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Is it illegal to open someone else's post in the UK?

(31 Posts)
displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 22:34:33

I ask because for the 3rd time a neighbour has opened post addressed to us and although he claims that he opens post whoever it's addressed to because in his view if it has his house number on it's his to open, I don't think he's right (and am mightily angry about it) and he also hasn't given us our post in the envelope it was sent in so we have no way of confirming whether indeed it was addressed with the wrong house number, all we get is the card that was inside the envelope, minus the envelope it was sent in! What we do know, however, is that it had our name on it and this neighbour doesn't share the same name as us and the senders also put a return address so there's no excuse IMO for not just either posting it through our door unopened or popping it back in the post marked "addressee unknown, please return to sender"! Either of those would be preferable to him opening our private mail.
If you know the law in this area, please let me know. Thanks.

IMoveTheStarsForNoOne Wed 09-Dec-09 22:42:46

Yes, it's illegal. Your name is on it, therefore he is not allowed to open it.

When we moved house we had hundreds of letters for the previous tennants, the letters are legally their personal property as they are named.

Is this worth a £25 solicitors letter to get him to be less of a jobsworth arsehole?

Chunkamatic Wed 09-Dec-09 22:43:34

I was always told that it was, although recentley DP mentioned that he had heard that you do have a right to open post sent to your house and that the current advice (from who I am not sure?!) is that to avoid identity theft you should open any post that comes to your house even if it isn't addressed to you.

So that is not helpful to you (sorry) but I am interested to see if anyone else knows.

I would be livid if my neighbour did this - it's not like he doesn't know who you are and Christmas cards are pretty easy to identify from say, bank statements etc...

ThumbleBells Wed 09-Dec-09 22:45:20

I always thought it was illegal - the only post I have ever opened was Christmas cards addressed to tenants of mine for whom I have no forwarding address, to see if there is an address inside to which the card could be returned - and I felt really uncomfortable about it.

I found this on another chat forum:

from the Post Office Act 1953:

Criminal diversion of letters from addressee
(1)If any [F1person not engaged in the business of the Post Office] wilfully and maliciously, with intent to injure any other person, either opens or causes to be opened any postal packet which ought to have been delivered to that other person, or does any act or thing whereby the due delivery of the packet to that other person is prevented or impeded, he shall be [F2liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both]

(2)Nothing in this section shall apply to a person who does any act to which this section applies where he is parent, or in the position of parent or guardian, of the person to whom the postal packet is addressed.

So from this, if you are still getting your post, it would appear that it is NOT actually illegal but it is still morally reprehensible. And you don't know whether or not your neighbour could use the info for malicious purposes, especially if it is bank statements or anything like that - if anything happened as a result of him opening your post, you could have him on the first part of the above.

HTH - you could also try adding a housename to your address and notifying the Post Office and also all your important senders, so that your post doesn't end up at your neighbour's house any more. I would also consider talking to your local delivery centre about the problem.

JustAnotherManicMummy Wed 09-Dec-09 22:56:28

How do you know he's not swiped a tenner that was in the card? It seems very odd to knowingly open someone else's mail unless you're chancing that there's something in it to swipe.

displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 22:56:39

thanks for all the replies so far.
Not planning on taking action as not keen to get into a barney with neighbour, just like to know where I stand as dh and I convinced that the post is correctly addressed, including the house no (because the senders have sent stuff to us before no problem) but it may have been posted through by postman accidentally.
Not sure what to do to avoid it happening again as getting arsey with him might mean he doesn't pass anything on if he ever gets anything in future and we have already made it clear in a friendly but firm manner but the excuse that he says the house number was wrong makes my blood boil because the fact he seems unable to locate the original envelope it was posted in suggest to me that it WAS addressed right and he just doesn't want us to know that!
Plus the main thing is that he is NOT the name on the envelope!
I have had loads of stuff posted through my door addressed to names I don't know at my house number and it didn't even cross my mind to open them, I just circle the name and write "not known at this address, please return to sender" and stick them back in the post.
I think the thing that is most frustrating is that this is not the first time and when it happened the first time I expressed surprise and shock that he had opened post addressed to someone else and also queried why the envelope wasn't forthcoming but to have it happen twice more has me fuming when he knows our names and yet again there is no envelope. If it was a mistake surely he'd put it straight back into the envelope and give it to us apologetically?

Good idea about the house name, although not sure if we're a housename kind of family!
I will definitely speak to the local royal mail office to ask them to be extra careful when they bundle post up for this road as this has happened a few times now.

potplant Wed 09-Dec-09 23:02:06

I often get mail for a lady who lives at the same number as me but in the next road. I opened a visa bill once by accident - it was from the same company that I have my card with and I didn't bother to check the name. As soon as I realised I put it back in the envelope and went to apologise to her. I was mortified.

