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Wrong Address? How to Return Mail to a Sender

return mail

Although rare, sometimes you may receive mail to your address (personal, business or virtual) that isn’t meant for you.

There are two main reasons this might happen. Either the sender put the wrong address on the mail item, or the postal service made a mistake and delivered it to the wrong address.

Whatever the reason you will obviously want for that item to reach its intended recipient.

But, can you return unwanted mail to the sender? The answer is yes and today we will look at the proper way to do this.

What does “return to sender” actually mean?

In practice, what does it mean to return to sender? Essentially, you will need to use the carrier service that originally delivered the mail item, (normally United States Postal Service (USPS), UPS, FedEx, or DHL) so that they can handle the misdelivered mail.

In essence, the process will happen in reverse, with the item going through the carrier until it reaches the address of the sender.

How does return to sender work?

return mail usps

The mail carrier that delivered the item will pick up it in situations where it has been delivered to the wrong address or person.

However, depending on the circumstances different processes apply.

1. The recipient doesn’t live at the address

If you are new to the address and you have received the previous resident’s mail, you can write “Not At This Address” on the envelope or package.

If a carrier barcode exists on the package you should write a line through this to deface it. If you don’t, it could end up getting sent back to you once it goes through the carrier sorting office again.

You then hand the package back to the carrier or drop it off at a USPS collection box.

2. Mail delivered to the wrong address

In situations where the carrier has delivered a mail item to your address by mistake, you can have it redelivered using the following options.

Put the mail item back in your mailbox and put the red flag up for collection. (If you have a communal mailbox, put the letter in the collection box.)
Hand the mail item directly to your mail carrier with an explanation of the error

You do not and should not write anything on the envelope or package if it has been delivered to the wrong address.

You could attach a post-it note to explain the situation to your postman if you are placing the mail item back into your mailbox.

3. Mail that you do not want

Finally, if you receive mail that is addressed to you correctly yet you wish to refuse it, you can.

The process here is to write “Refused” on the mail item.

Then place it back into the mailbox or hand it to your carrier. You should select the “Refused” box on a signature slip if doing the latter.

Other Questions regarding returning mail

return mail

Q. Does it cost money to return to sender?

No. Using the above processes correctly will ensure you are not charged for the mail return.

Q. How long does it take to return mail to the sender?

This depends on the mail class used by the original sender. In most cases, the return mail will be sent using the same service speed.

Q. How to return to sender with a virtual mailbox account?

If you receive a piece of mail that’s not addressed to you most providers will accept a support ticket so you can explain the situation.
Services such as Earth Class Mail go as far as having a “Not My Mail” button on the dashboard.

Whichever provider you use, you should notify them of the incorrect delivery so that action can be taken.

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