What to Do With Mail From Previous Tenants - Guide for Landlords

After a tenant moves out, you may receive mail addressed to them. What should you do in this situation?

If you know their new address, then forwarding the mail won’t be a big deal. If the former resident didn’t reveal their new address to the USPS, however, then the landlord is left with a dilemma.

Are you facing this issue? This article will offer you ways of dealing with mail from previous renters. It’ll also provide you with advice on how to prevent a repeat of this scenario.

Stopping Mail From Former Tenants

Are you still thinking about how to manage incoming mail from tenants who’ve moved out? Here’s a step-by-step process to guide you out of your worries:

Give the mail back to the postal carrier and write the following messages on the envelope:

  • Return to sender
  • No longer at this address
  • Moved

What happens then is the mail is carried back to the originating post office. It will be sent to the forwarding address, if it’s available. If not, the post office will send the mail back to the sender.

Meanwhile, the envelopes that contain barcodes are subjected to an automated system that the post office uses for streamlining the mail sorting process.

It ensures that the code matches the address of the delivery address, meaning that even if a note is written, it won’t matter. The barcode ensures the mail is sent to the address.


An option you can take is to mark the barcode and write, “Not at this address” beside it. If a barcode is marked, it will be deemed as “undeliverable” by the post office system.

You can also scribble a message inside the mailbox of your previous tenant, such as: “Former Tenant (Name) is no longer a resident of this address, please leave mail for Current Tenant (Name) only.”

Mail carriers will note the message and make appropriate changes seeing that there’s already a new occupant.

Another option is to communicate in a friendly manner with the mail carrier if you find that mail for the former resident is still being sent to the address after writing a “Return to Sender” message and leaving a note to the mail carrier.

You can also drop by the post office to speak with the Postmaster, effectively pausing all mail delivery for your previous tenant.

Q&A About Receiving a Past Tenant’s Mail

Should the Landlord Learn the New Address of a Former Tenant?

Yes. It’s vital for landlords to get information about the new forwarding address of the renter. Mail can still arrive, but aside from this scenario, it’s your duty to give back the security deposit of the departing renter. Knowing their new address is crucial for this.


Should a legal proceeding occur, contacting the renter is important. For instance, if the tenant still owes you rent, you’ll need to provide notices and demand letters to them, which you can use as evidence if you decide to file a case in small claims court.

Is It Acceptable to Open, Shred, or Throw Away a Former Tenant’s Mail?

No. By law, it’s illegal to open, shred, or discard the mail of a past occupant. The possible penalty is up to five years of imprisonment or a stiff fine when you open mail that isn’t addressed to you. This counts as theft.

Can You Fill Out a Change of Address Form on Behalf of a Previous Tenant?

It can be tempting to take the initiative to accomplish the Change of Address form, however, this is strictly allowed only if you’re an executor, guardian, or authorized agent. If not, you can face a heavy fine or prison time since it’s deemed a federal crime.

What Is the Process to Follow When a Tenant Has Passed Away and Mail Still Continues to Arrive?

You can head to the Direct Marketing Association website and encode the name of the deceased tenant. In three months, the changes will be made.

Writing “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the mail or directly communicating with the mail carrier or the Postmaster in the post office is also recommended.


The most time-consuming method is contacting the companies to inform them that the addressee has passed away.

Can You Discard Mail From a Former Tenant?

No. Landlords can’t throw away or destroy mail that’s directed to a former tenant. It constitutes a federal offense. Though the mail may be categorized as junk mail, discarding it remains unlawful.

It’s not the duty of landlords to keep the mail indefinitely even if it’s illegal to destroy or throw it away. You can ask for legal help if the previous tenant refuses to complete a Change of Address form, since you’re liable to keep storing the mail for an extended period of time.

How USPS Can Help

On your own, discarding or destroying mail isn’t allowed, but USPS can perform legal steps to resolve it. They can handle letters containing messages, “Not at this address,” and reroute them. If the mail can’t be delivered, USPS is allowed to legally discard it if it lacks endorsements by the sender.

Bottom Line

Part of being a landlord is learning to manage anything that comes your way and this can include mail addressed to former tenants. The tips outlined above can help you manage this issue and ensure you stay compliant with the law.

Are you looking for a trusted property manager to help you take care of your rental unit and deal with special situations like this? If yes, contact Rent Easy today!

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