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Question

When someone leaves a house, what is the law about passing on correspondence to them? Are you allowed to open it to find out what it is? Or do you have to pass it on?

Answer

The law on this issue is clear, as it has recently been confirmed in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Called 'Interference with the Royal Mail, quite simply, it's an offence to open, destroy, hide or delay any post that is addressed to someone else. Post cannot be opened if it is to the addressee's detriment and without reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuse is not defined by the Act. This means your explanation for withholding post may not stand up in court.

An example of a potential conflict is if a landlord opens a previous tenant's post in order to trace them. Post cannot be opened if someone knows or reasonably suspects the post has been incorrectly delivered. In addition, any post or post bag that's found in a public place must be returned to a post office without being opened.

It's also an offence to divert someone's post in order to intentionally delay them from receiving it. An example of this could be where a person re-posts documents or cheques to delay the addressee from acting upon them.

In addition to this, if you receive someone else's post by mistake, you should contact Royal Mail's customer services department. The mistake can be reported to the appropriate delivery office. The post itself can be delivered by hand to the correct address, re-posted in a post box, or handed to a postal worker.

Updated: 29/01/2013


Question answered by CAB


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