Mail Delivery Laws

By Jeffrey Joyner - Updated June 08, 2017
Mailman Delivering Letters To Woman

The United States Postal Service has established procedures and regulations that conform to Federal laws on mail delivery. Each carrier and postal employee must follow the rules that relate to each type of delivery such as obtaining signatures when required or delivering to the addressee only. There are also regulations for acceptable mail receptacles, and the failure to provide a required receptacle can result in non-delivery of mail.

Basic Delivery Regulations

Mail addressed to more than one person may be delivered to any of them. However, mail bearing a joint address does not give either party the right to control mail addressed jointly or to a spouse. Addressees may refuse mail at the time of delivery or within a reasonable time as long as the mail is unopened.

Addressees may issue a written request to the postmaster asking that any foreign mail displaying a stated name or address not be delivered to them. The request can not be for a period of time greater than two years.

Parcels that are not insured may only be left outside of the mailbox if the postmaster has received a written statement from the recipient or if the sender has added the endorsement "Carrier-Leave If No Response" beneath the return address. Parcels to be picked up at the post office must be claimed within 10 days.

Delivery of Mail by Carrier

Consumers must furnish and maintain mailboxes or slots that are approved by the USPS. This does not apply to areas in which the USPS has established neighborhood delivery boxes, such as in an apartment complex, that are controlled by the USPS. Locking mailboxes are acceptable as long as they have slots that are sufficient to accept the normal volume of mail delivered.

Business customers do not need a mail receptacle if they are open when the delivery occurs and have someone available to accept the mail.

Door slots must have a rectangular slot on the outside that is a minimum of one and one half inches in width and seven inches in length, and a flap must be attached. Inside hoods must be at least two and one-sixteenth inches beyond the interior door face. The slot's bottom cannot be lower than 30 inches from the floor.

Curbside and rural mailboxes must be positioned so that the carrier will not be required to leave the delivery vehicle. Clear access must be provided for the vehicle. The box is to be placed on the side in which the carrier's route is designed.

Post Office Box Delivery

Customers ineligible for mail delivery by a carrier may receive a free post office box. Others may receive one by paying a rental fee to the post office. Items too large for the box will be held and a notice placed in the box that the addressee has a parcel to pick up.

General Delivery

General delivery is provided for those without a permanent address or who are in the area temporarily. It may also be provided for those who wish to have a post office box but none are available. The service may be restricted to a specific post office in areas with multiple facilities. Service may be denied to those who cannot provide acceptable identification or those whose volume or accumulation cannot be handled in a reasonable manner.

About the Author

Jeffrey Joyner has had numerous articles published on the Internet covering a wide range of topics. He studied electrical engineering after a tour of duty in the military, then became a freelance computer programmer for several years before settling on a career as a writer.

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