Mailboxes come in different types, often depending on the kind of homes they are servicing. Some of them don’t have any kind of lock, however, most apartment buildings and large neighborhoods containing single-family homes now have banks of locked mailboxes much like what would be found at the actual post office. Homeowners who have their own individual mailboxes sometimes will install locking versions, too.
So, this begs the question, do mailmen have keys to every mailbox? How do they get into all of those locked boxes? The answer is, no, they don’t have keys to every single mailbox. Mail carriers do carry keys with them, but it’s usually no more than 10, depending on the routes they handle. Most of the keys are masters that open the entire panel so they can get to all of the mailboxes at once.
Delivering to Neighborhood Locked Mailbox Banks
Most of the new housing developments in urban and suburban areas are moving away from using individual mailboxes which are located right at the homeowners’ properties. Instead, we see a bank of mailboxes where residents can go to send their outgoing mail and pick up their incoming mail.
Each home in the neighborhood is assigned its own mailbox located within the bank of boxes. The homeowners are given two to three mail keys. Meanwhile, the post office does not keep any duplicates of the key given to the homeowners. That being said, should a homeowner lose all of their keys, the post office will not be able to replace those. The homeowner will have to allow USPS to change out the lock, but the resident will be paying for the replacement.
The keys the mail carriers use to deliver to the locked mailbox banks are master keys that will open an entire bank of boxes all at one time. It makes it faster and easier for them to access every mailbox in the group. It works the same way as the mailbox banks at the post office. The postal workers can simply use a master key to open up the back or front panel so they can access many mailboxes at the same time. It’s much more efficient than opening every individual box.
Delivering to Locked Apartment Buildings
Most newer apartment complexes have gone to using groups of mailboxes stationed outside the actual apartment buildings. This allows for postal workers to have easy access to the mailboxes so there’s no need to spend time unlocking doors to go inside. This situation is then similar to what we mentioned above about the banks of mailboxes that the mail carrier can open with the master key.
What about the apartment buildings that don’t have the outdoor mailboxes? Many buildings have mailboxes inside. While not all apartment buildings are locked to non-residents, some of them are. So, how does a mail carrier get into the apartment buildings on his or her route that are secured? Do they have to be buzzed in by a resident?
Residents in the building shouldn’t have to be bothered to let in a postal worker. While it may not be true of every apartment complex, postal workers will often have a key to the buildings that are part of their routes. Mail carriers that work for the United States Post Office are government employees, so where other delivery service workers won’t be granted keys to buildings, many postal workers do actually carry keys for gaining access to the apartment buildings.
Do mail carriers have stamps? Check out this article: https://civilservicehq.com/do-mailmen-carry-stamps/
Delivering to Individual Locked Mailboxes
There was a time when most single-family homes included either a mail slot in the front door, a mail container that was attached to the front of the house, or a freestanding mailbox that was out in front of the home that wasn’t locked. These days, many homeowners are replacing these other mailbox types with versions that lock and require a key to access the mail inside.
These boxes have to be approved by the USPS before homeowners can receive their mail in one. When the mail carrier delivers the mail to an approved locked mailbox, he or she will just have to insert the mail through a slot somewhere on the box. That compartment can only be accessed by someone who has a key to unlock it. The mail carrier is not issued a key and will only be able to open that part of the box with the help of the resident.
Many of the locked mailboxes have a separate compartment for placing outgoing mail. The mail carrier will have access to that part of the box, however, note that other people could also access it. In most cases, the outgoing compartment is concealed where people wouldn’t usually see it without really looking for it.
Are There More Locked Mailboxes Now?
The trend has certainly seemed to have gone toward residents having locked mailboxes more now. So, what would be the reason behind this move away from the old easy-to-access, open mailboxes posted at each residence?
Identity theft is a fast-growing crime that more and more people have become victims of. And while there are several ways that identity thieves can get information, one method that they’ve used for a long time that can give them access to very specific and sensitive information is to steal someone’s mail. Average people get pieces of mail every week that include very private information that criminals can use to steal the identity of everyone in the household—even children.
One way to defend all members of a family is to install an approved locking mailbox. It’s one of the reasons that new housing developments have moved toward installing the banks of locked mailboxes like was mentioned earlier. Other reasons exist too, like making routes more efficient for mail carriers, but protecting people from identity theft is a more important factor for the change.
Delivering to a Gated Community
Another consideration is how mail carriers deliver to gated communities. Not all of these are the same. Some gated communities have an actual gate guard that is always stationed at the point of entry. In these situations, the gate guard or guards usually become familiar with the mail carrier and any other delivery workers. They’ll simply let the employees in when they show up.
In some gated communities, access is granted through the use of a keypad where those visiting enter a code to open the gate. Postal workers will often be given the code required to get in. There are also sometimes universal codes that can be used, which is often how police officers and other first responders gain access to some of these types of neighborhoods.
In the case of a mail carrier filling in for someone else on a route that includes a gated community, or any kind of situation where access is needed without the use of a code, a resident may need to be contacted who can then buzz the person in remotely. This isn’t usually how postal workers will need to access the neighborhoods like this, but it is acceptable in some cases.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is mailmen don’t have keys to all locked mailboxes. There are master keys they carry to open large panels to give them access to many mailboxes all at one time. Sometimes keys will be issued to the mail carriers for entering into apartment buildings or other types of group residences. Individual locked mailboxes are not opened by postal workers. All of the keys that open individual residents’ mailboxes are given to those residents. Should they all go missing, the resident will then have to pay for the replacement lock and keys.
Can you copy mailbox keys?
You can copy mailbox keys if they belong to an HOA or a condo association. They can be taken to most hardware stores or any locksmith where they will easily be able to duplicate the keys for you. However, if the keys are the property of the United States Postal Service, you won’t be permitted to have them duplicated. If you try to get one copied at a hardware store, they just simply won’t do it for you. In this situation, you’ll have to go through the Post Office to get more keys.
What happens when residents don’t check their mail?
If a mailbox gets too full because the resident isn’t checking their mail, a mail carrier should just stop leaving mail for the recipients. The mail will instead be taken back to the issuing post office. A notice will then be placed in the mailbox letting the resident know where their mail will be since the compartment was too full to fit any more pieces of mail.
There is a Redelivery form that can be completed by the resident to get the mail carrier to bring the mail to the residence. When this is the chosen option, someone has to be available to receive the overflow mail. Otherwise, the resident needs to go pick up the mail from the actual Post Office.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
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