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Thank Goodness For A Happy Ending

, , , , | Legal | February 4, 2021

I rent a condo. When renting, it’s not uncommon to receive mail for a previous resident who hasn’t updated their contact information. Since I’ve lived in the condo for about four years, the mail for other people has tapered off except for the occasional bit of junk mail.

Then, I suddenly start receiving a flood of mail for a woman whose name I don’t recognize. At first, I do nothing but mark the envelopes as “return to sender” and put them in the outgoing mail slot. Once I’ve gotten well over twenty pieces of mail, I ask my landlord if she recognizes the name as a previous resident.

My landlord is a retired woman who owns just the unit she lives in and mine, which she rents out for some income. She doesn’t recognize the name of the person whose mail I’m receiving, and she’s only rented out to two people before me. Since she keeps to herself, for the most part, she doesn’t know if there’s anyone in the condo complex by that name.

Over time, the mail looks more and more urgent, even from the outside. I start getting a lot of envelopes marked “past due” and “final notice.” One day, someone knocks on my door.

Debt Collector: “Hello. I’m looking for [Person whose mail I keep getting] regarding some debts that have been sent to collections.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but there’s no one here by that name. Her mail has been coming to my address for months, but I don’t know why.”

Debt Collector: “Oh. Well, do you know her current address or a phone number?”

Me: “No. I’ve never heard of her before receiving her mail. My landlord has owned this unit since it was built and doesn’t know her, either. No one by that name has ever lived here.”

Debt Collector: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yes! If you do find her, please tell her to stop having her mail sent to me.”

The debt collector leaves and the mail doesn’t stop. Several other debt collectors come looking for the woman over the next week, resulting in pretty much the same conversation each time. I’m getting very frustrated with the situation. A week later, there’s another knock on my door, but this time it’s the police.

Police Officer: “Good afternoon, ma’am. Are you [Person whose mail I keep getting]?”

Me: “No, I’m not. Her mail has been coming to my address for months now, but no one of that name has ever lived here. I don’t know who she is or where you can find her. If I knew how to contact her, I would tell her to stop sending me her overdue bills.”

Police Officer: “Do you know anyone who might know her location?”

Me: “You can try asking my landlord, but she didn’t recognize the name, either.”

I gave the police officer my landlord’s phone number and hoped it would help in clearing up the situation. The mail did start to slow down after about a week. The next time I talked to my landlord, she told me what had happened.

At an HOA meeting not long after the police officer contacted my landlord, she asked the other homeowners if they recognized the woman’s name. One of them did. She turned out to be an elderly woman with undiagnosed dementia, living alone. After moving into Unit 33 several months before, she had mixed up the address and thought she was in Unit 3, my unit. She used my address for all her contact information. Due to her mental state, she didn’t find it unusual that she simply stopped receiving bills upon moving in.

The police officer was looking for her, not to collect a debt, but to do a wellness check; an elderly person who stops paying bills for several months raises some red flags, after all. Once he found her and saw that she was clearly unable to live alone, he got in contact with her family. They found a safer living arrangement for her.

I’m glad the woman got the help she needed, but I started feeling pretty guilty once I learned the full story. I’d spent months feeling annoyed at this woman and suspecting her of fraud. All the while, she was in a vulnerable situation and might have gotten help sooner if I hadn’t just ignored her mail. Nothing like this has ever happened to me again, but if it does, I’ll bring it to someone’s attention far sooner.

This story is part of our Best Of February 2021 roundup!

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