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Do I have to have a mailbox?
November 17, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Do I have to have a mailbox?

I live in an apartment in the U.S. with a mailbox, but literally 99.9% of everything dropped into my box is junk (hehe). I get maybe once piece of mail every two months that I actually open. Am I legally required to have a mailing address in the eyes of the USPS? If not, is it possible to NOT have a mailing address but continue to live in an apartment with an address?

Signed,
Confused
posted by nitsuj to Law & Government (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure if you're looking for a scheme to make this happen or a flat answer to your question. I'm fairly certain you can forward the mail from your apartment address to pretty much anyplace, including someplace where you are not. The easiest way to do this would be to frame it in some sort of believable hypothetical and just email the USPS... "I am going to Swaziland for six months and there is no one to pick up or forward my mail, what should I do with my mailing address at the apartment that I will return to?"

While they will probably encourage you to buy a PO box or some other annoying upsell you will probably get some decent information about the answer to your actual question. You could also pretend that you have died.

You will also need to figure out how you are going to get the one piece of mail every two months that you do need. You could get it delivered to work, perhaps, and there is always general delivery though it's not as reliable as one might hope. You can get your mail held and go pick it up once a month which would mean going to the PO and then dumping everything into the recycling bin before you leave. Handy! Another option is to just stop picking up your mail and, guess what: they will stop delivering it. This is a somewhat aggressive way to behave with your mail carrier however, so I don't suggest it.

Keep in mind that without SOME valid mailing address, you may have difficulty getting a bank account, a driver's license, or a few other types of services that really require a real-and-true address. If you're not totally broke you could deal with a mail forwarding service that would forward you only your first class mail, for example, and only on a monthly basis but it might be better just to get your mail once a month if this were the case.

So, in amnswer to your mail question: I don't know but I think you can safely not have your mail delivered to your apartment mailbox via the judicious use of forwarding and/or holding. However you'll still need to figure out what to do with the one or two pieces of mail you do want.
posted by jessamyn at 9:04 PM on November 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you're living in an apartment, the mailbox is very likely the property of whomever owns the building and, even if it's possible to "cancel your address" (not likely) you probably don't have this right as tenant.

There was a Seinfeld episode about this very topic.
posted by dhammond at 9:05 PM on November 17, 2007


Keep in mind that without SOME valid mailing address, you may have difficulty getting a bank account, a driver's license, or a few other types of services that really require a real-and-true address.

The idea is that I will still have an address when I need it. Meaning that I can still have stuff shipped to me (via UPS, FedEx, and other carriers that are NOT the USPS) while avoiding the torrent of paper crap I get on a daily basis. Or I can tell the pizza guy, "deliver it here!"

And really, I can live without opening that once-in-two-months mail, because it's never been an OMG-thank-GOD-I-opened-this! piece of mail. It's usually just an odd bank statement or something that contains information that's readily available online.
posted by nitsuj at 9:10 PM on November 17, 2007


yeah, not having a mailing address makes it hard to vote, deal with the irs, open a bank account, have a valid driver's license or passport...

this site has some good info on how to get off of catalog lists and preapproved credit offer lists, which should cut down on the junk mail considerably.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:11 PM on November 17, 2007


My pop's a letter carrier, and he says that anyone can refuse the mail permanently. All you have to do is inform your carrier, and maybe sign a legal document to that affect. Done.

Trivia: Your letter carrier can refuse to deliver your mail for any reason, and in some cases, is required to refuse to deliver your mail. The most common reason is a threatening dog.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:56 PM on November 17, 2007


Is there any way to stop delivery of junk mail besides refusing all mail? I get a big circular full of coupons nearly every day now that I live in a house rather than an apt.
posted by fructose at 10:06 PM on November 17, 2007


Jessamyn: Pretending to the Postal Service that you've died could be a very, very bad idea.

If you choose to go this route, be extremely careful not to raise any flags that you may be involved with mail fraud, as this would get the United States Postal Inspection Service on your ass. They have the same kind of authority as US Marshals.

Faking your own death, no matter how transparent, and then getting the attention of the USPIS would almost certainly lead to federal charges, and that's something you just don't need.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:06 PM on November 17, 2007


If you live in a house, it's very simple not to receive USPS mail but receive UPS and FedEx deliveries.

Remove your mailbox.

With no box (and no you to which the carrier can hand deliver the mail), you'll get no delivery.

Alternatively, you can let the box fill up entirely and they'll stop delivering.

At least in my state, the mailing address itself is not necessary to register to vote, just a location drawn on a map.
posted by wierdo at 10:40 PM on November 17, 2007


Get a nice paper shredder. Bring in the mail, start feeding. The sound of junk mail being shredded by metal teeth is really rather soothing. Makes it all good.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 10:58 PM on November 17, 2007


SlyBevel: "
Trivia: Your letter carrier can refuse to deliver your mail for any reason
"

Never heard of this. Source?
posted by aerotive at 12:29 AM on November 18, 2007


You literally only get 1 piece of real mail for every 999 items of junk? I don't believe you.

DMM 508 §1.14 says:
1.1.4 Mail Withheld From Delivery

An addressee may request the postmaster, in writing, to withhold from delivery for a period not to exceed 2 years any foreign letter or printed matter with a specified name or address on the outside.
I'm not sure what the meaning of "foreign letter" is exactly, as it isn't used elsewhere in the DMM.

