If your clients don’t have a mailbox on their property, they might get mail from a cluster box: a centralized unit of individually locked compartments.
When your clients move, what happens to their mailbox key? Does the mailbox key convey to the next owner? Yes, according to Paragraph 2C of the One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) (TXR 1601, TREC 20-14). That paragraph lists mailbox keys as accessories that convey to the buyer.
If the box is privately owned, your seller clients simply give the keys to the new owners.
However, if the U.S. Postal Service owns the box, the Postal Service would like the keys back.
According to the Postal Service, sellers should return old mailbox keys when they move. Sellers who intend to do so should make sure those keys are listed as an exclusion under Paragraph 2D of the One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) to ensure that the keys do not convey with the property. After receiving the keys, the Postal Service then changes the lock and issues three new keys to the new postal customer.
If the new owners receive keys from the sellers, they should return those keys to the Postal Service and get new ones.
New residents can request keys at their local post office with closing papers along with a government-issued ID. No key deposits are required, but there is a $25 fee to replace lost keys.
How do you know if your cluster box is privately owned or owned by the Postal Service? There is no easy way to tell, but in most cases, apartment complexes and multi-housing properties manage their own privately owned boxes. Subdivision cluster boxes could be managed by the Postal Service or an HOA, depending on the agreement with the developer at the time of installation.
Because of the confusion about who may own the mailbox, the burden placed on the agent to discover the owner, the buyer’s expectations of receiving a key and the inconvenience and upset of the buyer not being able to immediately access the mailbox, it would be an excellent idea for the Texas Realtors Association to developed a notice explaining the key situation that could be given with the contract.
Good idea! Since it’s not clear as to who owns the mailbox, the agent is precariously put in the position of advising what to do. If the buyers don’t get the key, it can be 3-4 weeks before they have access to their mailbox waiting on the postal service to re-key and release new keys (as shared with me recently by a buyer I represented).
I love this idea! I was trying to figure out how to pdf this article for future use.
Agree! I’ve had problems in the past in figuring out who owned the box HOA, post office and seller (he rented it out) said. they had no keys. We ended up getting a locksmith to rekey.
I have heard that mailboxes that are owned by the USPS always have the USPS EAGLE on them and privately owned ones do not. Is that not true?
Not true. I have a USPS cluster mailbox that does not have an eagle on it. When my husband and I bought our house, I tried to return the keys to get new ones. The rep I spoke to said they were re-keying anyways so keep the keys to access until the locks were changed, then throw the old keys away.
I do property management and we always have tenants expecting the mailbox keys and some complain about the trip to the post office and the $50 fee (If it has not increased yet, as other USPS fees keep increasing). I always explain they need to get their own keys and return it to the post office after they move out. Those with no key are my favorites.
I have owned and managed properties for many years. In the past, if an exiting resident left the key upon moveout, I would give it to the new resident. maybe 5 years ago, I had an incident that the old resident kept a key and would come by and check the box, and according to the new resident throw their mail away or keep it. I have changed this, and every new resident must get setup with USPS, Once I explain this situation they understand.
For mail security reasons, new owners and/or new tenants should go to the appropriate post office and pay a fee ($35 or less) and get new keys. Do the same if not owned by the post office and get it from the HOA office.
Every buyer or tenant agent should advise their client to change mailbox keys in addition to all external doors of the home. Mailboxes in subdivisions are likely owned by US Postal Service. I also advise my clients to change garage door openers which can easily be reprogrammed at a hardware store. Clients should be advised of potential security issues, however the client will decide whether to implement or not.