Is USPS currently holding your mail, or otherwise failing to deliver it?
This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if it’s not something you specifically asked them to do.
So, is USPS legally allowed to withhold your mail, and why would they even choose to do this in the first place?
In this article, I’ll be answering all of these questions and more.
Can The Post Office Hold Your Mail Without Permission?
Yes. USPS is allowed to legally withhold and prevent delivery of your mail to your mailbox, without getting permission from you first. However, they cannot prevent delivery of your mail entirely, and you’re allowed to pick it up at the post office yourself if necessary.
Postal workers who deliberately delay or destroy mail illegally can face large fines or even prison time, according to 18 U.S. Code § 1703.
Typically, USPS only fails to deliver your mail when they are unable to do so – due to issues like your mailbox being full, or safety issues preventing the mail carrier from actually delivering.
Reasons Why USPS May Hold Your Mail
By understanding the reasons why USPS may not be delivering, you may gain some insight as to how to solve the problem.
That way, it is likely USPS will resume delivery without needing to take any further action.
So, let’s look over 6 possible reasons why USPS may be holding your mail, or otherwise failing to deliver!
1. You Requested It
The first – and usually the most common reason that USPS may hold your mail, is that you (or someone at your address) specifically requested it.
This is common if you are going on vacation for example, and signed up for USPS’ mail hold service.
USPS mail hold requests can last for up to 30 days, and USPS will hold all mail that would otherwise be delivered up until this point.
So, if you are receiving no mail from them at all, check with members of your household to make sure nobody signed up for a service like this.
Note that if you’ve recently moved to a new home, USPS may also temporarily hold mail as they forward it to your new address. You can learn more about this on USPS’ page here.
2. It’s Unsafe For USPS To Deliver
If the mail holding is temporary or sporadic, this is one of the most common issues.
USPS reserves the right not to deliver if it is unsafe for their drivers to do so.
For example, if a dog has been allowed to roam freely in your neighborhood, USPS may not stop to deliver in order to keep the driver safe.
While you may recognize the dog as friendly and nice to people, USPS has no idea.
So, they tend to err on the side of caution in situations like these.
Additionally, mail does not always get delivered during extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or extreme blizzards. If it is unsafe for the driver to be on the road, USPS may not be able to resume deliveries until weather conditions improve.
3. They Believe The Addressee No Longer Lives There
If you want your mail to be delivered, make sure it’s addressed to somebody that actually lives there!
USPS is very strict about ensuring that the proper names match up with the proper addresses.
When shipping packages to your home, USPS may end up returning them back to the sender if the name doesn’t match, citing ‘addressee unknown’ as the reason.
Likewise, mail that is not addressed to a known resident of that address may not end up being delivered as normal.
Additionally, if they believe that the addressee may have lived at that address in the past but no longer does, they may not deliver mail normally anyway.
Instead, the mail will be forwarded to the new address, unless the forwarding period has expired.
4. Your Mailbox Is Full
This is one I’ve personally been guilty of myself, in the past.
It goes without saying, but if USPS is physically unable to fit anymore mail inside your mailbox, they won’t be able to deliver anything new to it.
This is frustrating both for you, and for USPS as well. In fact, some mail carriers will even go as far as to write you an angry note, which is what happened to me!
So, be sure that you’re checking your mail, and clearing out anything that may be inside your mailbox regularly.
Remember, even if there is space for letters to fit, USPS does sometimes put packages in the mailbox as well – and they won’t be able to if there isn’t adequate space!
5. You Don’t Have A Functioning Mailbox
This is another one that is kind of obvious, when you think about it.
If your mailbox is broken, doesn’t open easily or doesn’t meet USPS’ strict standards for what is acceptable as a mailbox, they may refuse to deliver to it.
Not only does it have to be a certain size, but there are also restrictions on where the mailbox can actually be placed.
If you believe that your mailbox may not meet USPS standards or you want to receive clarification to make sure there are not any issues, I recommend contacting the local post office branch responsible for delivering your mail.
If your city has multiple branches, the one that delivers your mail will likely be the one that resides in the same zip code as you.
For more general information, you can also learn how to reach a real person at USPS’ phone support line by clicking here.
6. They Were Unable To Securely Leave Your Package
Finally, in the case of packages, USPS may refuse to deliver if there is not a secure place to leave your package.
Typically, they will leave a notice either at your door or on your mailbox stating ‘no secure location available.‘ This message may also be present on your package’s tracking page, on USPS’ website.
This typically occurs because they want to make sure that you are able to retrieve your package, without the risk of it being stolen or destroyed by poor weather conditions.
So, using the slip you can either ask them to redeliver regardless, or you may also pick up the package directly from the post office.
While it may appear that they’re holding your mail against your wishes, they truly have your best interest at heart in this instance!
What To Do If USPS Is Holding Your Mail
So, what should you do if USPS is holding your mail – especially if it’s not something you’ve actually asked them to do?
First things first, you should take care of any issues mentioned above that may prevent delivery – such as ensuring your mailbox isn’t full, and that any animals that may perceived as dangerous are not allowed to roam freely outside your home.
After that, the best thing to do would be to contact or visit your local post office to inquire.
Ultimately, they are the only ones that know specifically why mail is not being delivered, and they will be able to provide any insight necessary to fix it.
If the first person you talk to is unable to help, request to speak directly with the postmaster. If mail is knowingly being destroyed or delayed, the postal worker responsible could face large fines and prison time, so this is something that USPS takes very seriously.
For better or worse, USPS is able to hold your mail if they are unable to deliver it.
If this becomes a regular issue however, speak with someone at your local post office. They will be able to tell you exactly why your mail is being held, and help you take steps to resolve the issue for good.
I hope that this article has provided a little insight, and you’ll manage to get regular mail deliveries soon.
If you have any questions or just want to vent, feel free to write a comment using the form below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions and who knows, maybe someone at USPS will read it too?
In any case, I’m wishing you the best!
– James McAllister
The mail carrier has put a hold on my mail, without notifying me, and none of the reasons listed are an issue. Can USPS legally hold my mail without notification or providing reason on the hold? Furthermore, is it illegal for USPS to put a hold on the mail without giving written notice of why? I have spoken with the post office, and the mail carrier keeps putting a hold on my mail and they cannot provide me with a reason or notification of why and when mail was put on hold. Do I have a legal right to request that documentation?
Hi Leigh, sorry to hear about that! I can’t imagine the frustration that must be causing, especially if they aren’t telling you why.
As far as I know, they can legally hold mail without notifying you or providing you the reason, though I’m not sure why they’d want to withhold that information. As long as the mail isn’t being stolen and they aren’t preventing you from retrieving it yourself, then it’s usually legal.
If I were in your situation, I would request to speak with the postmaster and at the very least, figure out why the mail isn’t being delivered. Calmly explain that you don’t understand why you aren’t receiving it, you’ve made sure your mailbox is accessible and isn’t full, etc. In most situations, they will WANT you to know the issue so it can be addressed – withholding of mail isn’t really beneficial to them either.
Here’s hoping it gets sorted soon!
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