Can A Landlord Check My Mail? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

When it comes to national protections, few things are as sacred as mail. It’s considered to be a federal offense to deface a mailbox. In fact, even opening another person’s mail can be a reason to get arrested. Mail is super private. That’s why many people tend to be worried about a landlord’s right to peek in your mailbox.

Landlords are never allowed to check your mail, rifle through your mailbox, or open your mail. Even though they bought the mailbox and may have a key to it, the mailbox is dedicated to you. It’s considered to be a major privacy breach to open it up.

A landlord that goes through your mail should be cause for alarm regardless of the reasons they have. If you recently saw your landlords check your mail, it’s time to read up on what you can do to make it stop.

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Why Are Landlords Not Allowed To Check Your Mailbox?

Landlords might maintain and even own your mailbox, but the moment it’s affixed to a place, it’s controlled by the USPS. The United States Postal Service is a federal entity that acts as an extension of the government. So, it technically is federal property.

The federal government dictates who can and cannot access a mailbox. If you are assigned a mailbox for your address, that’s your mailbox—no one else’s. In most cases, landlords don’t even have keys to a mailbox.

What Crime Is Checking Your Renter’s Mail Considered To Be?

Federally, checking another person’s mail is considered to be a crime known as Tampering With Another Person’s Mail. This is a felony. Depending on the circumstances of the tampering, this crime can be punishable by 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This is the penalty per charge.

What Is Considered To Be Mail Tampering?

Mail tampering can be a number of different things depending on what definition is used. Generally speaking, any of the following actions done by an individual can be mail tampering:

  • Stealing their mail. Did your landlord take a letter that you were expecting, or a package you were looking forward to? That’s illegal and is deemed to be Mail Theft, a related felony under the umbrella term of Mail Tampering.
  • Checking your mailbox without consent. Now, this is one of those things where things get dicey. Checking your mailbox is not allowed as a general rule. However, if you ask for your landlord to check your mail while you’re out and store it in a safe place, that’s okay.
  • Shredding mail that was intended for you. For example, let’s say that your landlord found a letter for you about college admissions. (Or heck, even something less serious, whatever.) If they took it and shredded it, they committed a felony.
  • Opening your mail or packages. This is classic and egregious mail tampering. If you come home to a mailbox filled with shredded letters, you might have a case on your hands.
  • Breaking into a mailbox. Did you catch your landlord picking the lock to your mailbox? This is pretty bad and can also be deemed an act of vandalism.

What Should You Do If You Catch Your Landlord Checking Your Mail?

Your landlord shouldn’t be checking your mail. If you’re asking this question, you probably aren’t asking your landlord to check the mail for you. Here is what you should do if you catch your landlord looking at your mail:

  • Ask your landlord to stop first. Ideally, you will try to ask them to stop via email. However, a face-to-face talk with your landlord will also suffice. Most of the time, landlords will stop if you ask them to stop.
  • If that doesn’t work, install a hidden camera to catch them in the act. This can help you if you need to show it to your court system.
  • Next, consider getting an attorney to write a letter asking your landlord to cease their act. This usually puts in the “fear of God” with most people. No one likes getting an attorney-approved letter in the mail. Take this time to add a written reminder that this is a felony.
  • If all else fails, contact the police or the postal service near you and explain the issue. They will usually take legal action on your behalf. This is doubly true if you show them proof of tampering.

Can You Sue Your Landlord For Mail Tampering And Mail Theft?

Yes, in most cases, you have a legal case that you can present against a landlord who messed with your mail. This is particularly true if you can prove that you had financial losses occur as a result of the tampering. For example, if you “lost” a paycheck in the mail and had to pay a fine as a result of a missed bill, you can sue the landlord for that loss.

It’s important to remember that most of the lawsuits that involve this kind of theft are not multi-million-dollar suits. Rather, they tend to be sorted out in civil courts and are for minor amounts of money.

Does A Landlord Have To Provide You A Mailbox?

Here’s the strange thing about your mailbox issue. On a federal level, your landlord cannot tamper with a mailbox that they bought for you or maintain for you. However, state laws vary. In some states, a landlord has to provide a mailbox regardless of what kind of dwelling you have.

In other states, the responsibility of obtaining a mailbox for renters can be totally arbitrary. To find out what your landlord’s responsibility is, check your state and local laws. Some cities have stronger mandates than the overall state.

How Do You Press Charges For Mail Tampering?

There are several ways to do it. Your local police station might help. However, the best way to get this on file is to call the Postal Inspector. The national hotline is at 877-876-2455. If you can, give them the heads up about how you found out about your landlord reading or otherwise tampering with your mail.

Can Your Landlord Penalize You For Reporting A Crime They Committed?

If your landlord gets under investigation as a result of them snooping through your mail, it’s no one’s fault but theirs. You are right to report them to the police. It’s your mail, and they are committing a crime by trying to access it. If they are slimy, they may try to retaliate against you.

Legally speaking, there are supposed to be protections against landlord retaliation when you report them for unethical behavior. This includes reporting them for criminal activity. However, in practice, things can get difficult. You would have to prove that their retaliation was sparked by you reporting them for opening your mail.

Should You Get A PO Box To Deter Your Nosy Landlord?

In most cases, you shouldn’t have to get a PO box to make your landlord stop snooping in your mail. Your landlord should stop on their own accord, especially if you wrote them letters asking them to stop. However, this can prove useful if you run a business and have roommates who might want to keep things separate.

PO boxes are best for people who want to receive mail without it being fully linked to an address. This is supposed to be a convenience, not a necessity for tolerating a creepy landlord. If it has gotten to the point that you may have to get a PO box, it may be time to switch homes.

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Related Questions

Are landlords allowed to enter your apartment while you’re not home?

They are, but only if they give you at least 24 hours’ notice. In most states, you also have to give them approval for entry and there has to be a maintenance-related issue for this to be mandatory. A landlord or maintenance crew that randomly shows up at your apartment is considered to be a breach of trust and privacy.

What are nuisance ordinances?

Nuisance ordinances are laws that encourage landlords to evict tenants who are causing problems in and around the local area. These ordinances place fines and fees on homeowners, tenants and renters who have frequent calls to the police for actions in their home.The calls could be a result of noise ordinances, a domestic violence issue, or criminal activity that has been linked to drug use. Either way, frequent calls to the cops can result in evictions.

Are landlords allowed to do apartment inspections?

Landlords are allowed to do apartment inspections, but only within reason. They have to give you an advance notice and also have to explain why they are doing the inspection. They are not, however, allowed to search your apartment for drugs without a warrant.Apartment inspections are generally not done unless there has been extensive damage done to the majority of the apartment building. If there are complaints about drug usage in your apartment unit, you may be asked to have an apartment inspection. In some cases, it may be done by the police instead.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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