A mailbox seems like a pretty standard piece of equipment but it can also be a little complicated. If your new neighborhood has a central mail system where everyone picks up their mail at the same spot, there’s not much to know other than never putting anything on your mailbox that may impede delivery.
Putting a mailbox in front of your home is a little more complicated and has to be done according to Post Office regulations. So, here are a few things you should know.
You buy your mailbox but the Federal government owns it. The Post Office technically owns your mailbox. The reasoning behind this is to keep the box free from unauthorized use or damage. For example, if someone opens your mailbox and takes your mail, it is a Federal offense. But it is also a Federal offense to put unauthorized material into your mailbox, like a party invitation or a business flyer. Along those same lines, if bored teenagers take a baseball bat to your mailbox, they can also be tried federally.
Your mailbox needs to be place correctly. According to the United States Postal Service your mailbox should be between 41” and 45” above ground level and 6”- 8” back from the curb.
They also recommend that you put your house number on the box and that the post be made of something strong enough to withstand the weather conditions but also made with something that will break away if someone were to hit it with a car. For example, a 4×4 post is very sturdy but will break if a car hits it, but a milk can filled with cement probably will not. This is important for the safety of the person who may crash into your mailbox.
You need to maintain your mailbox. It’s important to maintain your mailbox in good working condition so that your mail delivery person can drop your mail in the box safely. Its a good idea to give it a “tune up” at least once a year. Repaint fading numbers, oil the hinges, and make sure the hardware is securely attached. In addition, you must keep the front of your mailbox clear so that your postal worker can access it safely. Even if the snow plows pile the snow in front of your mailbox, you must shovel it out of the way as quickly as possible to ensure your mail is delivered.
“Your mailbox needs attention” notice. If you receive a notice on your mailbox that says it needs attention, you must correct the problem cited quickly or risk your mail not being delivered. Notices are sent to homeowners who don’t keep the front of their mailbox clear or who have maintenance issues that make mail delivery difficult. Garbage receptacles can also cause problems. Avoid putting them directly in front of your mailbox and leave enough clearance for your mail carriers vehicle to get close to your box and drive away without having to back up.
Special needs or illness. Most new neighborhoods require that your mailbox be next to the curb instead of at your door, but if you have a disability or an illness that makes it impossible for you to collect your mail from your mailbox, you can request that your postal worker bring your mail to your door. You must have a letter from your doctor stating the reasons you cannot collect your mail curbside and they also require a letter from you stating the reasons for your request. It’s only temporary but can be a real help in times of need.