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If you've recently gotten a letter saying that your mail could not be delivered, you might wonder why. Or maybe you're installing your first mailbox, and realizing that there're an awful lot of rules in place. It may be surprising to some people first learning just how many regulations the United States Postal System (USPS) has for mailboxes. Still, if you're stuck hassling with on-street parking, there's one common, sensible question. How close can you park to a mailbox, without missing out on mail delivery?
Unless your city ha\s passed legislation against street parking or obstruction of a mailbox, there's nothing that technically prevents you from parking in front of a mailbox. But you really shouldn't. It might even keep you from getting your mail. This is defined, by the USPS, as 30-feet. Leave 15 feet before the mailbox (or first mailbox if there's a cluster). And always leave 15 feet after, for the carrier to get back into the roadway.
But what can you do if someone else, like a neighbor, keeps blocking your mailbox? And just how much clearance do you need to leave? What counts as a blocked mailbox anyway? Keep reading to learn all this and more, and ensure that your mail keeps coming, uninterrupted.
How Much Clearance Is Needed Around A Mailbox?
The USPS defines proper clearance as a clear approach of 30-feet. In other words, 15 feet before the box and 15 feet after. If there is a bank or cluster of boxes, leave 15 feet before the first box, and 15 feet after the last.
This gives them enough space to pull up to the mailbox, make their delivery, and safely re-enter traffic. This also permits enough space for them to see any safety issues, like kids or pedestrians that might be in the way.
And don't forget - each city or locality can set its own rules. The post office may not mind when your car is parked 20 feet away from the mailbox. But that doesn't mean your city ordinances allow it. Always follow the rules and regulations for your region.
What Constitutes As A Blocked Mailbox?
Many people think of parked cars as being an obstacle to mail delivery. While they are a common problem, more than just cars can impede your carrier from their duties. Trash cans, kids' toys or bikes, and other objects can keep your carrier from delivering the mail.
Snow and ice must also be removed if it keeps the mail carrier from being able to reach the box. In a similar fashion, large bushes or flowers that interfere can be a problem. If your carrier can't reach the box without getting out of the car, they can ask you to remove any obstructions.
Can The Mailman Skip Your House?
The USPS absolutely permits a mail carrier to skip any house where the mailbox is blocked or impeded. This can be a blockage, like a car parked in the way. There are other reasons that a carrier might refuse delivery. For instance, if the mailbox is too high or low to reach from the carrier's car. There are specific regulations as to the size, height, and even how far the mailbox can be placed from the curb.
If the carrier had to stop and get out of the car in order to reach each mailbox, it would take forever to complete the route. For this reason, the USPS permits the carrier to skip any mailbox that doesn't have the proper clearance to drive up. And if it's an ongoing problem, the post office can refuse to continue service. If this happens, you'll have to stop at the post office for your mail.
Other reasons for skipping a house can include safety issues. For example, if a dog is not properly confined. Threats against a carrier by a member of the household are also a reason for immediate refusal of service. Other unsafe situations include natural disasters or dangerous weather. A too-full mailbox is another issue that prevents the delivery of new mail.
Regulations for Mailboxes
In order to keep mail delivery fast and efficient, mailboxes must meet a set of standards. The Postmaster General approves of all mailbox designs - you can't use a box that isn't. Mailboxes for sale have this mark clearly indicated.
Consult your post office about a wall-mounted mailbox. Not every house can use them, and the rules vary as far as mounting. In general, wall-mounted mailboxes are only for areas where the carrier travels on foot. However, if you are elderly or disabled, you can request delivery directly to your home. Ask your post office about this.
Curbside mailboxes must face the road in most cases. There may be (rare) occasions where your local post office asks you to locate your mailbox in a specific place or way. This is due to safety reasons. However, typically, the box faces the road.
Display the house number clearly and legibly, with numbers at least one inch tall. The box should be 6-8 inches away from the curb. The door or slot must be 41-45 inches from the ground. This allows the carrier to reach it while seated in most standard vehicles.
There are even rules for the mailbox post. This is, primarily, for driver safety in the event of an accident. Wooden posts should be no more than 4 inches by 4 inches. Metal posts made of steel or aluminum should be no greater than 2 inches in diameter. Again, this helps to ensure that the post would "give" or bend fairly easily if a car crashes into it.
What Can I Do If My Neighbor Is Blocking My Mailbox?
It's officially your responsibility to keep the approach to your mailbox open. This can be frustrating if the carrier keeps skipping your box because someone else is in the way!
If there are laws against it, then simply contact your township. They can assist you. If needed, they may even tow or ticket the offender. Some townships even provide signs to discourage parking.
Or, you can try your own sign, such as this one:
Some states even allow you to have someone towed if they are obstructing your residence. Call a local tow company to find out the regulations in your area. And if all else fails, at least try to communicate with your carrier. If you let them know that it's not your fault, they may be more willing to accommodate. Or at least not have your service dropped by the post office.
Your township or locality has the final say on any parking regulations. This includes parking in front of mailboxes. There's no official law in the US that keeps people from parking in front of a mailbox. However, the USPS requests that customers leave a 30-foot clearance. This means that you should leave at least 15 feet before and after the mailbox open. This means more than just cars - move your trash cans, kids' toys and bikes, and any other obstacles out of the way. If you don't, the carrier can skip your box. And if it's a recurring problem, they can refuse to continue service altogether.
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