According to a New York Times report, over 15 million packages are misdelivered or stolen every year in the United States.
Imagine tracking a package and finding out it was mistakenly delivered to your neighbor’s house instead of yours. Now imagine that neighbor denying they received it and refusing to hand it over.
Frustrating and unjust, right?
I can only imagine how upsetting the situation would be. A neighbor keeping a package addressed to you is illegal, after all. You’d have to get creative to get your package back.
Situations like this happen more often than you’d think.
Even if you haven’t dealt with package theft yourself, you’ll want to know what to do in case it ever happens. So what should you do if a neighbor keeps your delivered package?
Don’t stress, I’ve got tips to get your package back and prevent this from occurring.
1. Communicate with your neighbor
First things first, go speak to your neighbor politely about the situation. There could’ve been an honest mistake where they didn’t realize the package was yours.
- Knock on their door and kindly explain that a package addressed to you was delivered to them recently. Ask if they happened to receive it.
- If they did get your package, request they return it to you. Give specific details like the shipping company, delivery date, your name and address, etc.
- Keep calm and stick to the facts. Don’t accuse them of stealing right off the bat. Give them the benefit of the doubt that it was just an accident.
- If it was delivered to a side door or back porch, show them exactly where it was left. Visuals can help jog their memory if they “forgot” getting it.
- Tell them returning wrongly delivered mail is the lawful and neighborly thing to do.
When asking a neighbor to return a misdelivered package, try polite, direct, legal, and moral appeals.
|Polite||“I’m sure this was just an accident, but that package was actually addressed to me. Could I please have it back?”|
|Direct||“That package you received was meant for me. I’ll take it off your hands now.”|
|Legal||“Keeping mail not addressed to you is unlawful. I’ll need that back to avoid getting authorities involved.”|
|Appeal to Morals||“I’d return something accidentally delivered to me. Let’s do the right thing and get my package to me.”|
Being upfront yet polite with your neighbor should hopefully do the trick! But if that fails, it’s time to switch gears.
2. Let them know it’s illegal to keep
If your neighbor still denies having your package after kindly asking, it’s time to make the legal implications clear.
- Explain that keeping mail addressed to someone else is considered theft. This is against federal law.
- Don’t threaten your neighbor, but firmly state that if they do not return what is rightfully yours, you’ll have no choice but to get authorities involved.
- Remind them that tampering with or obstructing mail is a serious crime that can result in fines or even imprisonment.
- You could say something like: “I’d really hate for this silly situation to become a legal matter. Let’s just get my package back to me and move on as neighbors.”
- If they become angry or aggressive, politely disengage and walk away. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way over a package!
Making it clear this is illegal may motivate them to cough up your delivery. If not, providing proof that it’s yours could help too.
3. Provide proof of delivery
If your neighbor continues to play dumb, it’s time to pull out the big guns – proof that the package was indeed delivered to them.
- Show any shipping confirmation emails or tracking info that pinpoints the delivery location. Highlight the shipping date, time, and address.
- Provide the delivery photo if you have it. Seeing that package physically on their porch or steps is hard to refute.
- Mention any security footage you or other neighbors may have that shows the delivery occurring. Offer to retrieve and show the footage.
- Ask about their own security cameras that may have recorded delivery day. Politely ask them to review the footage.
- If you saw the delivery happen in person, mention your eyewitness account of watching their porch/door.
With clear-cut evidence like this, any reasonable neighbor would fess up and return your rightful property. If not, it’s time to move up the chain of command.
4. Prevent future issues
While you work to resolve this package snafu, take steps to avoid repeat situations in the future:
- Use tracking numbers, delivery notifications, and delivery signature requirements for expensive or important packages.
- Have packages held at the shipper’s facility for pickup rather than home delivery if theft is a concern.
- Consider installing a lock box or secure delivery box where couriers can safely leave packages.
- Ask neighbors to keep an eye out for your deliveries and take packages off porches quickly.
- Set up security cameras covering your door/porch to deter and document theft.
- Opt for pick-up at a retail store location rather than home delivery if available.
- Submit a change of address form to divert packages if neighbor theft persists.
Changing package delivery methods can help avoid further neighbor theft.
|Package Hold||Request shippers hold packages for pickup at their facility.|
|Alternative Address||Temporarily change your mailing address to a PO box or relative’s home.|
|Delivery Alerts||Get notifications about incoming packages so you can retrieve quickly.|
|Video Doorbell||Monitor deliveries and porch activity to deter theft.|
|Lockbox||Secure a lockbox or bin on your property for deliveries.|
Taking preventative measures will help avoid more neighbor package problems down the road.
