Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

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  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:36

    Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Does anyone know the law regarding the above?

    Long story short, I keep receiving mail for someone who used to live at this address.  I was advised by bailiffs not to return to sender as this is never acted upon, but to save visits from the bailiffs, open the mail and contact the sender direct by phone or letter.  I have today been told by another creditor, what I am doing is illegal and the bailiffs should never have advised me to do this.

    Does anyone know the legal position?

    Thanks in advance

     

     

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:39

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I thought it was illegal to open mail addressed to other people. Organisations do act on return to sender mail - I used to get piles everyday and now only get about a letter every 6 weeks. However, creditors may be less willing to accept it. Can you return to sender with a suggested alternative address for the actual recipient?

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:40

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    You shouldn't be opening it - is the long and short of it.

    But.... I do open mail adressed to one particular lot who used to live here as I've had bailiffs round for them.  I don't know who would prosecute you if they felt that way inclined though.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:42

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I also thought it was illegal to open someone else's mail. I have always done return to sender and the letters have stopped on all but one occasion, when we received a letter from a debt colllection agency addressed to 'The Occupier' and asking to call, reverse charges. I called, told them when we moved in, told them I didn't have a forwarding address for any previous occupants and that was the end of that.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:46

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I was always under the impression it was illegal. I used to get mail for 10 different people (ex rental property) and sent it all back as 'not known at this address, please return'. It took a good 6 months or more, but they stopped eventually.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:48

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    You are suppose to return to sender. We had major problems when we moved in to out house. The previous owner had run up various bills, speeding fines and parking tickets. At first I used to return them, and nothing happend. Then I started opening the letters, and phoning. After awhile this didn't work and I would wait for the bailiffs to come. I would be polite show them my passport and mortgage statement and they would leave us alone. Took a while to filter down. tbh I'd let them come to your house, they cannot do anything or remove anything because its not your debt.
  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:49

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I really wanted to know if this was true so I've searched and found this from the Post Office Act 1953:

     

    Criminal diversion of letters from addressee

    (1)If any [F1person not engaged in the business of the Post Office] wilfully and maliciously, with intent to injure any other person, either opens or causes to be opened any postal packet which ought to have been delivered to that other person, or does any act or thing whereby the due delivery of the packet to that other person is prevented or impeded, he shall be [F2liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both]

    (2)Nothing in this section shall apply to a person who does any act to which this section applies where he is parent, or in the position of parent or guardian, of the person to whom the postal packet is addressed.

     

    So it's only illegal if you're doing it "with intent to injure" i.e to steal someone else's mail, not if you're trying to help them, which in effect you are.  I don't know if that's necessarily the correct interpretation but that's how it seems to me!

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:50

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Thanks for your replies.

    I have no forwarding address for this person.  I have had countless letters from bailiffs warning me of impending visits from them.  They were addressed to the occupier, which is why I first opened them.  That is when they advised me to open all further mail.

    I had tried returning to sender with covering letter stating no known address, but they were ignored.  I am seriously thinking of taking some legal advice to stop them harrassing me.  I know the law changed regarding bailiffs in recent years and what worries me is if they knock on my door when I am not here and my son answers and lets them in, or worse still they gain entry when I am not here. 

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:50

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Aha, and I just found this from the Postal Services Act 2000:

     

    127. Section 84(1) provides for it to be an offence if persons intentionally delay or open postal packets without reasonable excuse. It amalgamates the content of offences previously included in the Post Office Act 1953.

    128. Subsection (3) makes it an offence for a person, intending to act to a person's detriment and without reasonable excuse, to open a postal packet which he knows or suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.

     

    I think the key words are "without reasonable excuse", which I think you have.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 22:57

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Thank you for posting the information Badgermonkey, that is more or less how I understood it.

    This has been going on for almost 6 years now, so it doesn't go away that easily.

    Another problem is I am hoping to be moving in the next few months and I don't want to leave a mess for the new owners of the house.

     

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 23:00

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Badgermonkey, thanks again.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 23:03

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Oh I can sympathise, I'm still receiving mail for previous occupants almost 6 years after moving here.  Some are from Lloyds TSB, I used to return to sender but had so many I opened the letter and rang the number.  I still get them though.

    Annoyingly, the previous owner moved to Dubai but still uses this address to hire cars - so I've recently been getting loads of Eurocar letters.  Even after ringing them, I'm still getting them.

    Thankfully no bailiffs though!

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 23:06

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I am expecting to come home one day and find all my belongings have been taken by the bailiffs, lol.

    As it has been going on for almost 6 years now I expect I will soon stop receiving it, as I think 6 years with no contact between creditor and debtor is an end to the matter.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 23:49

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    I open it unless I know the adressee, ie. Its a neighbour and they've just got the door number wrong.

    Actually if it from debt collection agencies, just use it to make hanging baskets or necklaces....probably worth more recycled.

  • Posted: 27 Feb 2009 23:55

    Re: Opening mail that is addressed to someone else and the law.

    Usually, I send back mail, addressed to the previous occupants, to the sender. However there was one occasion where we recieved a letter addressed to someone else who we hadn't heard of before so I opened it. It turned out to be a bailiff's letter and I had to phone the company up to explain the situation. That's the only time I've opened someone else's letter. Now, I just send it straight back to the sender.

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