Landlords and property owners are sometimes under local or state obligation to provide tenants with locked mailboxes, depending on the particular property. Indoor apartment complexes as well as outdoor complexes with cluster mailboxes almost always require individual locks. However, even if it’s not law in your state or your property doesn’t require, it’s still worth considering buying locking mailboxes for preventative reasons.
ID theft has become one of the most frequently occurring white-collar crimes in recent years. Many people know shopping online is a risk, but not many people consider leaving their mail in their mailbox for even just a few hours is a risk, too – but ID theft is older than the Internet. An ID thief only needs to see a piece of mail addressed to a name at that address and he has all he needs.
If a tenant discovers her identity was stolen because her mail was delivered while she was at work and wasn’t able to collect it until hours later, there’s a possibility she’ll sue the landlord for failure to protect her identity. Better to be proactive — and offer the additional mail protection.
When tenants go on vacation, not only are their IDs at risk if they let mail accumulate in an unlocked box, but their house is more likely to be broken into if watching thieves use the accumulating mail to figure out no one’s been home for a while. Rather than making your tenants arrange cumbersome mail holds or have someone they know pick up the mail every day, used locked mailboxes. The mail carrier can slide new mail through a slot, but no one can see that older mail is still in the box.
A ransacked home isn’t just a pain for your tenant, remember; as property owner, your name is on the insurance policy and you’ll have to file the claim. If you have a deductible, you’ll be responsible for it.
Even if a thief doesn’t want to go through the hassle of stealing an identity, mail is still an attractive, low-risk theft target because it contains checks, gift cards and other valuables. Items that are clearly birthday, holiday or anniversary cards prove especially tempting as do small packages, bank statements, paychecks and other official-looking forms of payment. Even a credit card statement may have the full credit card number on it, which is enough for a thief to start charging items to your tenant.
A locked box protects all of your tenant’s mail. Even if a thief is someone with inside information about the tenant — for example, an acquaintance she knows on a social media page who sees it’s her birthday and who expects to find checks, gift cards and cash in her mail around that time — there’s no way for the thief to get into the mail.
As the MontClair Safety & Improvement Council in California explains, the more boxes locked in a neighborhood, the more crime is discouraged in the area. Whether you own one property in a neighborhood or several of them, if you need to find a new tenant, highlighting the low crime rate in the neighborhood can help you attract more prospective renters. Discuss the possibility of adding locked mailboxes to other properties in the neighborhood with those property owners with the goal of increasing overall safety.
As a property owner, you have a legal obligation to do what you can to protect your tenant’s belongings. While you’re not liable if the tenant chooses to leave his front door unlocked, as owner of the property, you’re the only one who can make decisions about installing a new mailbox. Choose the locked variety, both to protect your tenant and to protect yourself from liability. Discuss the change with your current tenant or make the change before a new tenant moves in.