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

When a lease ends, landlords may think that they won’t encounter any more issues related to their tenants. However, mail intended for previous renters may still find its way to you. 

This won’t be a cause for concern if the renter left a forwarding address to reroute the letter. If you don’t know the former renter’s new address then you need to find out what to do next.

This article by Halcyon Real Estate Services provides you with tips to navigate this specific situation and prevent experiencing this case again. Read further to learn how to handle mail for previous tenants in your rental property.

Stopping Mail from Former Renters

Are you trying to figure out how to keep mail from being routed to your address? See the list of options below.

1. Hand back the mail to the postal carrier and leave any of these messages at the back of the envelope: 

  • return to sender
  • no longer at this address
  • moved

The mail will be carried back to the post office of origin. Should a forwarding address be available, then the mail will be sent there. If not, the letter will be returned to the sender.

While it is easy for regular mail, some envelopes contain barcodes that the post office uses to streamline the management of mail. The automated system sorts the mail and matches the address for delivery.


It can be significantly difficult to prevent the mail from landing in your mailbox since the messages you wrote can be ignored by the system. The barcode is the point of reference for the mail system.

What you can do is mark the barcode with the message “Not at this address”. The mail system will categorize the mail as undeliverable when the barcode is marked.

2. Pen a friendly message, such as the “Former Tenant (name) is no longer a resident of this address, please leave mail for Current Tenant (name) only.” inside the mailbox of the previous renter. Once mail carriers see this, they will be aware and will stop delivering mail intended for former tenants.

3. Communicate with the carrier directly if you notice that nothing changed and the mail continues to arrive at your address even if you already wrote a “Return to Sender” message and left a note. You can also resolve this situation by going to the post office to tell the Postmaster. 

Q&A About Receiving The Mail For Previous Tenants

Should I make sure that I know the new address of a former renter?

Yes. As a landlord, learning the forwarding address of prior tenants can help you manage mail that may be routed in your mailbox. It will help you avoid issues like this. In addition, it is also a must to help you send the renter’s security deposit back to them.


In case a renter was evicted for non-payment of their rent, you would also need their address to collect past rental dues. The small claims court will require you to send letters and notices to a previous tenant.

Is checking, destroying, or discarding a former renter’s mail allowed?

No. Opening, shredding, or throwing away a letter intended for a previous tenant is illegal. You will face a 5-year imprisonment penalty or a heavy fine if you open mail intended for another person since this is labeled theft.

Can I complete a change of address form on behalf of a former renter?

It is understandable for a landlord to be proactive and want to fill out a Change of Address form, but this is not permitted. Only executors, guardians, or authorized agents can perform this activity. It is considered a federal crime if you do this and will lead to jail time or a steep penalty.

What should I do if a tenant is deceased and their mail keeps arriving?

You can head to the Direct Marketing Association website and input the name of your deceased tenant. 

Allocate three months for the changes to happen. Write “Deceased, Return to Sender” on the letter or talk to the carrier or the Postmaster to provide updated information. You can also contact the companies to update them but it will take some time.


Can I throw away the mail of previous tenants? 

Throwing mail that is not intended for you counts as a federal offense. No matter if the mail is categorized as junk mail, landlords must refrain from discarding them. 

Although it is illegal to throw away someone’s mail, landlords have the option to seek out legal counsel, especially if a previous tenant refuses to update their address. Landlords are not expected to hold on to the mail indefinitely.

How To Stop Receiving Mail from Former Renters?

When letters addressed to previous occupants are sent to your address, there are multiple options for handling them. You can forward the letter to the tenant’s new address, which will require a bit of effort on your part.

A simple message, such as Moved” at the back of the envelope will also suffice. Leaving the mail carrier a short note stating that the tenant has moved elsewhere is also effective. The carrier will then stop sending their mail to your address. 

How USPS Can Help

Although landlords cannot destroy or discard mail addressed to previous tenants, USPS can take back the letters with messages containing “Not at this address,” and deliver them to the right address. 

However, if it is categorized as undeliverable, the USPS can legally get rid of the mail when they see that the mail has no endorsements.

Bottom line

Receiving mail from previous tenants may require taking action to resolve but following the steps outlined above can resolve the situation. Make sure to prioritize this task and ask renters to leave a forwarding address before they move out.

If you’re seeking a trusted property manager to help you handle these types of situations, contact Halcyon Real Estate Services today!