Don't do this, you'll regret it.
posted by grouse at 1:09 AM on November 18, 2007


I live in an apartment, too, and one of my neighbors has a little sign taped to her mailbox. Sign says, "No unaddressed mail please!" with some hearts and smiley faces. She's never taken this sign down, so I gather it works for her at least as far as Penny Power and "To Current Resident" mailings go. You don't have to add the hearts and smiley faces, but a simple note would probably be just as effective.

I haven't tried this yet myself because I actually use my junk mail as packing material when I ship stuff.
posted by katillathehun at 2:38 AM on November 18, 2007


If you refuse/let your box fill up so it can't be delivered/don't have delivered your bank statement, it will get sent back to the bank, and they will then put a hold on your account (surprisingly promptly). You will then be unable to purchase, e.g., groceries, gas, etc., and any bills (electric, water, rent) billed to that account will bounce, and you will accumulate an ungodly mess of fees.

Have you considered instead putting your name on the do-not-mail list, and then calling any company that sends you mail (as opposed to owner, occupant, current resident, et al.) and telling them to stop mailing you? And so on and so forth and suchly...
posted by anaelith at 6:45 AM on November 18, 2007


There are a number of hardcopy mail spam filters. Why don't you just cancel the catalogs and junkmail? Then you can just check your mail every four weeks, and you'll be set. Plus, you'll be cutting down the amount of junk going right into landfills.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:46 AM on November 18, 2007


\I get a big circular full of coupons nearly every day now that I live in a house rather than an apt.

It's probably these people. I got off their list, stuck a note in my mailbox asking not to get their stuff, and (when that didn't work) wrote to my post office telling them I was still getting other people's mail. That did the job.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, that first line was me quoting fructose.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:53 AM on November 18, 2007


The idea is that I will still have an address when I need it. Meaning that I can still have stuff shipped to me (via UPS, FedEx, and other carriers that are NOT the USPS) while avoiding the torrent of paper crap I get on a daily basis.

As I was Googling around looking for some links for this, one of the things that I saw coming up was stories from people whose mail was returned to sender for whatever reason and their bank account was put on hold until they could be contacted as anaelith relates.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no way you can tell the DMV that you will only receive your registration/renewal information via UPS/Fedex, likewise with registering a bank account. I'm not saying this is a bad idea, I'm just saying make sure you figure out that without a valid USPS postal address, some things may suddenly become not just difficult but impossible so you may want to lay groundwork for them ahead of time. So, there is your question "can I not get mail at Apartment Two" to which the answer seems to be "yes" and "can I live in the US as a person without some sort of a USPS address" and the answer appears to be "you maybe can but it's super difficult unless you structure your life specifically to do that"
posted by jessamyn at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2007


I'm in Canada, so maybe it's different, but I have a little sign above my apartment's mailbox that says "No Junk Mail" and we rarely get any. There's also the Green Dimes service that I've heard about and sounds interesting, but I haven't tried it.
posted by carolr at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2007


You could forward everything to a friend with a wood stove.
posted by okbye at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2007


My banks must be exceedingly lax or something. I once lived in an apartment with an atrocious mail carrier who would often mark mail as undeliverable and send it back (I know this because several of my business-related correspondents would drop the returned mail into a second envelope and mail it back to me) and I never had a problem with my deposit bank nor my credit card banks cutting me off.

Banks only require a physical address due to banking regulations. I've never had a problem with telling them that a particular address is my physical address and to mail all correspondence to a different mailing address. (or no address at all, in the case of banks that are willing to correspond only electronically, as the bank with which I have my savings account does)
posted by wierdo at 12:33 PM on November 18, 2007


I would do the anti-catalog jihad first. One of the problems is that if you allow yourself to stay on almost any mailing list, your name will eventually be sold or transferred to another. By not cancelling catalogs now, you guarantee more later. Hey! This guy didn't stop Shoelace Monthly, so he must be a potential for our Aglets Quarterly! Your name is typically worth less than one cent in these situations, by the way.
posted by dhartung at 12:58 PM on November 18, 2007


I'm not SlyBevel, but I can give at least a partial source for his claim that mail carriers can stop delivery of mail to an address.
Postal Operations Manual section 623 deals with withdrawal of delivery service.

623.1
Consider withdrawing service if a customer does not provide a suitable mail receptacle after being so notified by PS Form 1507, Request to Provide Mail Receptacle (city delivery routes); by PS Form 4056, Your Mailbox Needs Attention (rural and highway contract routes); by letter or verbally.

Section 623.3 deals with security, including loose animals. Station managers generally give the carrier wide discretion in determining what constitutes a threat to their safety.
posted by faceonmars at 2:09 PM on November 18, 2007


Thanks faceonmars. You confirmed what I suspected, that a carrier can stop mail for legitimate reasons but can't just decide on a whim to not deliver mail for irrelevant reason x.
posted by aerotive at 7:39 PM on November 18, 2007


Just stop emptying your mailbox. Pretty quickly your carrier will stop delivering your mail because he won't be able to securely fit anything else into it. Problem solved.
posted by DandyRandy at 9:18 AM on November 19, 2007


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