write down can easily become lost in the shuffle if not detected by one of the post office workers.

When unsure what to do with mail from the previous tenant the USPS keeps sending to your home, crossing out the barcode will make the letter undeliverable. Remember to check the envelope thoroughly before returning it. Although this is more common for larger deliveries and packages, many deliveries have an extra code printed on the sides.

A person packing without the help of movers in Philadelphia, PA
How do I stop mail from coming to my house? Crossing the barcode will make the envelopes undeliverable

How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents for Good? File a Complaint at the Local Post Office

If none of the methods above worked, and you’re still not sure what to do with mail for the previous resident, the USPS can provide you with a PS Form 1500, which will finally put an end to these misdeliveries. You have the option to file an official complaint at the nearest post office or online, allowing you to cross this nuisance off your to-do list.

Be Aware That the Deliveries Will Continue Until the Change Is Finalized

Filing a complaint should be one of the first things to do after you move in. Even if you submit the required form right away, it takes up to 45 days for the change to take effect, meaning you’ll continue to receive the former resident’s packages. In the meantime, you’ll still have to deal with them accordingly, so remember to use the methods we mentioned earlier.

Is There a Way to Prevent Junk Mailing?

Not everyone keeps track of all the things they’ve subscribed to. Many companies send newsletters and other promotional materials to their consumers regularly, often clogging their mailboxes in the process. If you want to put an end to these deliveries, the video below will show you several easy ways to do it.

What to Do With Mail for the Previous Resident When They Are Deceased?

If you’re prone to suffering relocation stress, dealing with letters and packages addressed to people who have passed away might put you in a very uncomfortable situation. There’s no need to panic, though, as the same rules about misuse still apply. Better yet, halting these deliveries is a lot easier than relocating a piano or even packing dishes. All you have to do is go on the DMA’s page “Deceased Do Not Contact Registration” and fill out the necessary paperwork.

Continue to Deal With Any Incoming Packages Accordingly Until the Request Gets Processed

The page will require you to enter all sorts of information about the person that passes away. If you were not their caregiver or next of kin, you might have to contact the people who were to get all the necessary details. Once the registration is complete, know that it takes up to three months for the request to be processed. You will likely continue to receive new letters in the meantime, so remember to deal with them just as we described earlier.

A person writing a letter to one of their favorite moving companies in Philadelphia
Don’t open the former resident’s letters even if they passed away

Learning How to Stop Mail for Previous Residents Should Incentivize You to Change Your Mailing Address Right Away

Now that you know how big of a nuisance it is to deal with other people’s letters, you understand why filling a COA request is one of the more important things to do before relocating. If you’ve been putting it off because you’re relocating in a hurry, hiring movers in Philadelphia, PA, will undoubtedly allow you to move efficiently. However, you’ll still need to handle the paperwork on your own, even if you get professional moving and storage in Philadelphia. Personal documents are one of the more common items movers won’t move, meaning you’ll have a hard time finding moving companies in Philadelphia that would agree to transport them.

Handle the Paperwork While One of the Best Philadelphia Moving Companies Prepares Your Relocation

Organizing your paperwork is a complicated process that will often require you to use plenty of relocation hacks, possibly leaving you with insufficient time for other tasks, like packing a computer. The good news is that Philadelphia Movers are always ready to help with all relocation preparations. Getting our residential moving service will allow you to move to almost any South or West Philadelphia neighborhood without having to worry about a thing. If you need packing assistance, our team will cover everything from packing furniture to smaller items like pots and pans. Last but not least, our Philadelphia moving company also offers commercial relocations, enabling you to move your business to a new location in record time. To learn more about everything we offer, contact our Philly movers and request a free quote.