How to stop receiving the previous residents’ mail

How to stop receiving the previous residents’ mailGetting mail that is not addressed to you is usually an annoyance that we sometimes have to deal with when we first move into a new home. Sometimes a formal change of address just doesn’t get registered, or maybe someone did not get the memo before sending mail to someone’s old address. In any case, whether you are getting it a week after you moved in, which is a bit more usual, or years after you have settled into your home,  here are a few things you can do to stop or redirect it.

Send it back

You should start by taking everything out of the mailbox that is addressed to the previous resident, and write “return to sender” on it. Then just put it back in the mailbox. This should let your letter carrier know that the person addressed does not live there anymore, and since the mail will eventually get back to the individual or company that sent it, they will realize this as well and update their records. If the problem is really bad, it is a good idea to keep a pen inside of your mailbox or put a post-it inside your mailbox noting that mail addressed to the previous tenant should not be delivered, because they do not live there anymore. Let your postman know as well.

Similarly, you can write “has moved” or “no longer lives at this address” on the letter, and this indicates to the Post Office that the person the letter was meant for no longer lives at that address, although it does not necessarily return the letter to its original sender. Smaller companies generally get the hint more quickly than larger companies, which rely on the National Change Of Address database for address updates. It is regularly updated by the Postal Service with all of the change of address forms that go through their system. Unfortunately, NCOA serves everyone, businesses and civilians, and the only way clients can update it is by submitting a change of address form. This is why returning mail to its sender seems like it takes a lot of time to work. It is possible that a sender just did not get the update, or did not process it in time to edit the mailing list. Maybe the old resident never submitted a change of address, and you reporting it starts the chain of events. This is usually the cause of the “I still get this stuff years later” problem. It can take a while for everyone to get the message, especially if the sender is using an automated mailing system just to populate labels and send out mail in bulk. All you can do is keep sending the junk mail back and be patient. If the person who used to live at your address did not file a change of address card, or if their change of address expired, you can always file one on their behalf, even if you do not know what their forwarding address is.

Go to the post office

Usually, all you have to do is head to the Post Office and get a change of address card, fill it out for each unique last name, and instead of a forwarding address, put in “Moved, Left No Forwarding Address.” Sign it yourself and make sure you say “form filled in by the current resident, [Your Name], agent for the above.” which is important. Hand it right to your carrier, or to a clerk working at the post office. If you prefer, give it directly to the postmaster, or someone who can make sure it actually gets handled and not just thrown away because they do not know what to do with it. If the problem is bulk mail, you can appeal to the Direct Marketing Association to stop unwanted mail through their Mail Preference Service. You can send a letter or a postcard to Mail Preference Service. Make sure to include “Activate Mail Preference Service” in your note, the other person’s name, and your full address. Make sure the letter is certified, ideally with the return receipt, so they know that you know they received it. Each request lasts for five years, after which it will have to be renewed, by which time everyone’s records will be updated.

Difficult situations

If you do not feel like you are getting anywhere with any of the above suggestions, you are stuck with an organization that does not obey change of address forms, or you have a legal issue, file a complaint with the postmaster at your local or your closest Post Office. Write a letter explaining the problem, or call the post office and set up an appointment to speak with them in person. They might encourage you to apply for a Prohibitory Order against the sender, which stops them from sending you mail entirely. You can choose to either file the request directly through your postmaster or use USPS Form 1500 to submit your complaint directly. The form is specifically meant to complain about unwanted sexually explicit mail, but can also be used to request a general prohibitory order. Once you have filed your complaint, it should take about thirty to forty days before the order is issued if it is approved. Once that has been done, any additional mail you get from that sender is a violation of the order, and you can report it to the USPS. Two violations and they have to appear in court.

Do not throw away or destroy the mail

You might just be tempted to throw it in the trash. Do not do this. It is probably fine for things like ads, flyers, or other things that are obviously junk, but you are not helping yourself or the other person by just tossing everything not addressed to you in the garbage. Destroying the mail also removes any tools you can use to correct the problem, so complaining about them and then throwing them all away is very counterproductive. Secondly, just because you are getting the mail does not mean the intended recipient does not want or expect it. They might have filed a change of address which has expired, or, as we mentioned, someone is not obeying the change of address. If it looks important, get it back in the hands of your postman. You would want someone to do the same for you, right?

Hopefully, these tips will help you get rid of all of your unwanted mail, and give you a few addition options to use, other than just to return to sender, although that should be your first approach. With a little patience, you will be free of that unwanted mail in no time at all.