Ex tenant letters

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    Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
    As I see it, if someone else's mail comes into your possession and you hold onto it and do nothing with it you commit no crime. However, as soon as you perform an act which treats it as your own, such as throwing it away or opening it, you risk being guilty of theft.
    There's an essay question there.

    Who does the unoppened mail belong to?
    The sender or the intended recipient (or the delivery service or the bailee)?
    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


      Originally posted by Slatzuk View Post
      I opened mail from a former bad tenant mostly debt collection letters. I then tracked him down and physically handed all the opened mail to him. One of them being my default CCJ against him for outstanding rent.

      He went to the police and complained I'd been opening post. When a sergeant rang me to say I was breaking the law and should stop I asked him what law and quoted the Postal Services act referenced above to him. The two points I highlighted were "reasonable excuse" and mail has been delivered to address so no longer covered by the legislation. Sergeant blustered a bit and said no further action.

      A bit of instant karma followed. I asked the sergeant if the bad tenant was with him at the moment, he didn't answer but I suggested if he was he might ask how he got to the police station as one of the letters I'd opened was a notice that he had no insurance on his car.

      I heard later that his car had been seized the same day for lack of insurance.

      For what it's worth, I almost always return mail to sender. In most cases, they stop sending further mail (unless it's Virginia media, in which case the mail increases!).

      You have to remember that utility bills are the responsibility of the bill payer. If that's the tenant, or sub tenant, or whoever, is not your problem. Just call the utility company at the right time with an opening reading and from that point forward, it's your (or your new tenants) responsibility.

      The only letter I might have "lost" on the way to returning to sender was one for a parking fine for an ex-tenant that I had a deposit dispute with. Shame he didn't get the opportunity to pay it at the reduced price.


        I thought for an action to be theft you had to intend to deprive the owner of their property. So opening a letter wouldnt qualify if you then send it to the owner (if you know where they are) or the sender as they presumably remain the owner if the letter has been delivered to the person for whom it was intended?


          Nah, it's not theft. It's finders keepers.

          If you find a 10p on the street, you are allowed to keep it, because the owner would not reasonably come back to look for it. If you find a £10, then you aren't allowed to keep it, as the owner would reasonably come back to look for it.

          Same with the letters... If the addressee had made any arrangement for redirection, then he wanted the letters. If he did not, then he did not want the letters.


            A letter (that is the paper it is written on as opposed to the copyright of the text) belongs to the addressee as soon as it is posted.

            It is unwise to assume that anyone who fails to get his post redirected has waived all rights to it. You cannot rule out the possibility that the tenant did not consider it necessary to arrange for redirection because he believed he had informed everyone who needed to know of his change of address - or that he simply forgot or left it a bit late. Bear in mind also that you cannot redirect post indefinitely.

            In my opinion, the Theft Act 1968 covers Buzzard1994's point. I set out below extracts from sections 1-6; note the parts highlghted in red.

            1 Basic definition of theft.

            (1) A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.

            (2) It is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit.

            (3) The five following sections of this Act shall have effect as regards the interpretation and operation of this section (and, except as otherwise provided by this Act, shall apply only for purposes of this section).

            3 “Appropriates”.

            (1) Any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amounts to an appropriation, and this includes, where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner.

            (2) Where property or a right or interest in property is or purports to be transferred for value to a person acting in good faith, no later assumption by him of rights which he believed himself to be acquiring shall, by reason of any defect in the transferor’s title, amount to theft of the property.

            6 “With the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”.

            (1) A person appropriating property belonging to another without meaning the other permanently to lose the thing itself is nevertheless to be regarded as having the intention of permanently depriving the other of it if his intention is to treat the thing as his own to dispose of regardless of the other’s rights; and a borrowing or lending of it may amount to so treating it if, but only if, the borrowing or lending is for a period and in circumstances making it equivalent to an outright taking or disposal.

            (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, where a person, having possession or control (lawfully or not) of property belonging to another, parts with the property under a condition as to its return which he may not be able to perform, this (if done for purposes of his own and without the other’s authority) amounts to treating the property as his own to dispose of regardless of the other’s rights.


              It's a lot of nonsense LC.

              If T can't be arsed to deal with his post, neither can I. And if something arrives that shows he has been doing naughty things before he left, that's his lookout, if I happen to find out about it.


                It's more of a question of understanding what's legal so people know what they're doing.
                Even if the practical consequences aren't in line with the law.

                It's not legal to travel at 31 miles an hour on a road with a 30 mile an hour speed limit.
                You'll probably never have an issue if you do go at 31 miles an hour, but that doesn't make it legal.

                Best to know the basic position, and then you can decide what you are going to do in real life understanding what you are doing.
                When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


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