As a church are we responsible to safeguard personal mail received by the homeless who use our address?

UPDATED: Feb 10, 2015

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As a church are we responsible to safeguard personal mail received by the homeless who use our address?

Can we face a lawsuit if these are lost or stolen from our facility? Are we required to lock it up so no one else can open the mail?

Asked on February 10, 2015 under Business Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Your obligation is to not tamper with, open, throw out, etc. the mail--not to affirmatively protect or safeguarad it. Of course, if any of your staff improperly open other person's mail, or discard other person's mail, you could be liable, so putting in some system to safeguard it, so that it is not lost or available to anyone who chooses to, to open--perhaps locked "mailboxes" in a room for each person who uses your address--would be a very good idea.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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