The United States Postal Service (USPS) plays a vital role in communication by delivering mail to over 160 million addresses nationwide. For many local businesses, distributing promotional flyers is an easy advertising method. Flyer distribution enables reaching many potential new customers efficiently.
However, there are right and wrong ways to deliver your business flyers legally. So, you may ask, “Can I put flyers in mailboxes?” The United States Postal Service has received complaints of flyers placed in mailboxes without paid postage. This illegal practice disrupts the USPS from properly delivering postage-paid mail.
It also infringes upon residents’ privacy, and when there is no permission from the property owner, dropping something in a mailbox as you go from door to door is frowned upon. So, it’s essential to learn the legal methods for community flyer distribution before putting a flyer in a mailbox or slot. This ensures you comply with federal, local, and USPS regulations. It also helps avoid potential customer complaints, penalties, and damage to your local business’s reputation. One exception is on Sundays, newspapers can be placed in a mailbox as there is no postal service.
In our guide, you can learn more about can you put flyers in mailboxes and the consequences when you put something in a mailbox. By the end, you’ll better understand answers to is it legal to put flyers in mailboxes or what can happen when you put something in someone’s mailbox. (Read Who To Call When Neighbors Don’t Cut Grass)
What Does The Law Say About Putting Flyers In Mailboxes?
The US Postal Service (USPS) has regulations prohibiting unstamped flyers and other items in mailboxes. According to the USPS Domestic Mail Manual, a mailbox is intended only to receive postage-paid U.S. Mail and the United States Postal Service collection staff.
Specifically, federal law states that placing flyers and other unstamped advertisements in mailboxes is illegal without proper postage. This applies to residential curbside mailboxes and USPS collection boxes located in public places.
So, if you want to distribute your flyers by placing them directly in mailboxes, you need to pay for postage, send them through the U.S. postal service as regular mail, and follow the postal service regulations. Otherwise, it is against federal law to put flyers in mailboxes, even if it seems like an easy way to advertise.
Why Is It Illegal To Put Flyers In Mailboxes?
There are a few key reasons why putting flyers in mailboxes is illegal:
- Mailboxes are only for mail delivered by USPS: The main reason is that mailboxes are designated for mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. Only USPS carriers are allowed to place items in a mailbox.
- To protect privacy: Placing unsolicited flyers in mailboxes infringes on privacy if the resident does not wish to receive the advertisement.
- To prevent obstructing mail: Flyers could obstruct regular mail delivery if the mailbox becomes too full.
- No compensation to USPS: The USPS only collects revenue for delivering regular stamped mail. Flyers placed in mailboxes without postage deprive the Postal Service of compensation.
So, the laws are in place primarily to protect the sanctity and proper functioning of USPS mail delivery. It ensures privacy for residents and enables the USPS to operate efficiently. (Read Is It Illegal To Turn Your Water Back On)
What About Putting Flyers On The Door Or In The Door Slot?
You may be wondering is it legal to put flyers on doors or the exterior of the mailbox. Unfortunately, most areas prohibit this as well. Placing flyers on exterior mailbox surfaces can still be considered mail obstruction. If you are going door to door and stuffing flyers in door slots, these can also violate local ordinances regarding placing anything like distributing advertisements on private property.
The only way you are legally allowed to affix anything on private residential property mailboxes is to get explicit permission from the owner. Otherwise, you could risk trespassing violations.
Legal Ways To Distribute Flyers
If you want to advertise your local business, there are legal ways to distribute flyers without using mailboxes:
- Go door-to-door and hand out your flyers to people directly
- You can legally put flyers on utility poles or place your flyer on public bulletin and community boards
- Place flyers on car windshields in public parking lots
- Hand out flyers at local events, fairs, and festivals
- Pay to boost social media posts targeting local audiences
- Use direct mail by paying for postage to distribute flyers through USPS
- Seek permission to post flyers on local business premises
The key is that for private homes and mailboxes, you can use the mailbox as long as you have permission of the mailbox owner; it will be a federal offense. For public areas, check local ordinances to ensure you can legally put a flyer in the above areas. When in doubt, hand them out in person or use a local letter carrier used to deliver flyers directly in the mail.
What Happens If You Get Caught Putting Flyers In Mailboxes?
The United States Postal Inspection Service enforces federal laws prohibiting placing flyers in mailboxes unless you have permission. If you are caught violating these laws, here are some potential consequences:
- The inspection service will issue a warning letter or notice to cease and desist any mailbox flyer distribution.
- Repeated violations could lead to civil penalties of up to $5,000 per incident.
- Intentionally obstructing mail delivery is a misdemeanor crime, including fines or jail time.
- Damaging or vandalizing mailboxes while placing flyers could also lead to additional charges.
- Residents who receive the flyers can file complaints of mail obstruction with the Postal Service. This could lead to an investigation of your distribution activities.
- Taking time off to deal with complaints, investigations, or charges can hurt a small business.
Essentially, the risks and legality of putting something in a mailbox rarely seem worth the convenience of avoiding proper ways to put flyers in customers’ hands. A new business should make sure it’s a legal alternative for their advertising options or consider putting them in the post and send them through USPS. (Read Can You Throw Trash In Someone Else’s Trash Can)
Have There Been Recent Complaints About Flyers In Mailboxes?
The United States Postal Service has received a growing number of complaints in recent years about flyers without paid postage being placed illegally in mailboxes.
Some areas of the country have seen upticks in flyer advertising from new local businesses or election/political flyer distribution. However, residents continue reporting these flyers delivered without postage as unwelcome mailbox clutter.
So, the local post office service has needed to reiterate that even though leaving anything in a mailbox, like flyers, seems like an easy promotion method; it violates federal law. Customers have a right to complain about flyers stuffed in their mailbox without permission.
As a business owner, you don’t want to risk USPS penalties by breaking postal regulations or customer complaints just to save on postage costs for direct mail. It’s smarter to use legal alternative distribution methods where to put the flyer.
In summary, federal law considers it illegal to put something in people’s mailboxes, and you can’t put it there without paying for proper postage delivery. It is also illegal to affix flyers to the outside of the mailbox, which is designated only for the USPS delivery service and can disrupt normal postal operations.
Beyond just mailboxes, placing promotional flyers on any private property without the owner’s consent is also illegal. So, for legal flyer distribution, your options are handing them out directly, posting on public boards, using direct mail properly, or seeking permission to post them at local businesses.
While putting flyers in mailboxes seems convenient, it risks penalties, complaints, and damage to your business’ reputation. Ultimately, it’s not worth violating mailbox regulations to save on postage and distribution costs.
FAQs About Putting Flyers In Mailboxes
What about putting flyers on apartment or condo building mailboxes?
Unless you obtain permission from building management, this is still illegal and can draw tenant complaints. For legal distribution in multi-unit buildings, you would need to go door-to-door. (Learn How Do Police Get Into Gated Communities)
Is it ok to put flyers in mailboxes if I’m running for local office?
Political flyers and campaign materials are subject to the same mailbox restrictions. Running for office does not exempt you from abiding by these federal regulations.
Can I leave flyers at the door or under the doormat instead?
Technically, you need explicit consent from property owners to leave promotional materials on private property, including at front doors. It’s better to hand them out in person.
Is it illegal to put flyers on cars?
Placing flyers under the wipers of cars is a great way to advertise services to local people.