Advice: What should I do if someone else’s mail is delivered to my address?

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey

Saturday, 12th December 2015, 6:00 am
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

Q: I have received several Christmas cards to my address which are addressed to someone else. What should I do?

A: People sometimes receive mail through their letterbox that is meant for someone else. This may be for someone who used to live at your address or it may have been delivered to you by mistake.

If you receive mail showing the correct address but in someone else’s name, they maybe used to live at your address.

If you know the address that the person has moved to, you can forward the mail to them for free. To do this, you should:

• cross out the address on the front of the envelope with a pen

• write on the front of the envelope: “NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS, PLEASE FORWARD” and then write their new address

• place the letter back in the post box

Royal Mail will charge extra postage and may charge a handling fee for forwarding an item if it’s been opened before being re-posted, if the name of the original addressee has been covered or obscured or if it’s forwarded by a business. Mail originally sent using Special Delivery or Recorded Signed For services will either be delivered or returned to the sender and extra postage and/or a handling fee will be charged.

If you don’t recognise the name or don’t know the previous occupier’s address, you should:

• score through the address with a pen

• write on the front of the envelope: “NOT KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS, RETURN TO SENDER”

• place it back into a post box

If there is no return address visible, Royal Mail has a returned letter centre in Belfast where they are allowed to open the mail in an attempt to identify the sender so they can return it. The returned letter centre can add these details to their database and the unwanted mail should stop. If they can’t identify who the mail should be sent to, the item will be destroyed.

Is it against the law to open someone else’s mail?

Opening someone else’s mail is allowed in certain circumstances under the Postal Services Act 2000. It is only an offence if you open someone else’s mail ‘without reasonable excuse’ or if you ‘intend to act to another’s detriment’. For example, if you are receiving bank statements/cards in someone else’s name then you should act on that immediately. You should tell the sender, either by returning it marked “not known at this address” or by opening the mail and calling any number provided within. The “reasonable excuse” for opening such items would then be that you were helping to prevent fraud against the companies involved.

What to do if you’re getting mail that is addressed wrongly:

If mail with a different address has been mistakenly put through your letter box, it has been misdelivered. This can sometimes happen where your address is very similar to another address. You should:

• mark the front of the letter: “MISDELIVERED” and write the address it was delivered to

• place it back into a post box, which is free of charge

You can also report the problem to the Royal Mail on 03457 740 740 (Textfone 03456 000 606).

If you find that some of your mail is going to the wrong address, you should report the problem to Royal Mail. They should work with your local delivery office to identify and sort out the problem. If necessary they might send out a special card telling the postman to pay particular attention to your problem.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – go to or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm), email advice is available at [email protected]