A person putting a white envelope in a mailbox overlay

How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents

Posted in Moving Essentials on December 1, 2020

Moving state to state never comes without its challenges. One of the major sources of frustration for many people is wondering how to stop getting mail for previous residents. Finding unwanted items in your mailbox, coupled with other obstacles you’ll encounter, can easily make you feel agitated. Read on to find out how to stop this.

Why Do You Receive Other People’s Mail?

So, you went through the process of long-distance moving and settled into your new place, but you keep getting old resident’s mail. We know this can upset and confuse. But, don’t worry! This is actually a common occurrence. The United States Postal Service reaches 160 million residences, business, and Post Office Boxes, according to their site. That indicates that their network is huge, and naturally, sometimes they fail to take notice of certain changes. On the other hand, some people simply forget to take care of all the administration on time. The request to change the address can be submitted online, but it takes up to 10 business days for the change to become effective. Perhaps, the former resident is already on the quest to find missing mail, or this task is still clearly missing from their moving binder. The good news is that, whatever the case is, you can stop this independently of the former resident.

Do New Residents in Your Old House Have This Problem?

You want to know how to stop mail for previous residents, but by the same token, you want to make sure nobody has access to your mail. If you are wondering – how do I stop someone using my address, make sure you take all the necessary steps to avoid being a victim of some of the moving scams. As mentioned above, you should first make the changes in the USPS. However, there are some other government agencies you need to contact. These include:

  • Internal Revenue Service – to settle your tax refund
  • Social Security Administration – if you receive social security benefits
  • State Motor Vehicle Agencies – to change the address in your registration (they’re not likely to send you any mail)
  • State Election Offices – to be able to vote without problems
  • Department of Veterans Affairs or US Citizenship and Immigration Services – if you’re a veteran or a non-US citizen receiving benefits.

Finally, take care of everything you can think of, which is not related to USPS. Make the necessary changes if you took out a subscription to some magazines, or your address is part of some mailing lists. Most importantly, if you receive your utility bills through the mail, check that with your provider before you finish packing to move out.

A letter on a table next to a pile of letters
Make sure you are not causing someone the same problem

Your Next Step in How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents

Long distance moving can wear you out. It’s been a long way, but you successfully drew up your moving budget, decided how to tip movers, put away your last boxes and packing supplies and you were hoping to have no further expenses. Now, it’s such a nuisance to have this heap of other people’s bills, with a personal letter or two, in your new mailbox. But, there’s no reason to fear. If you report the mistake properly, there’ll be no repercussions or additional charges.

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The Best and the Most Common Method

The challenging question – how do I stop getting old tenants mail has more than one possible answer. If you are too exhausted from your cross country moving and concerns such as packaging fragile items or learning how to pack clothes for moving, the last thing you are willing to do is research in-depth the ways in which the previous tenant tackled his or her post. Many people stumble upon the dilemma of what to do with mail for previous resident, and the first and the most common thing most try is writing ‘no longer at this address’ or ‘return to sender.’ Once you finish, put this in the outgoing mailbox, and it should do the trick and signal to your carrier to pay attention to this. Use a sticky note if you don’t want to write directly on the envelope to prevent unintentional smudging, and make your handwriting as legible as possible to avoid further complications.

Label Your Mailbox

Another variation on a theme is to label your mailbox with clear and precise instructions for the carrier. If you’d like to do it for yourself or your family, you can go the extra mile and paint or decorate the mailbox and write the names of all of the current household members on it. If there’s still packing paper for moving hanging around your new place, go for it and try to find a way to use the leftovers for decoration. Nevertheless, if you are busy and you are still stuck on checking your old household inventory list, just glue a paper as a visible reminder for the carrier. You can write anything you think will help you stop receiving mail from a previous resident such as – “(name of person) does not live at this address” or “no other tenants besides (your name or your family’s surname.)” For example, you should write‘John Smith does not live at this address’ or ‘no other tenants besides the Smiths.’ Make sure you glue the paper well since the rain or storm can damage it, and your effort will be wasted.

A man writing on a piece of paper
A warning on the envelope should help

Cross Out the Barcode

The postal systems, especially the USPS, are usually largely automated. This means that, despite your efforts, the spam might keep reappearing. To prevent this and put an end to puzzling over what to do with mail from a previous tenant from USPS, you can cross out the barcode, usually located at the upper corner of the envelope. By doing this, you are signaling to the post office system that this item is undeliverable. Irksome though it may be, this is one of the moving hacks that can solve your problem once and for all. Still, in case the barcode is missing, and you’re still stuck, you’ll have to try and approach your carrier in person or go to the nearest post office to set the record straight.

