SLOOOOOOOW Mail ….. Fuhgeddaboudit

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We’re all seeing and hearing clashing views on why the Postal Service’s delivery times are lengthening. Those views may differ, but there doesn’t appear to be any meaningful dispute that it now takes longer to get a letter than we’ve experienced in the last 30 or more years. We’re not going to get involved in the morass of election debates. Instead, Ruminations wants to cut through all of that fog and remind our friends that our mailed notices aren’t getting there as fast as they used to “get.” Worse for our industry, certified mail almost always took longer to reach its destination than “plain” first-class mail. So, when you read about how long the mail is now taking (and there’s been some private testing confirming longer delivery times), add more time if you use certified mail. And, if the commanding document demands “registered” mail, realize that “registered” is not “certified” mail. It takes even longer to arrive at its destination.

[We’ll assume our readers know about Certified Mail where you can get a signed delivery receipt. Registered Mail “must be presented to a retail employee or rural carrier.” Like Certified Mail, you can get a delivery receipt. Unlike Certified Mail, every time possession of your letter changes hand, a receipt is issued. With great difficulty, these intermediate transfer receipts can be obtained. Also, the U.S. Postal Service cautions “[t]here is no estimated delivery time for Registered Mail, regardless of class. Registered Mail is kept highly secured and is processed manually, which naturally slows the speed at which it travels. Registered Mail is not recommended if speed of delivery is important.”]

For the sake of our younger readers, and for the “nostalgia needs” of some others, here’s a tidbit of mail delivery history:

Americans used to have a much different expectation of the Postal Service. In January 1950, you paid 3 cents to send a letter first class and 6 cents to mail it by air. You could expect the post office to correct a mistaken or incomplete address (a feature called directory service) to ensure an envelope was delivered properly and know that letters dropped in a postal collection box were picked up every day — including Sundays. And mail was delivered to your house twice a day. A [Chicago] Loop business might see its mail carrier three times a day. (Businesses enjoyed twice-daily delivery into the 1970s.)

To deal with a $500 million annual deficit, the post office announced in April 1950 the end of twice-daily residential delivery and directory service.

Notice by mail made “different” sense when homes got two daily deliveries and businesses saw their postal carrier thrice-daily. But, nostalgia is not a good reason to retain “notice by mail.” In fact, we’ll be pretty direct. Let’s stop including mail as an acceptable way to deliver a notice. And, if your nostalgia overrides our admonition, let’s stop writing that a notice is effective “x” days after depositing it in the mail. As an aside, we’d also ditch “demands, consents, approvals, requests, and instruments or documents” from clauses such as these:

All notices, demands, consents, approvals, requests, and instruments or documents by this Lease required or permitted to be given to or served upon the Landlord or the Tenant shall be in writing and sent by [Certified Mail, Overnight Courier, and so forth].

Our news sources are replete with claims and counterclaims about the use of the mail when voting this year. Despite other disagreements, it appears that everyone agrees that mail delivery times can’t be predicted. Some states will count mailed ballots if postmarked by Election Day, arguing that they are “right.” Others won’t count anything not received by Election Day, arguing they are “right.” Interestingly, we who “do real estate agreements” have engaged in this dispute well before 2020. Do your documents say that notices must be “sent by” a given date or do they say they must be “received by” that date? We won’t repeat our views on that subject. Instead, we invite you to read what we wrote about nine years ago by clicking HERE. If you hadn’t seen it in 2011 or have forgotten what we wrote, we urge you to take a gander.

Our suggestion to drop all forms of mail: regular, certified or registered, from notice provisions is prospective. We have TONS of existing agreements permitting notice by mail. If those provisions permit service by another means, we urge you to pay the extra bucks and make that personal delivery or use that overnight courier or whatever. You’ll be much happier knowing that your notice-ballot has been “counted.”

We have another suggestion. When is the last time you reviewed existing, active leases and other agreements to verify that your own delivery address is current? After all, in many agreements, service is effective when sent to the address in the agreement until a notice of an address change has been received. If you use document management software, do a search.

[While we’re at it, we’re reminded of a court decision, one we are too lazy to search for, telling it “like it is” when it comes to personal service. Where a notice can be served by personal delivery, Certified Mail, overnight courier, etc., even ordinary (uncertified mail) qualifies as personal service. Essentially, the court’s reasoning was  “why should a mail carrier be the only person not qualified to make personal delivery?”]


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