If you ignore the problem, letters for the previous resident or someone you’ve never heard of could keep piling up for years. Fortunately, most postal services will pick up the mail free of charge if you write “Return to sender” and leave it in your mailbox. Hopefully that individual sender updates her address book, but to stop a large influx of mail you may need to talk to your postal worker or visit the post office.
1. Write “Return to Sender” on the envelope or package. If you received a letter or package addressed to the wrong person, write this in large, clear letters on the envelope or box, without obscuring the return address. You can do this with unsolicited mail addressed to you as well, but it is completely legal to throw it away or keep it, unlike mail addressed to someone else.
If you opened the mail, or someone signed to receive the package, you’ll need to put it in a new package and pay for postage. Otherwise, the postal service should handle it free of charge, as long as you complete this within “reasonable time.
2. Write “Wrong Address” or another reason (optional). Add a note so the person who sent the mail knows why it’s being returned. If you’re returning mail sent to the wrong person, try “Addressee moved” or “Not at this address.” If you are receiving large amounts of spam, try “Remove me from your mailing list” – though this is unlikely to be effective.
If you know the person’s new address, you can write “No longer at this address, please forward (write new address here)” instead of “Return to Sender.”
Large businesses usually use mass address lists, and will rarely stop sending materials based on messages written on the envelope. Try the change of address form method below.
3. Cross out your own address. This makes it clear that the letter is not to be delivered to your address again
4. Leave the mail in or next to your mailbox. The postal worker will pick up the letter or package and bring it back to the post office to deal with. Put the flag up on your mailbox if you have one, to let him know there is mail for him to pick up. Otherwise, leave the mail in an obvious location.
If the postal worker fails to notice the mail, put a sticky note on your mailbox saying “mail to be returned.” If the mail is still not picked up, take it to the post office in person.
5. Inform your postal worker in person or with a note. If you’re getting mail for the person who used to live at your address, tell the person who delivers your mail or leave a note on your mailbox. If you are getting mail for many previous residents, write a note saying “leave mail ONLY for (names of current residents)” and tape over it completely to make it a permanent message on your mailbox.
6. Visit a post office to ask for a change of address form. If the step above doesn’t work, visit your post office in person. Request one change of address form for each name incorrectly receiving mail at your address.
Online forms usually require you to know the new forwarding address.
7. Fill it out with special instructions. Assuming you don’t know the person’s correct address, use this information to fill out the form:
In the “forwarding address” field, write “Moved, left no forwarding address” or “Never lived at previous address, correct address unknown.”
Sign the document, then write “form filled in by current residents, (your name), agent of the above.”