Tenants have the right to receive mail delivery at a rental property, which usually requires the landlord to provide a mailbox. Once installed, a mailbox is federal government property, which means there are laws governing its use and construction. For example, it is a federal crime to destroy or interfere with a mailbox in a way that prevents the proper delivery of mail.
USPS Mailbox Regulations
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has specific requirements regarding the size and placement of mailboxes.
A curbside mailbox must meet the following size requirements:
- Length: 18.56 to 22.81 inches
- Width: 6.25 to 11 inches
- Height: 6 to 15 inches
The USPS also regulates proper placement for curbside mailboxes, according to the following standards:
- Mailboxes must be placed 6 to 8 inches away from the curb.
- The slot or door must be 41 to 45 inches from the ground.
- Posts should be buried no more than 24 inches deep.
- Mailboxes must be placed on the right-hand side of the street, with their openings facing the street.
- The box number or address must be shown on the mailbox in numbers and/or letters that are at least 1 inch tall, either on the front or flag side of the mailbox.
Some homes and apartments have a slot in the door to receive mail rather than an exterior mailbox. These are the USPS requirements for a door slot:
- The opening must be at least 1.5 inches x 7 inches.
- The bottom of the slot must be at least 30 inches above the floor.
- Horizontal slots must have a flap hinged at the top.
- Vertical slots must be hinged on the opposite side from the door’s hinges.
The Postmaster General does not regulate individual wall-mounted mailboxes, so they can be of diverse sizing and design as long as they don’t prevent the ordinary delivery of mail. A renter or property owner may not replace a curbside mailbox with a wall-mounted mailbox except with the local postmaster’s express permission.
Centralized banks of wall-mounted boxes do have sizing requirements, with several specific options available depending on features like parcel lockers. The core requirement across different designs is that each individual box must be at least 3 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and 15 inches deep.
Tenant Mailbox Rights
Tenants have the right to receive mail securely. Landlords may not interfere with the delivery of a tenant’s mail or examine the contents of a tenant’s mailbox.
Section 1702 of the U.S. Code makes it a crime for anyone to tamper with another person’s mail. In some cases, such as mail theft, this can be a felony offense. Tenants are entitled to file a police report if they suspect a landlord is inspecting the contents of their mail or interfering with mail delivery.
The Fair Housing Act requires accessible public features, including mailboxes. Tenants with a disability have the right to request reasonable accommodations for mail delivery, which may include modifications to the mailbox or mail slot.
Federal regulations do not require lockable mailboxes. Some local jurisdictions may have stricter regulations. For example, California requires lockable mailboxes in certain multi-unit rental situations. A landlord who provides a lockable mailbox may be able to retain a copy of the mailbox key, but it is still illegal for a landlord to look through a tenant’s mail.
Not all states or types of rental property legally require landlords to provide mailboxes for tenants. These exceptions usually apply to rentals in extremely rural areas, or areas which are covered by special regulatory jurisdictions. Landlords must usually install a mailbox if requested unless a P.O. Box requirement or equivalent alternative for mail delivery has been negotiated in the rental agreement.