One tenant thinks someone’s been rifling through her mail. Another is angry there’s a patch of ice on the pathway to his mailbox. Some states and cities have laws governing the security and provision of mailboxes for residents in an apartment or condo complex or on another rental property. Others do not. Still, as landlord, it’s best to avoid legitimate complaints from your residents. Provide convenient, secure mailboxes for residents and hearing mailbox-related complaints from your tenants will be the last thing you have to worry about.
Research Local Law
While it’s better to err on the side of extra security and caution, you should still research local laws and ordinances to make sure you’re compliant. After all the work you put in to making sure your tenants have secure mailboxes, it’d be terrible to find that something like having the mailbox inside a locked building is not enough, and that each individual mailbox needs to be locked. You should avoid receiving avoidable complaints.
Install Lockable Cluster Units in a Secure Location
If possible, install lockable cluster mailboxes in a place where office workers can keep an eye on them during the day. Get to recognize the tenants and ask that they let you know if someone else has permission to access their mail so that office workers are aware if someone unauthorized is trying to get into a mailbox. If located outside, install a security camera in an obvious location. Thieves are less likely to take risks if they think they’re being monitored.
3. Issue Individual Keys
Issue individual keys for each tenant, not a master key that works on all boxes. Neighbors can prove thieves, too, or one neighbor’s negligence in losing or lending a key could lead other tenants to have their mail stolen. If you buy from a quality supplier, individual keys are par for the course. The only master keys should be for the mail carrier to deliver everything and for you to check if there are any issues with the boxes — if it’s not against local ordinances for you to have access to tenant’s mail.
Keep Mailboxes Clear
Your mailbox obligations as landlord don’t end just at security; safety and accessibility are two other important factors. Keep access to the mailboxes clear of weeds, snow and ice if installed outdoors. If the boxes are indoors, keep walkways clear so everyone can safely get from their condos or apartments to the mailboxes’ location. Failing to provide clear access could prove a violation of your obligation as landlord, and could even lead to injuries if the area poses a tripping or slipping hazard. If you want to decrease the amount of maintenance work you do keeping access clear, install cluster boxes indoors.
Replace Rusted, Broken Boxes
Another safety issue as well as a component of your responsibility toward property upkeep is to replace boxes when they get rusted or damaged from age or weather. Jagged edges could cause injury to the mail carrier and your tenants when they reach inside, and holes in the boxes could lead to water damage if outdoors. Holes could even prove tools thieves use to get a name and address without rifling through the mail.
If you find yourself frequently replacing mailboxes —likely when the boxes are outdoors and you live in an environment with snow, ice and harsh rain — make a point of investing in a quality-made mailbox in the first place. The best mailbox providers and manufacturers give warranties with each mailbox purchase, as well as helpful and accessible customer service in the event of any issues. Warranties guarantee your purchase will last for years, so you won’t have to constantly replace damaged mailboxes.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service reports that 9.9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, and one of the ways information is attained is through tampered-with and stolen mail. As a landlord, you’re responsible for a tenant’s mail’s security. Don’t let a tenant’s complaint about her mailbox become a liability on your part if identity theft is eventually involved; protect your tenants’ mail to the utmost of your abilities from the start.