Would like to know what some TTers think about the following:
We bought a house this past summer and have been most accommodating to the previous owners. They left some stuff here; I allowed them to come back on numerous occasions to retrieve items - I even helped gather it all up for them. I also saved a lot of mail that continues to come to the house. Now that it is tax season, I am receiving W-2s and other such documents for them and their adult children.
Ethical question: at what point can I just start pitching this stuff? Am I ethically (not legally) bound to contact them and tell them that their tax stuff is here?
Would like to know what some TTers think about the following:
Comments ... #
I have yet to ever hear of someone being sued or even in trouble for throwing out past tenant's mail. Of course they wouldn't admit it and how could you prove otherwise.
It's called being responsible and accountable. It is not either of yours to make sure the previous tenants get their old address mail. If they didn't take the time to fill out a "change of address", which can be done online now, then it is not your job.
If they have been gone for over a month and you are still getting their mail, they are hiding from something.
1-simply write "no one by that name lives here" and put back in mailbox
2-put it in a bag or box and hold onto it for a couple of weeks. If no one contacts you, throw it out.
3-throw it out. If anyone asks or accuses you, have them prove it.
I write "wrong address" and stick it back in the mailbox. Problem solved and I'm not throwing anybody's stuff out. Especially a W2.
Legally, you are supposed to give any mis-directed mail back to the USPS.
I think the only thing that is considered a major crime would be opening and reading it.
BUT, as has already been pointed out, if you pitch it, who could prove it?
I'm still getting mail for the dead lady who used to live in my house. I just trash it...
Progress22, if you can still contact the former owners do so. Let them know that as of a certain date, which you choose, you will be returning their mail to the post office. Then do it.
You'll be meeting both your legal and ethical obligation. Since you've let them rely on you as a forwarder up until now, its only fair to tell them that the arrangement is over.
I just want to say, as a freelance artist who gets a ton of IRS paperwork this time of year... if someone were to throw away that paperwork that was intended for me, it would ruin my year. no exaggeration
I wouldn't bother contacting them - you have no obligation to make up for their laziness by not thoroughly changing their address.
That being said I still write "addressee no longer lives here" every time I get a piece of first class mail for someone that hasn't lived in our house for 5 years. It takes 2 seconds and I drop it back in our mailbox to be picked up.
upso, there is a difference between someone throwing out what you want (ie. filling out a change of address, contacting your prior address for old mail etc.) and just moving and not doing anything about their mail.
The wisest choice is the put "return to sender" or "wrong address" and put back in mailbox.
It's wrong and also illegal to throw away another person's mail. Especially first class mail and things such as w-2 forms. Bulk mail/junk mail, it's still illegal to throw it away, but you are probably doing the USPS a favor pitching it as most of it won't be forwarded or returned.
Personally, unless I was very pissed at the people, I would call them about the tax forms.
Regardless, you should inform the carrier if you can chat with them when they stop at your house, that those people no longer live at your address. Some mail may still slip through for a while. When it does, clip it to your mailbox and the carrier will have to deal with it. Which also means they will be more diligent about not delivering it there in the future. If they continue, they will have more work to do double and triple handling the same mail.
If you don't want to deal with the carrier, cover the letter's barcode with ink, X the addressee, and write RTS / MLNA on the envelope.
RTS = RETURN TO SENDER.
MLNA = MOVED LEFT NO ADDRESS.
Yeah, and the next time you go over the speed limit, promptly report to the nearest police station and turn yourself in for a ticket. lol
I highly doubt the "mail police" led by Newman will be breaking down your door to throw the handcuffs on you because you threw away someone's mail.
That is another problem with the USPS. There is no accountability. Who is going to know whether you put it back in the mail or threw it away.
Do not spend more time on this then the people who should be caring about it do. Make a small effort, then forget it.
If they have been returning to retrieve property and mail on numerous previous occasions, they must not be too far away. Sort of surprised their new address has not come up in conversation. Or the topic of "Did you fill out a COA at the Post Office"
Since you titled it ethics question, my ethics tell me that the right thing to do is tell the previous owners that you would appreciate them filing a change of address form and from here on out go ahead and write, RTS / MLNA on the envelope. You've been more than gracious.
some peoples minds just are not wired for detail... i know brilliant engineering and legal minds who are common sense dolts in very nice absent-minded ways... it is hardly done on purpose and certainly not done with ill intent. you are wired the other way... but you should be neither passive aggressive nor willfully spiteful about it... call/contact them and inform them they need to contact the USPS and change their address. do it because it is the right thing to do... not just because you legally are required to do... which you are.
be pissed at congress which is messing with your money, life, and time... be nice to people in your community... be proportional and appropriate.
Wow. Have to say, I agree with Holland, whose answer seems to be not only most on point, but in direct reply to the OP question as posed, i.e., ethical question.
How hard is it to be .... um, kind? We don't know that the former owners didn't fill out a change-of-address form. All we know is that OP has allowed them to come retrieve things (which, while nice, is irrelevant to the question at hand). When did giving someone the benefit of the doubt become obsolete?
Holland, you're absolutely right: Inform the previous owners that as of Date X, you won't be responsible for their mail. But throw away someone's TAX DOCUMENTS? Jeez, people. A little compassion wouldn't hurt here.
Hockeyfan, quit being an asshole about this. It's obvious if 22 throws away the mail nothing is going to happen. However, the question was about ethics, and the answer is not to throw another person's mail in the trash, especially tax forms.
Had a real problem with this when we moved. OUR mail got to us from Toledo to the new place in Northwood just fine, but the previous owners built a house in Genoa and it was a nightmare for them to get the PO to recognize their new addy! I was told by them they did the COA cards 3 times but we still kept getting mail (she's a nurse and he's a cop, and they're foster-parents, used to handling details, so I tended to believe them). They were picking it up for a while, but, finally, the second time we put the mail back in our box with 'no longer at this address' written on it, the mail carrier, rural carrier out of Oregon PO, came to the door and said, 'who actually lives here?', wrote the info down and got it fixed. Now we get ads for them sometimes but they get recycled.
Since you appear to have a decent relationship with the previous owners (in fact, reading your post again, I'd say you've been very generous in allowing them to move things out of your house piecemeal), contact them and try to get this sorted out ASAP. But be firm and let them know that THEY need to do change of address (and follow up) pronto or you will be RTS'ing all their stuff in the future. Nicely put, of course.
I'd really like to be a jerk on this one, but one summer I worked on a long term project out of town and had my mail "forwarded" to me. Two month stint. By the time my mail was actually forwarded, I was 7 weeks into my gig and leaving in 2 weeks. So, COA forms...even online...don't work like you think they would / should.
Next time I did another long stint out of town, I gave my best friend my P.O. key and had him priority mail my stuff in an envelope. The extra cost was worth it to have my stuff on time.
The Post Office. There's more than one reason they are losing billions of dollars.