As a landlord, you might think that a renter leaving your rental property means bidding farewell to issues associated with their tenancy. However, you might find yourself with their mail routed to your address.

Now, if the renter has not left you with a forwarding address, it can be another thing to worry about. Is it necessary to keep the mail or are you allowed to discard them? These are the thoughts that could run through your mind.

Even if handling a former tenant’s mail appears to be minor, it can be taxing for landlords to deal with, especially with the number of property management tasks piled on their plate. 

This article provides you with actionable steps on how to handle the mail of previous tenants sent to your rental home.

How to Stop Receiving Mail Intended For Past Renters

When you happen to accept mail delivered for an ex-resident, you can do the following:

1. Wait for the postal carrier and send the mail back to them with any of these messages on the back of the envelope:

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

Upon reading these messages, the post office will forward the mail to the new address. If this fails, then the mail will be returned to the sender. Sometimes, mail envelopes contain a barcode, so the post office can sort the mail using an automated system.


Bar codes systematically match the delivery address, so even if you pen a message that the recipient has moved, it will be ignored by the system. 

A way around this is to mark the barcode and write down “not at this address” beside it. When it passes the post office system, the mail will be categorized as undeliverable.

Once the post office sends the mail back to the sender, there is an opportunity for an address to get updated. The post office can then make the necessary changes to their records.

2. Write a note inside the mailbox of your former renter

A sample message would be:

“Previous Tenant (name) has moved from this address, please leave mail for the Current Tenant (name) only.”

Upon seeing this message, a mail carrier will take note of this new information and will refrain from sending the mail to your address.

3. If the mail for a former resident keeps arriving even after scribbling messages of “Return to Sender”, you can meet with the mail carrier in person. 

You can opt to speak with the Postmaster directly to prevent mail delivery to your address intended for ex-renters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Handling The Mail of Prior Tenants

  •     Is it required for landlords to get information about a former resident’s new address?

Yes, though landlords will want to avoid dealing with mail intended for a prior renter, learning the new addresses of previous tenants also helps landlords when sending back a renter’s security deposit. In case of any legal issues, landlords can present proof of returning the deposit.


In another case, when you need to get in touch with a former renter to collect payment, the court will ask that notices and letters be sent to the tenant through mail. Without the new address, this will become a difficult task for landlords to accomplish.

  •     Can I open, shred, or discard a previous renter’s mail?

No. It is illegal for landlords to read the contents of the mail intended for a previous renter. In addition, they are also not allowed to shred or throw away the mail. 

Otherwise, they could end up serving a 5-year prison sentence or be required to pay a steep fine for opening mail that does not belong to them. This is labeled as theft.

  •     Can landlords fill out a change of address form on behalf of a former tenant?

Unfortunately, no. Landlords are not allowed to complete the form to update a former renter’s address. Legally, only executors, guardians, or authorized agents are allowed to take this action. When you do this, you can be fined or imprisoned.

  •     What should you do if a renter dies and the mail continues to arrive?

You can visit the website of the Direct Marketing Association and type the name of the deceased tenant on the listing. Though the changes will not happen immediately, you can expect an update in around three months.


Another way to handle this situation is to pen the message, “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the mail of a departed renter. You can also inform the Postmaster or mail carrier.

  •     Is discarding the mail of former renters allowed?

No, it is illegal for landlords to get rid of mail addressed to former renters. This action constitutes a federal offense. Even if the mail is labeled as junk, it is not excusable under the law. But landlords are not expected to hold onto mail dedicated to former renters indefinitely. 

They can speak with an attorney to report a former renter who resists completing a Change of Address Form.

How to Stop Receiving Mail for Former Renters

If mail addressed to former residents arrives, landlords can

  •     Write the forwarding address of the former renters and put it in the mailbox. This may be an extra step but doing it right away helps you free yourself from the duty of keeping a letter intended for an ex-occupant.
  •     If writing the message, “moved” is not effective, you can talk to the mail carrier or send them a note that the receiver is already a former resident. Thus, the mail will be out of your hands.

Bottom line

Landlords already juggle a ton of responsibilities and if issues like this keep resurfacing, it can consume a lot of time you may not have. Consider following the steps outlined in this article to free yourself from the responsibility of holding mail for a previous occupant.

If you are seeking a dedicated property manager to handle landlord duties and manage your property and tenants excellently, contact Blue Door Realty today!