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Who Is Responsible for Cluster Mailboxes? All Your Questions Answered

Buying a new house is an exciting time for most people. The style of the home, the neighborhood, the decor are all a part of the selection process. Thanks to the USPS, some communities have community mailboxes called clusters, but who is responsible for cluster mailboxes?

Being aware of mailbox rules wasn’t always essential when you knew it was at the end of your driveway or next to your front door. However, if you have a cluster mailbox, there are some things you’ll need to know.

What is a Cluster Mailbox?

The Post Office defines cluster units as pedestal mounted metal mailboxes. They can contain eight, twelve, thirteen, or sixteen individual, locked mailboxes and parcel compartments. Depending on the size and style, each box can cost $1,000 or more.

These boxes have two names, some people say Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Unit (NDCBU) to others they are a Cluster Box Unit (CBU). Depending on where you live you may hear either term may, still, both mean the same thing.

In recent years, the Postal Service has been struggling to manage mail deliveries. It’s almost beyond the imagination to fathom the number of addresses it delivers mail to daily. In fact, 4000 addresses are added each day.

It’s why the USPS has requested developers to use these units instead of individual post boxes. The amount of mails is the same, but the delivery of it is much more manageable.

Who Owns My Mailbox?

This is an excellent question and can be confusing for some people. It generally depends on who installed the unit. Some units are purchased and installed privately, while the Postal Service puts others there themselves.

Privately Owned Boxes

Customers make arrangements for the collection of keys from the owner, manager, or prior owner of the mailbox if it is for a house, condo, apartment, or other physical residences

Postal Service Owned Boxes

Every customer gets a compartment lock and three keys to their postal-owned mailbox. The Postal Services doesn’t require key deposits, and customers can make any duplicates they need at their own cost.

Should the customer lose all copies of the keys, the USPS will need to install a new lock that the customer must pay for directly. They don’t keep any duplicates. When the customer moves, they need to return all three keys to the USPS. The Postal Service will then replace the lock before reissuing the mailbox to a new customer.

What is a Commercial Mailbox?

If you live in an apartment complex, condo, or residential development, chances are you have a commercial mailbox. Businesses usually have commercial mailboxes, too. What is the difference between commercial and residential mailboxes? Well, commercial mailboxes are defined by the following:

  • Each compartment of a commercial box has a lock and requires a key to access it, and that adds a layer of security
  • The postal service mail carrier only has access to the master-lock, and that facilitates the delivery of mail
  • Newer commercial mailboxes come with a parcel locker
  • Unlike residential mailboxes, they are sturdier and come with multiple methods of mounting them

Cluster mailboxes, vertical mailboxes, and horizontal mailboxes are all examples of commercial mailboxes approved by the USPS for mail delivery.

Mail Delivery

Getting mail delivered is easy; getting the right mail is sometimes a problem. The thing is, mail carriers are told to deliver mail the way it is addressed, regardless of the name on the envelope. If you get mail for the prior mailbox owner, there are a few solutions:

  • Put a note inside your compartment saying that “[name] isn’t at this address” or “only [your name] lives at this address”
  • Write “return to sender” or “not at this address” on the envelope and drop it in the outgoing mail
  • Pay a visit to your local post office to request they stop delivering the old tenant’s correspondence to you.

Larger envelopes and packages that don’t fit in the usual compartment will be delivered to the parcel locker in most cases. The mail carrier will then provide a parcel locker key to the mailbox of the recipient. The recipient can then open the parcel locker with the key, retrieve their parcel or envelope; the key will remain inside the lock and close the door to the locker.

Who is Responsible for Cluster Mailboxes and Their Repairs?

It’s widely known that the Cluster or Neighborhood Delivery Collection units have become a standard among many Homeowners Associations (HOAs). Residents are dependent on these metal boxes to receive their mail and parcels.

Still, we wonder what happens when the mailbox is vandalized, falls into disrepair, is broke, or to the point where postal workers can’t deliver. This problem will impact many residents at the same time. Who is responsible?

The Postal Service

Generally, the Postal Service will not pay for repairs to these units, although there are individual exceptions. Besides, their official rule book states, “purchase, installation, and maintenance of mail receptacles are the responsibility of the customer.” Residents or the HOA can appeal to the local post office but know that you’re in for a long wait for a response.

The Home Owners Association or Residents

Most HOAs have a documented agreement that clarifies these responsibilities. If your association’s documents don’t contain these clauses, they should add them as soon as possible. Doing this will ensure these kinds of repairs go ahead without delays.

If you’re an HOA board member with more questions, get in touch with your HOA management company explaining your specific situation.

How are Commercial Mailboxes Installed?

Much of this depends on the mailbox style that is chosen for your building or residential development. There are a few different types:

  • Pedestal Mounted Mailboxes – these can be either indoor or outdoor and are securely affixed to the ground
  • Surface Mounted Mailboxes – these are for indoor use and are mounted on a wall
  • Recessed Mailboxes – these units are indoor models that are installed into a wall, instead of onto a wall

When you’ve made a choice and are ready to order, there are a few more things you should know.

What’s Next?

Now that we’ve helped you learn more about who is responsible for cluster mailboxes along with other details, you may want one for your building or development. If you still need to know more, we can help.

Cluster Box Unit FAQs:

Comprehensive Cluster Box Units (CBUs) Buyer’s Guide