What Should You Do With a Previous Tenant's Mail?

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

May 19, 2023

Updated on Aug 07, 2023

There’s so much to keep track of when you move into a new apartment that the rental’s previous tenant is probably the last thing on your mind. However, if they didn’t give the post office a forwarding address when they moved out, then you’ll likely be inundated with mail that doesn’t belong to you. You may be tempted to ignore the issue, but unfortunately, this usually isn’t a problem that goes away on its own.

Getting an old tenant’s mail after they have moved out is a pretty common experience; as a renter, you may have even caused this problem for someone else. So, what are your responsibilities as the current tenant? How do you stop mail intended for a former tenant from coming to your apartment?

Read on for our guide, based on official guidance from the United States Postal Service.

Can I throw out or shred a previous tenant’s mail?

No. Even if it’s junk mail, tampering with other people’s mail is a federal offense. Do not throw out or shred a previous tenant’s mail. You may be tempted to say “out of sight, out of mind” if you receive a piece of mail that doesn’t belong to you, but discarding mail that isn’t yours actually counts as willfully destroying another person’s mail, which is punishable by U.S. law.

Can I open a previous tenant’s mail?

No, it is a federal crime to open mail if you are not the intended recipient. Even if it was delivered to your address, if a piece of mail has someone else’s name on it, it’s best to write “Return to sender” or “Not at this address” on the front and return it to the local post office or to your postal worker. Just think: Would you want a stranger opening your mail if you moved?

If I have the new address of a former tenant, can I forward them their mail?

Yes — although you may find this tedious after a while. To forward a former tenant’s mail to them, cross out the old address (but do not cross out the former tenant’s name) and clearly write the new one on the piece of mail. If there is a barcode on the piece of mail, then cross that out. Then, return the mail piece to the USPS by placing it in your mailbox with the flag up, handing it to your mail carrier, or placing it in a USPS Collection Box. If you have the prior tenant’s contact information, consider reaching out and encouraging them to fill out a change of address form or to set up a forwarding address as this may save you time in the long run.

Can I fill out a change of address form for a prior tenant?

No. While you may think you are doing a good deed, you cannot fill out a change of address form for a previous resident of your apartment. If you or your landlord have their contact information, use it to encourage them to fill out their own form.

How do I stop getting a previous tenant’s mail? 

If you’re consistently receiving mail that’s not yours, then it’s time to take action. Putting a stop to mail mis-delivery is as easy as writing “Not at this address” on the piece of mail and returning it to the USPS. Just make sure that you do not erase or write over the address on the mail piece. If you have a mailbox, then you can leave the marked mail piece in your mailbox with the flag up. If you don’t, then hand the marked mail piece to your mailperson or drop it into a USPS Collection Box. If it continues to be an issue, consider taping a sticky note to your mailbox that explains that the former tenant no longer lives at your address.

How do I get my mail from an old apartment?

If you are moving, it's important to fill out a change of address form for your new place — otherwise, you'll be the tenant whose mail won't stop coming to the wrong apartment. You can also set up a forwarding address before you move to ensure that your mail gets delivered to your new place. If you neglected to do take either of these steps before your move, take the time to do them as soon as you realize. If you believe that your mail was delivered to your old address, you can also try going to your former apartment and asking the new tenant if you could collect your mail.

The Bottom Line

When you move into a new apartment, you may get mail intended for a former tenant for a period of time. Your options are to return the mail to the original sender, contact the former tenant and ask them to fill out a change of address form, or to let the US Postal Service know that the addressee no longer lives at your address. And remember, when you move, fill out a change of address form so that the new tenants of your apartment don’t have to worry about handling your mail!

We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.

Start your search

Top metro areas

Albuquerque Metro Apartments

407 apartments starting at $550/month

Atlanta Metro Apartments

1,365 apartments starting at $698/month

Austin Metro Apartments

1,498 apartments starting at $500/month

Bakersfield Metro Apartments

348 apartments starting at $400/month

Baltimore Metro Apartments

893 apartments starting at $500/month

Birmingham Metro Apartments

618 apartments starting at $595/month

Boston Metro Apartments

3,194 apartments starting at $950/month

Charlotte Metro Apartments

951 apartments starting at $549/month

Chicago Metro Apartments

2,595 apartments starting at $400/month

Cincinnati Metro Apartments

678 apartments starting at $595/month

Cleveland Metro Apartments

823 apartments starting at $450/month

Colorado Springs Metro Apartments

790 apartments starting at $500/month

Columbus Metro Apartments

1,148 apartments starting at $490/month

Dallas Fort Worth Metro Apartments

3,044 apartments starting at $400/month

Denver Metro Apartments

1,779 apartments starting at $450/month

Detroit Metro Apartments

1,048 apartments starting at $435/month

El Paso Metro Apartments

267 apartments starting at $550/month

Fresno Metro Apartments

324 apartments starting at $650/month

Hartford Metro Apartments

167 apartments starting at $750/month

Honolulu Metro Apartments

580 apartments starting at $830/month

Houston Metro Apartments

1,200 apartments starting at $400/month

Indianapolis Metro Apartments

703 apartments starting at $475/month

Jacksonville Metro Apartments

988 apartments starting at $495/month

Kansas City Metro Apartments

1,204 apartments starting at $410/month

Las Vegas Metro Apartments

1,509 apartments starting at $600/month

Los Angeles Metro Apartments

4,642 apartments starting at $400/month

Louisville Metro Apartments

384 apartments starting at $495/month

Memphis Metro Apartments

1,027 apartments starting at $450/month

Miami Metro Apartments

1,002 apartments starting at $950/month

Milwaukee Metro Apartments

703 apartments starting at $485/month

Minneapolis Metro Apartments

1,486 apartments starting at $500/month

Nashville Metro Apartments

616 apartments starting at $845/month

New Orleans Metro Apartments

328 apartments starting at $425/month

New York City Metro Apartments

1,218 apartments starting at $500/month

Oklahoma City Metro Apartments

1,243 apartments starting at $475/month

Omaha Metro Apartments

481 apartments starting at $550/month

Orlando Metro Apartments

1,356 apartments starting at $550/month

Philadelphia Metro Apartments

1,963 apartments starting at $400/month

Phoenix Metro Apartments

1,840 apartments starting at $750/month

Pittsburgh Metro Apartments

1,021 apartments starting at $400/month

Portland Metro Apartments

2,191 apartments starting at $415/month

Raleigh Metro Apartments

852 apartments starting at $595/month

Richmond Metro Apartments

655 apartments starting at $625/month

Riverside Metro Apartments

479 apartments starting at $595/month

Sacramento Metro Apartments

1,024 apartments starting at $525/month

Salt Lake City Metro Apartments

660 apartments starting at $600/month

San Antonio Metro Apartments

1,265 apartments starting at $525/month

San Diego Metro Apartments

1,725 apartments starting at $590/month

San Francisco Metro Apartments

1,986 apartments starting at $850/month

San Jose Metro Apartments

712 apartments starting at $1,000/month

Seattle Metro Apartments

1,997 apartments starting at $500/month

St. Louis Metro Apartments

1,036 apartments starting at $495/month

Tampa Metro Apartments

1,061 apartments starting at $750/month

Tucson Metro Apartments

537 apartments starting at $499/month

Tulsa Metro Apartments

455 apartments starting at $529/month

Virginia Beach Metro Apartments

495 apartments starting at $700/month

Washington Metro Apartments

909 apartments starting at $675/month

Wichita Metro Apartments

381 apartments starting at $425/month