A barcode on a cell phone - close up
Crossing out the barcode helps the system realize there’s a problem

What’s Not a Smart Move – Things You Shouldn’t Do

After all the moving hustle and the hard work you put into it, it’s no wonder you might feel infuriated to see yet another spam. Fatigue may follow if you decided to ‘go it alone’ and were invested physically in tasks such as trying to find out how to move a piano. But weariness may follow even if you used the help of a professional long distance moving company and their services such as car shipping or storage. The process simply involves a lot of decision-making, and sometimes people spread themselves too thin, so they have no patience in the end. You might feel extremely tempted to destroy the unwanted post, but certain actions won’t get you anywhere. Remember that the former resident may be impacted by the delay since they need to settle their debts and make their payments, regardless of their change of place.

Don’t Destroy the Unwanted Mail

Though it might seem logical that destroying or simply throwing away can answer your question of what to do when you get mail for a previous resident, avoid this by all means. It is regulated by law that denying someone the right to get a letter or other type of package addressed to them is a felony. You are fully obliged to try to get these back to the lawful receiver, and the US Code contains numerous laws regarding postal service. You might end up paying a massive fine or even wind up doing time in prison! There’s no room for panic, but you should be aware that you are not allowed to obstruct correspondence. Also, bear in mind that if you found employment after struggling to understand how to get a job before you move, legal problems are the last thing you need. Most employers are likely to hold this against you, so be smart, breathe in, and take your time to solve this properly. Of course, you can chuck out the stuff that is clearly garbage, such as ads and leaflets but double-check when doing this.

Don’t Open

As mentioned above, if you want to know what to do if you get mail for previous resident, remember that throwing it away is extremely rarely the key. It is perceived by the law as theft, and you don’t want to be accused of stealing or intruding on someone’s life. Still, you might be all over the place, especially if you have kids or you are moving with pets who are wreaking havoc and asking for this and that. In this case, you are most likely constantly snowed under, rummaging through your moving essentials bag to make your kid or furry friend happy. It might slip your mind to look, and you might open someone else’s letter. Yet, you can rest assured that you won’t have problems if you simply put the letter back and take the desired action. You know what they say, to err is human, especially when you’re moving.

Don’t Fill Out Any Forms That Are Not on Your Behalf

If nothing seems to work and you know where the former tenant lives, you might be tempted to fill out a form on their behalf. Still, this won’t solve your dilemma of what to do with mail for a previous resident from usps, since you are only entitled to share information regarding your location. The situation is similar here as with keeping another person’s letter. Disclosure of nonpublic personal information is a broad issue, and there’s no need to study it in detail. Simply make sure you are the only one registered at your address and take care of reporting the mistake in post office dealings and let the system or the other person take care of the rest.

A man throwing papers.
Don’t throw other people’s mail easily!

You Can Always File a Complaint for Items Not Addressed to You

Long distance moving is now a distant memory, and you forgot all about thinking how much do movers cost, but the annoying question in your head – what do I do with previous resident’s mail and spam are the only reminders you did move. In this case, make sure you contact the USPS and file a complaint. You can contact the USPS online, by phone, or in person. If you are able, perhaps the best is to go to the nearest post office and speak directly to their Manager or Representative since they’ll be able to understand all the nuances of your situation.

Two women sitting at the table and talking.
Try talking to the manager at the nearest post office if all else fails.

Extra Tips That Can Help

Apart from everything explained so far, you should pay attention to certain details. Perhaps you’ll solve your problem faster than you think. Here’s a list of useful tips for getting rid of unwanted mail:

  • Check for your bills and letters in the heap of delivered items, sometimes these are bundled together, and you don’t want to miss out on your own.
  • If you don’t have a smart meter, take photos of utility meters on day one to avoid any problems with utility companies.
  • Ask your neighbors to share if they had the same problem and how they solved it; perhaps they know something connected to the law of your particular state, and it’s a good opportunity to gather for coffee.
A man writing in a notebook
Keep an eye on the utilities

All’s Well That Ends Well

Finally, the answer to your initial question – Can I stop mail from coming to my house is yes! It might involve red tape to a degree, and you might get tired at some point, but you’ll get it over with. It is wise to call a long distance moving company and use their services, so you can forget about learning how to pack a moving truck and save your energy for issues such as this.

Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

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