Can I sue my apartment complex/landlord if I was only given a copy of my mailbox key and now someone is opening my mail?

UPDATED: Dec 28, 2010

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Can I sue my apartment complex/landlord if I was only given a copy of my mailbox key and now someone is opening my mail?

When I first moved in, I was given a hardware store copy of my mailbox key. Every once in a while I notice mail is torn open (enough to read the contents). Nothing has ever been stolen but this has started happening every week. If my mail is being opened by a former tenant who kept the master key or an employee of the apartment complex with the master key, can I sue for invasion of privacy or mail tampering? If so, who should I sue? I have already reported this to the Postal Service.

Asked on December 28, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Washington


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Your landlord is really supposed to change locks whenever tenants move out (that includes doors and mailboxes). This is of course to avoid a bitter tenant or one who isn't exactly ethical from coming back and stealing anything.  Mail tampering is a U.S. Postal Issue and you need to contact the U.S. Postal Inspector and the police to see if anything can be done at that side.  To deal with your landlord, talk to the landlord directly and also consider filing a complaint with your local HUD office or attorney general (which ever agency handles consumer protection landlord tenant issues). In the meantime, consider getting a p.o. box at the post office and take off the expense (deduct) from your rent until your landlord decides to fix the issue.

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