Can't get mail in HUD housing
January 9, 2021 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Due to antiquated mailboxes, some with non-functioning locks, some residents (including my mother) in a HUD subsidized senior housing apartment building can't get their mail reliably. Can anyone help me figure out how to get this situation resolved?

My mother recently moved to this apartment building in Milwaukie, Oregon. Inside, there is a bank of mailboxes, very old. Several of them have broken locks and the only way the tenants can get their mail is by catching the building manager, who can retrieve the mail through special access at the rear of the mailboxes. Due to COVID issues, the building manager is onsite half-time and very busy during those times. So tenants can't get mail on Saturdays at all, and weekdays are hit and miss.

The manager hasn't hired a locksmith to rekey the locks, and the regular maintenance guy does not have the skills or tools to do so. This situation has been going on at least since my mother moved in a month ago. The post office apparently requires in person appointments and the property manager has not prioritized this highly enough.

They need to contract with a locksmith or find another way for tenants to have around the clock access to their mail. How can I help compel them to do so? People are waiting for stimulus checks and all the other stuff they rely on the mail for, like bills and medical test results, etc.
posted by happy_cat to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This seems like something that you might be able to contact the local postmaster about. There are all kinds of laws about interfering with the mail, conditions of mailboxes, that might be relevant.
posted by rockindata at 8:13 AM on January 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You should be able to get some help by getting in touch with the Clackamas County Low-Rent Public Housing office.

Even if the apartments are not publicly-owned they're still getting HUD money and the office linked above will know what entity owns the building.
posted by mareli at 8:22 AM on January 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

In Virginia, the locks were owned by the post office. They charged for replacements and were the only necessary point of contact. The post office was an easy (non-free) fix for the exact same sort of problem.

When I moved to Oregon, the post office silently decided they didn't like my pre-existing mail slot and just stopped delivering until I built a mailbox. So I guess I'd still define them as the boss of mailboxes. But things might get weird/worse if they don't own the box.
posted by Snijglau at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Someone at the local post office should at least be able to clarify for you if the mailboxes are owned by the post office (=they will have to rekey them) or the building.

In a recent situation where the post office owned the bank of residential mailboxes and I did not have a key to mine (nor did the person I was renting from), I was told that I would need to bring ID & a copy of my lease (or similar) to the post office to prove I lived there and pay some money to have them rekey it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:26 PM on January 9, 2021

Best answer: Oregon Housing and Community Services (which is the state agency that administers project-based Section 8 housing) has a tenant services phone number: 1-800-453-5511, Option 4. If your mom's housing is some other flavor of HUD housing, they can probably send you in the right direction on who to get help from.
posted by vespabelle at 1:53 PM on January 9, 2021

In the meantime, you may want to have your mail held and just pick it up at the post office. I don't know how convenient that would be.
posted by cda at 1:56 PM on January 9, 2021

Best answer: In addition to the local contacts already give, if you can confirm it is a HUD building (searchable database here), I would also contact HUD directly through a couple of avenues:

“Bad Landlord hotline” at (800) MULTI-70 (800) 685-8470) / TTY (800) 432-2209. The more residents call, the better. Note that these lines are typically staffed by well meaning people with little direct authority. Multiple calls will get things escalated but may not bring immediate results. Still worth doing to get complaints against the landlord on the record.

There could be quicker results if residents (or their families) call/email the Field Office Director. FOs tend to be more directly engaged with local constituents.

Finally, also highly recommend contacting congresspeople (even though they have, uh, a lot on their plates lately). A good rep/senator will quickly ask HUD for assistance, triggering a mandatory response protocol at the agency.

I would not hesitate to use all of these methods, repeatedly, until the residents get a good resolution.
posted by tinymojo at 6:31 PM on January 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone!
posted by happy_cat at 5:32 PM on January 10, 2021

Best answer: She can buy a new mailbox with a copy of the key given to the postman or rent a p.o. box at the post office
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 4:52 AM on January 11, 2021

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