To do it more than once is a bit odd. Have a word with your regular postie as well. He might make more of an effort to watch out for your stuff.

displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 23:07:05

Justanothermanicmummy - x-post with you, yes it did occur to dh and I that he was opening mail to see what might be in there shock

potplant - thanks for confirmation that it's not just me that thinks it's odd that it's happened not just more than once but more than twice!

displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 23:09:40

also, and I know this might sound a bit ott but we always tear up our names on envelopes before binning them, what with id theft going on and there's a good possibility that this blase (got to be polite here) neighbour is just chucking envelopes into the bin with our name and address and those of the people who have sent the post. I know it's not the main issue, but it's an added thing that makes me M-A-D about the situation as it's not his envelope to throw away! angry angry

TeamEdward Wed 09-Dec-09 23:22:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TRsPurpleReindeerIsNamedRhino Wed 09-Dec-09 23:25:52

yes its illegal
but then I had to open all neils mail to sort out loads of shit
guess it doesn't count when they are dead

displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 23:27:59

sad TR

TRsPurpleReindeerIsNamedRhino Wed 09-Dec-09 23:29:03

oh dont
I'm sorry
I shouldn't have posted

displayuntiltwelfthnight Wed 09-Dec-09 23:30:32

don't be silly, TR (although did you mean the pun about posting? hmm)
hope you're ok

DadInsteadofMum Fri 11-Dec-09 16:25:39

TR as executor/beneficiary of the estate you would be entitled to open the mail.

As I slight hijack fromthe original thread, when my wife died I found it quite upsettign to be getting mail (usually junk mail) addressed to her. I printed up a load of emails "Return to Sender: Addressee Deceased" and just dropped everything straight back in the post unopened. The junk mail dried up very quickly.

No cure for the Christmas cards arriving from those that haven't heard yet though.

OrmIrian Fri 11-Dec-09 16:29:29

Gawd I hope not!

I opened a gas bill last night that was meant for someone else blush

Twas delivered to us by mistake and I didn't check. Will have to surreptitiously drop it through her letter box in the dead of night.

Rhian82 Fri 11-Dec-09 16:38:26

I opened someone's bank statement once - I was mortified. It had been redirected to us by mistake (the addressee lived two doors down from our old address) and the redirection label covered the window on the envelope, so I couldn't see that it wasn't our name on it. I taped it back up and popped in back in the post marked 'Redirected incorrectly' and the correct address for it to go to.

I'd never have dreamed of throwing the envelope away or trying to insist I'd had a right to open it! It was an honest mistake and I didn't do anything wrong, but it wasn't my post.

TrinityReindeer Fri 11-Dec-09 22:24:04


yes true, I am officially executor of the estate

but we had to go through the courts to make me thatasd there was no will
so at the begginging I wasn't and I still opened it

its weird when he was alive everything was OURS not mine and his so it feels weird now that I have to prove he's dead and prove I'm executor before people will talk to me

TrinityReindeer Fri 11-Dec-09 22:26:42


I'm sorry I didn't read all of your post
when did your wife die?

neil died in august
I have 3 girls 9,4 and 2

How many small people do you have

are you ok?

displayuntiltwelfthnight Sat 12-Dec-09 15:41:04

Thanks Rhian82 - yours and other posts make me feel justified in finding my neighbour's actions a bit odd!
Had a naughty urge to post through a Christmas card for him but with my name on the front and then when he opens it, he will see my writing saying "a-ha! So you are still opening post addressed to other people? Happy Christmas Bob" (not his real name)

DadInsteadofMum Sat 12-Dec-09 19:11:28

TR - 18 months - 3 GBB 12 10 6

I cope.

Have you found WAY yet, it has been a lifeline for me to know I am not alone.

TrinityReindeer Mon 14-Dec-09 08:12:05

thankyou for that link
I haven't been there

Flame Mon 14-Dec-09 08:36:58

I opened a xmas card once, again to try and find a return address. We kept getting postcards (and then the xmas card) from the previous tenant's dad... hated the fact that he hadn't spoken to her in 12 months to know she had moved

McDreamyingofawhiteXmas Mon 14-Dec-09 08:41:38

I always thought it was illegal but my postman told me this isn't true. If it is addressed to your address but not your name you are entitled to open it.

DuelingFanjo Mon 14-Dec-09 08:44:41

If it were me I would go round again and specifically ask him to please keep the envelopes as you need the return to sender addresses.

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