Door-to-door mail delivery is likely coming to an end in the United States. If you don’t already receive your mail at a cluster mailbox, you soon could be. But, who is responsible for cluster mailboxes?
These centralized, communal mailboxes that serve entire subdivisions, streets, or neighborhoods are already familiar to many apartment dwellers, who have long been accustomed to picking up their mail from a box in their building’s lobby. If you live in a subdivision built since the 1980s, you may also be familiar with cluster boxes, since the USPS stopped allowing to-the-door delivery for new homes in that decade.
Door-to-door delivery is the USPS’s biggest fixed cost, and these days, only 28 percent of Americans still receive mail delivered to their door. The rest have curbside boxes or the new cluster boxes. If you’re just starting to use cluster mailboxes for the first time, you might have some questions and concerns. You might wonder how safe the boxes are, how to receive packages and send mail, and what to do about winter weather that could hamper your access to the boxes. You can rest assured that cluster mailboxes are secure and easy to use, even in winter weather.
Cluster Mailboxes Are Safe
Security is one of the primary concerns people have about making the switch to cluster mailboxes. Will your mail be as safe in a cluster mailbox as it is in your own curbside or front porch box? The short answer is yes, it will. For the most part, using a cluster mailbox is even safer than using a curbside mailbox, which has no lock and is far more vulnerable to thieves and vandals. It’s also safer than having your mail deposited in a front door box.
That’s because these boxes are kept locked at all times. Each resident has their own keys to their own box. The postal carrier will have either a master key that opens all the boxes, or will be able to access all of the boxes at once by opening up the entire front or back of the cluster box. Cluster mailboxes protect you from mail and identity theft. If you’re worried about safety, check your mailbox every day, and have the post office hold your mail if you’re going out of town.
Receiving Packages and Sending Mail Are Easy
You might wonder how you’ll manage to receive larger packages at your small compartment in a cluster mailbox. Your cluster mailbox will have a package box large enough to accommodate most parcels. If you receive a package, the postal carrier will leave a key for this box in your individual mailbox, allowing you to open the package compartment and retrieve your package. You can then leave the key in the package compartment for the postal carrier to retrieve when he or she returns.
You can also send outgoing mail from a cluster mailbox. There may be a special slot or compartment or outgoing mail, or you may place it in your individual mailbox. You can also send outgoing mail by dropping it into any public mail receptacle, sending it from your place of employment, or dropping it off at your local Post Office.
Using Cluster Mailboxes in Winter Weather
In severe winter weather, the USPS recommends clearing snow and ice from in from of your mailbox, whether it’s a curbside box, a front door box, or a cluster box. The advantage of using a cluster mailbox is that you can share the responsibility of keeping the mailbox clear in the winter with your neighbors. But, who is responsible for cluster mailboxes?
You probably already carry a shovel and a small bag of salt in the trunk of your car during the winter, so you can use these items to clear a path to your cluster mailbox. Many users of cluster mailboxes say that they never have to do this, however, because the area is usually already cleared by the time they arrive. Most customers don’t have a problem with ice in the locks, but on the rare occasion that ice makes a lock difficult to open, a can of lock deicer should be sufficient to fix it.
Switching from curbside or to-the-door delivery to getting your mail at a cluster mailbox is a big change, but it’s one that could help the USPS continue to afford to deliver mail cheaply to every U.S. household and business, no matter how remote. Cluster mailboxes are safe, secure, and easy to use. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
Who is responsible for cluster mailboxes?
Multiple vendors who service homeowners associations, apartment communities, and condos say that the property manager/owner of the community is ultimately responsible. Many people think that the United States Postal Service is responsible for maintaining these mailboxes, but that’s not true. If something goes wrong with the unit it is up to the property manager/owner to fix the problem.
You may not think there is much to know about the boxes in front of your apartment. Whether you live at an apartment complex or condo, chances are your mailbox unit is privately owned by the HOA or a private company that leases out your individual box.
The box itself may be attached to a metal post, a wooden post, or the wall of your building. In some cases, it’s possible to take ownership of the box when you move in. The United States Postal Service is responsible for the mail that comes through your box, not for the mailbox itself.
Many people think that when they move into an apartment or condo community with a mailbox unit in front of their building they automatically become owners of the individual boxes in their cluster. Not true!
When residents sign a lease it usually includes language specifying which type of mailboxes are provided and what amenities each HOA owns/leases/manages for its residents.
Who is responsible for cluster mailboxes? If you are not given ownership of your mailboxes, the tenant is considered a licensee. This means that the property manager/owner has full control over everything attached to or associated with the cluster boxes including their appearance and maintenance.
A mailbox unit can become damaged by vandalism or natural elements like wind, rain, or ice. If your box looks rundown, it says something about the quality of your home community. It also raises safety concerns if people think these boxes could be used for nefarious purposes.
It’s up to each individual HOA to determine how these units are maintained and repaired. Tenants/residents should never attempt to repair or maintain a mailbox unit themselves, as this could result in a lawsuit if the HOA finds out someone has damaged the boxes.
The best thing you can do for your property is to be proactive about getting more information on maintaining cluster mailboxes. If you’re not given ownership at move-in, then reach out to your property manager/owner asking for clarification on what’s required of residents when it comes to maintenance and repairs.
If nothing else, this conversation will open up dialogue between you and your property manager/owner so that you know exactly who is responsible for these boxes in front of your building. You’ll also find out what kind of schedule is expected when it comes to repairs and maintenance.