Mail continues to be one of the most used platforms for people to communicate, especially on a professional level.
However, when you move to an apartment, you might be confused about how the mailboxes work.
Lucky for you, apartment mailboxes tend to be better maintained and more secure.
Today, let’s go over how apartment mailboxes work so you can start sending out your bills and receiving your mail in no time.
What are Apartment Mailboxes Called?
Before we understand how apartment mailboxes work, it is important to first determine what they are.
This section will also help you identify which type of apartment mailbox you have.
Firstly, apartment mailboxes are commonly known as cluster mailboxes.
Cluster mailboxes have become a rather common feature in most apartment buildings and townhouse communities.
They are growing in popularity due to active efforts made by local post offices (LPOs).
LPOs are working on better maintenance of these mailboxes so more people would be encouraged to use them.
Secondly, there are two types of cluster mailboxes that you may find installed in your apartment building.
You can find out more about them below.
Privately Owned Cluster Box
A cluster box in an apartment building, condo, or townhouse could be privately owned. In such a case, residents will have to reach out to the property owners for a key before moving in.
It will be your responsibility to make arrangements to get the mailbox keys from the property owners.
For privately-owned cluster boxes, carriers are not allowed to accept private keys or have access to the private mail receptacles.
However, exceptions may be awarded by the local management.
USPS-Owned Cluster Box
On the other hand, the cluster box installed in your apartment building could be owned by USPS.
USPS-owned cluster mailboxes require the postal service to provide the residents with a compartment lock. The residents are also given 3 keys to access their cluster mailbox.
There are no key deposits required, and residents can make duplicate keys if they wish to do so.
It is also important to remember that the postal service doesn’t keep any duplicate keys. Therefore, you should be careful not to lose all three of the keys.
If you have lost one or two of them, it is best to make duplicate copies and store them safely.
In case you do lose all of the keys, the post office will have to install a new lock on your cluster mailbox. This, along with the new set of keys, will come at your expense.
How Do Apartment Mailboxes Work?
All apartment or condo mailboxes, including your cluster box, work on the same basic principles.
Your carrier postman will have a master key to the mailbox. This key opens the back of the mailbox unit, allowing them access to all of the compartments at once.
The postman will then place the mail in the appropriate compartments as needed.
They will ensure that all of the mail is in its designated spot before locking up the cluster box once again.
Your mail is now inside the cluster mailbox, waiting for you to pick it up on your way to work or as you get some daily errands done.
Remember, you will need to have your specific key in order to be able to access your compartment of the cluster mailbox.
Why Use Cluster Mailboxes?
The biggest reason why cluster mailboxes are growing in popularity is the time and cost-efficiency they offer.
The postal company now only needs to deliver mail to kiosks. They no longer have to go door-to-door or even travel to individual street sides for mail or package delivery.
This means that a single post carrier can easily deliver to more mailboxes than ever before. Since the mailboxes are now clustered, the carrier gets more done within a lesser amount of time.
Moreover, cluster boxes are also reported to be saving USPS a significant sum of money.
Previously, the postal company spent around $30 billion per year on mail delivery.
Additionally, door-to-door mail delivery was costing the company more than $300 per address each year.
With cluster mailboxes, this cost has been reduced drastically. It now costs USPS $160 to deliver mail to each address on an annual basis. This is almost half of their previous costs!
Another reason behind the preferences of cluster mailboxes is added security. Since the mail is safely tucked away and the boxes are locked, there are lesser chances of mail theft.
Does the Postal Carrier Get a Key?
People often wonder whether their poster carrier will require a specific key to access their locked cluster box. The answer is no; they will not.
Not only do postal carriers not require a key to post your mail, but it is also actually illegal for them to have one.
Postal carriers aren’t allowed to carry keys for any type of residential mailboxes.
This works out well since most USPS-approved cluster mailboxes work without keys. These mailboxes work in the same way as any unlocked curb-side mailbox.
The lock does provide an added layer of security to your mail, which is something to be grateful for!
How Do I Know Which Is Mine?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by people living in apartments. After all, which so many boxes are arranged in a cluster, how will they figure out which mailbox is theirs to use?
Luckily for you, cluster boxes are properly labeled to deal with this confusion. You will notice that each mailbox has either an adhesive card, a figure of identification, or a number engraved on it.
These are symbols that differentiate each mailbox from the other. Property management personnel use this mode of identification to determine which mailbox belongs to whom.
Therefore, once you have been assigned a mailbox by your landlord, it becomes exceptionally easy. They will hand over the mailbox’s keys to you directly.
You will just have to remember the form of identification used, and you can easily know which mailbox is yours.
Who is Responsible for Cluster Box Maintenance?
If your cluster boxes are broken or otherwise compromised, they will need professional repairs.
People living in apartments often wonder if they are responsible for repairing the mailboxes themselves. You will be glad to know that it is not on you to get the cluster box repaired.
As per USPS regulations, the builder, developer, or property owner is responsible for any cluster box repairs or maintenance needed.
Most building owners have postal managers assigned already. These managers ensure that the cluster mailboxes meet the regulations of postal services set by USPS.
If you have noticed that the cluster box in your building complex requires maintenance, reach out to your landlord.
You can also talk to the building manager or the property owner and bring this problem to their attention.
On the other hand, if the cluster mailbox is owned by the US Postal Service, then things are a little different.
Under these circumstances, it is the responsibility of your local post office to repair or replace the damaged mailbox.
If the post office doesn’t accommodate your request for repairs, you can talk to the property manager. They will ensure that the mailbox is fixed in no time.
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