5. Check local laws and regulations
In addition to the federal mail laws, your city or state may have regulations that apply to mail theft:
- Research your local statutes to see if they include additional provisions prosecuting mail and package theft.
- Contact your police department’s non-emergency number and ask if they have guidance for package theft disputes.
- Your city may require delivery issues to be resolved through small claims court rather than police reports.
- Local law enforcement procedures, fines, and penalties for package theft may differ from federal policies.
- Some states require shippers to allow package holds for situations involving risky deliveries.
Knowing your local laws will help you take the most appropriate actions to get your package back.
6. Contact the delivery service
If your neighbor refuses to return the package, reach out to the shipping company (USPS, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, etc.). They can apply some pressure, too.
- Call customer service with your tracking number and explain everything that happened.
- Ask them to contact your neighbor on record requesting they return the package to the proper owner.
- If it contains expensive/valuable contents, report it as theft to the shipper and police. File a claim if needed.
- Request that all your future deliveries require a signature or be held at their facility for pickup.
- Find out if the delivery driver can confirm handing it directly to someone at your neighbor’s address. Their account could help.
Getting the delivery service involved adds more weight and consequences to the situation. At this point, your neighbor will hopefully realize the jig is up and relinquish your goods.
But if they still refuse to cooperate, it may require a legal nudge.
7. File a police report
If your neighbor continues being uncooperative even after contacting the shipping company, it’s time to get the law involved.
- Go to your local police station and file a report for theft or mail obstruction.
- Bring any documentation and evidence you have to support your case.
- Make it clear you’ve exhausted all options, contacting your neighbor directly and through the shipper.
- If it was an exceptionally valuable item, emphasize its worth to motivate police action.
- Request that an officer contact your neighbor to prompt the return of your property. Some pressure from law enforcement could persuade them to cooperate.
- Ask about the next steps should your neighbor continue stonewalling police. They may perform a search or seize the item.
- Get a copy of the police report documenting this incident. Having this on file provides a paper trail if more action is needed.
Normally, a stubborn neighbor will finally relent when faced with potential legal consequences for keeping your package. But if not, you still have options.
8. Contact the seller
If you bought the pilfered package’s contents online, your retailer may help resolve the situation, too.
- Call customer service and explain what happened. Provide your order details.
- Ask if they can send a replacement item/order free of charge, given the unusual circumstances.
- See if they will reach out to your neighbor and request a return of the original package. Coming from the seller gives the request more weight.
- Request a refund or credit if unable to provide a replacement. Stolen packages are usually covered by seller policies.
- Be sure to document your efforts to retrieve the original package, including the police report. This evidence will support your request.
- Leave negative reviews mentioning the neighbor’s theft if the company is unhelpful. This public feedback can motivate them to assist you.
With some cooperation from the seller, you should be able to get made whole, either with a redelivered package or a refund.
If all else fails, you still have one peaceful path left to resolve the dispute…
9. Consider mediation
If your neighbor remains stubbornly opposed to returning the package, even after involving the authorities, try mediation as a last resort before going to court.
- Mediation involves sitting down together with a neutral third-party mediator to find a compromise.
- The mediator will hear both sides of the dispute and help facilitate a solution you can both accept.
- This allows you to resolve the conflict peacefully without an expensive, lengthy legal battle in court.
- Mediation services are often low-cost or free through community dispute resolution centers or your local courthouse.
- If an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up a formal document outlining the mediated solution.
- If you accept the agreement, it becomes legally binding on both parties.
- Mediation can preserve your relationship with the neighbor rather than further deteriorating it.
Give mediation a shot before taking your neighbor to court over the package. With some mediation guidance, even the most stubborn neighbor may finally see reason and agree to return what’s rightfully yours.
Having a neighbor keep your misdelivered package is beyond frustrating. But as we’ve covered today, you have many options to handle the situation through communicating politely, providing delivery proof, getting shippers and law enforcement involved, pressing retailers for replacements, and considering mediation.
Being informed of your rights and leveraging the system will help you emerge victoriously with your package securely in hand once again!
With my tips, you’ll be prepared to advocate for yourself and take action if your packages ever go astray. Don’t let a neighbor get away with package theft! Stay vigilant against porch pirates and misdeliveries as we head into the busy holiday shopping season.