Wait, this isn't mine!
July 15, 2007 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I accidentally opened a piece of mail that was addressed to the former owner of my house. Due to the nature of the mail I feel I should make sure it gets to either the addressee or the sender (a person, not a company I can easily call up). But how should I do that when I've obviously opened it?

I got back from a work trip and was working through a pile of mail when I realized that the letter I had opened was not for me, but rather for the former owner of my house, who sold us the place last year. The envelope contained an estimate from an auto repair shop and a handwritten letter requesting payment. I feel like I should make sure it gets back to someone rather than just pitching it in the trash.

So I'm torn over how to handle this. One idea we had was to send it to the former owner with a note saying "stop using our address, please" since if this was a recent accident then he obviously gave out our address at the time, or never updated his license. However, he didn't give me his address, so is it creepy for me to track him down like this? Also, how do I explain how the envelope came to be opened?

The other option we came up with is to send it back to the sender, but again, how would we explain the open envelope?

I have read the many threads on how to stop getting mail for people, and the implications of opening someone else's mail. This question is more than that - how should I handle this specific situation?
posted by cabingirl to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pretty simple...just mail it to whoever with a note that you accidently opened it...and move on with your life and worry about something that matters...
posted by america4 at 8:25 PM on July 15, 2007

i just throw all the mail in the trash that comes for previous owners of my home
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:25 PM on July 15, 2007

I would return to sender with a note saying you accidentally opened it without looking and that the former owner doesn't live there anymore.
posted by whoaali at 8:28 PM on July 15, 2007

I've gotten more than one piece of mail in my life forwarded to me with the explanation on the envelope "Opened inadvertently." It happens. Tape it up, scribble the note, forward and don't worry about it.
posted by commander_cool at 8:34 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Echoing america4 and whoaali -- you should return it to the sender with a note that says "Accidentally opened -- this person is no longer at this address." That's it.

There's no need to go tracking down the addressee or asking them to stop using your address; that seems like a lot of potential drama in response to this very small issue. There is also no need to come up with an elaborate excuse for why it's opened; it happens. People know that.

Just send it back to the person who sent it, letting them know that it did not reach the person for whom it was intended.
posted by Siobhan at 8:35 PM on July 15, 2007

Tape it, write "no longer at this address" and put it back in the mailbox. As far as it being opened, that doesn't matter in the least.
posted by The Deej at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

In the past, when I was the person whose mail was opened inadvertantly, I felt better with a note. It's a bit of a white lie, but you could say "I use the same shop, opened your letter by accisnet. Sorry!"
posted by jeremias at 8:55 PM on July 15, 2007

do as the above suggests. this is extremely common both with getting mail from residents as well as getting mail intended for your neighbors. I don't know how many times I have accidentally opened the neighbor's gas/water/electric/etc. bill.
posted by mmascolino at 8:56 PM on July 15, 2007

I think this is pretty common. Just send it back with a note saying you accidentally opened it. It's not as if you were looking to tamper with the mail.
posted by acoutu at 9:05 PM on July 15, 2007

Ok, thanks everyone! I'll just send it back to the sender with a note.
posted by cabingirl at 9:08 PM on July 15, 2007

"Opened in error" was invented for this occasion. Seal it up and forward it on, with that on it.
posted by b33j at 9:27 PM on July 15, 2007

I once ended up with a court judgement against me because of a botch up in changing addresses and the new resident just throwing mail in the bin.
Tape it up and return to sender is a decent response.
posted by bystander at 10:36 PM on July 15, 2007

i just throw all the mail in the trash that comes for previous owners of my home

I do the same.

OP: Just tell the person you opened it by accident.
posted by Caper's Ghost at 10:49 PM on July 15, 2007

I make a point of opening everything that comes addressed to a previous resident because the people that live in houses before me have a bad habit of not paying their debts and we've had to head off bailiffs at the pass more than once. I do not know what this says about my choice of residence, but I do know that throwing misdirected shit in the bin can be dangerous.

Tape it up and return to sender, with a note saying 'not at this address - opened by accident'.
posted by corvine at 4:54 AM on July 16, 2007

If anybody is to be contacted/notified, it's the sender of the letter. I also say to return it to sender. If there's tracking down to be done, it's the creditor who has the reason to do it.
posted by winston at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2007

In addition to all of the above, I really wouldn't feel bad about opening the letter because of one thing: if you move, it's your responsibility to notify as many people as you possibly can that you're moving and then to file a forwarding order with the post office — which can even be done online, to make it even more convenient. Had this sender done that, his If you don't do those things, then you can't expect others to pick up the slack. You're being more than charitable enough by worrying about it to the extent you are.
posted by WCityMike at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2007


Had the sender done that, his ... ... mail wouldn't be showing up at your door, so it is entirely his fault that his mail isn't showing up where it should. If you don't do those ...
posted by WCityMike at 10:21 AM on July 16, 2007

Or it could be the carrier's fault. Whoever was responsible, the Post Office would appreciate it if you were to tape up the letter and write "opened by mistake" and "Not at This Address" on the front. Or if you want, just "NATA"
posted by faceonmars at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2007

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