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

If you find yourself receiving mail directed to renters that already moved to a different address, you might be confused about how to handle the scenario. If this is your current dilemma, read this article to guide you on how to deal with mail addressed to former tenants.

How to Stop Receiving Mail for Former Renters

If incoming mail for renters who moved out still gets delivered to your address, take the following actions:

Return Mail to Sender or Postal Carrier

Return the mail to the postal carrier with a scribbled message on the envelope:

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

When you do this, the mail is then sent back to the post office where it came from. If a forwarding address exists then it gets sent there. But if no forwarding address is available, the mail is returned to the initial sender.

For envelopes that have barcodes, an automated system is used by the post office for efficiency in sorting out the mail. Even after scrawling a note, the system ignores it and follows the barcode. It makes sure that the mail is sent to the address that matched the barcode.

You can mark the barcode with a note next to it, “Not at this address”. Mails with marked barcodes won’t be recognized by the post office system and are considered to be undeliverable.


Write a Note Inside the Mailbox of Your Former Resident

Write a message along the lines of “Former Tenant (name) is no longer residing in this address, please leave mail for Current Tenant (name) only.” When mail carriers read this message, they’ll make corresponding changes and actions, upon learning that a new renter is staying your North Carolina rental address.

Speak to the Carrier

Use a friendly tone and speak with the mail carrier if you notice that mail still keeps arriving for a previous tenant even after writing down a “Return to Sender” note to notify the mail carrier.

Another thing you can do is to visit the post office and have a word with the Postmaster. Taking this action can effectively stop all mail delivery for a renter that has since moved out from your rental property.

Q&A About Receiving Past Tenants’ Mail

The following are some commonly asked questions about receiving a former tenant's mail:

Should the landlord remain updated on a former resident’s new address?

Yes. It’s essential for landlords to find out the new forwarding address of previous tenants. Although getting mail to them will be made easier by having their new address, you need this information to refund the security deposit they gave at the start of the tenancy.


What’s more, if there are court proceedings, it’s crucial to reach out to the tenants. There may still be unpaid rent due to you and you need to send the renter notices and demand letters as evidence to support your case.

In any of these circumstances, it’s vital to have a copy of their new address. So prior to the tenant moving out, ask for their new/ forwarding address to ensure a smoother end of the tenancy.

Is it acceptable to open or shred a previous renter’s mail?

No. Opening, shredding, or discarding the mail of a former renter is illegal. If you do this, you can be penalized with up to five years of imprisonment or be required to pay a steep fine so never open mail that isn’t yours.

Can you complete a change of address form for a previous tenant?

To reduce your stress, you might feel tempted to fill out a Change of Address form on your tenant’s behalf. However, this isn’t allowed unless you are considered an executor, guardian, or authorized agent. You’re likely to be asked to pay a fine or face prison time for this federal crime.

What is the right process when the tenant passed away and the mail still keeps arriving?

You can visit the Direct Marketing Association website and list the name of the tenant who’s already deceased.


In three months, changes can occur. You can also write this message “Deceased, Return to Sender” when you receive mail meant for a departed renter or talk with the mail carrier, or head to the post office to communicate directly with the Postmaster.

Can you throw away mail for former renters?

No, landlords must refrain from doing this. Discarding or destroying mail that isn’t addressed to you is tantamount to a federal offense, even if the mail may be referred to as junk mail. Throwing away the mail of previous occupants is against the law.

Landlords are not obliged to keep the mail of former renters indefinitely even if it’s illegal to discard or destroy it. You can seek legal assistance if a former resident continues to ignore filling out a Change of Address form.

Process of Stopping the Receipt of Mail from Former Renters

As a landlord, you can handle mail directed to former renters by:

  • Writing down the new address of the renter and placing it back in the mailbox so it’s forwarded to them. Though this can take some effort and time, it reduces your duty to keep holding to mail that isn’t yours.
  • Write the message, “Moved” or speak with the mail carrier or send a note to inform the carrier that the renter already relocated and to refrain from leaving mail addressed to them.

Bottom Line

Landlords must know how to resolve different situations since this is part of their responsibilities in managing a rental. Dealing with mail addressed to former tenants is one of these scenarios. Try the tips listed above to help solve this issue.

If you’re looking for a trusted property manager to help you supervise your rental unit and resolve these situations, contact Schambs Property Management today!

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