How renters pick up their mail may not be high on your list of concerns when it comes to property management. Your standard apartment mailbox system is good enough, right? A decade ago, you could get by without thinking much about it. All you needed was to have USPS-approved mailbox units.

Today, well, it's a different story. Current renters, including Millennials and Gen Z, are looking for amenities that improve their quality of life. They want additional safety features, better technology, and benefits that make their lives easier. Don’t be surprised to find package delivery and storage are a big part of that. 

So what can you do to start improving your apartment mailbox system? It starts with choosing the system that works for you and developing a plan to keep your mail delivery secure and organized.

The package delivery boom

Buying online is increasingly popular. And COVID-19 helped accelerate a shift that has already been on the rise in the last few years. Package delivery in 2020 was up 27% over 2019. As of 2019, the average American gets 21 packages a year, a number that is likely to go up. Now, consumers buy virtually everything from groceries to pet supplies to workout gear online — and that doesn’t even count the holiday season. 

Last year, an estimated three billion packages went through the United States Postal Service (USPS) and other delivery providers during the holiday season. That included an additional 800 million packages over the year before, and those numbers aren’t slowing any time soon. 

With the delivery boom comes a few problems to solve:

  • You need to have a system in place that can handle the uptick in mail delivery, especially packages. 

  • You want to assure renters their mail delivery is safe and sound in the building — for many, a mail slot isn’t going to cut it anymore. 

So now, your apartment mailbox system can go from being something you rarely considered to featuring as a key amenity for attracting residents. Here’s how to get started.

Learn US Postal Service regulations

In 2020, the USPS updated its mailbox regulations, in part, because of the increase in package delivery. Currently, for new builds, the USPS requires a 5:1 ratio — for every five mailboxes, there must be a package locker. In addition, any mailbox system used in your buildings, regardless of size or technology, must be pre-approved by the US Postal Service before installation. 

Smaller apartment mailbox units such as old school letter-sized horizontal and vertical mailboxes are no longer allowed in new construction developments. They are grandfathered into older apartment complexes, multi-family units, and condominiums, so you don’t need to replace them if you currently have these systems. 

However, keep in mind that because these mailboxes don’t have space for larger parcels, your resident’s packages could get left on the ground or in a vestibule. That may not be an attractive option, especially with package theft on the rise.

Common apartment mailbox systems

There is a world of commercial mailboxes available for your choosing, but most apartment buildings today stick to a couple of primary options, depending on available space and needs. Here are a few of the most common product lines.

  • Cluster mailboxes: Cluster box units are front-loading locking mailboxes that have both traditional mail slots and built-in package lockers as required by the USPS for all new builds. These can be freestanding, wall-mounted, or placed outdoors. If you have limited space or an older building, installing a set of cluster mailboxes outside may be an option. It can help you offer more package security to residents without needing to reconfigure your current space.

  • Wall mount mailboxes: Another type of cluster box unit is an STD-4C. These also have mail slots and built-in package spaces for USPS deliveries. Rather than freestanding, these can be surface mounted or flush into lobby walls, helping to save floor space. These types of mailbox systems are more popular in larger apartment complexes and buildings where there’s more wall space than an entrance vestibule. 

  • Parcel locker: Many larger apartment complexes are adding package lockers to their mailrooms. These freestanding units add another layer of safety and technology to your apartment mailbox system. Residents use an app to both get package alerts and unlock their packages. Full-sized parcel locker units are popping up in bigger apartment buildings and complexes with more floor and wall space. 

How to determine the right apartment mailboxes for your community

an image of someone collecting their mail from an apartment mailbox

There’s no one size fits all mailbox solution. That would make things too easy, right? Every apartment building has different stakeholders. What you want to do is find the best option for commercial mailboxes that fit your resident’s needs, USPS delivery regulations, and your budget.

There are a few factors to consider as you explore your options. 

  • Run the numbers: How many units do you have in your apartment complex? It could be a significant investment to upgrade your current apartment mailbox system. Make sure you’re finding a way to best balance your budget to help avoid bad debt

  • Decide on features: If you’re trying to appeal to Millennial and Gen Z renters who want security, convenience and technology, the amenities that may help renters renew, think about features that can help you stand out.

  • Check your available space: Your residents may want a smart technology parcel locker system, but if you don’t have the square footage for it, you’re going to look at other options. Depending on the space you do have, you may want to consider smaller outdoor lockers or a dedicated package room.

  • Consider aesthetics: You put a lot of time, money, and care into your apartment building, so how your mailbox system looks does matter. You can have heavy-duty mailboxes durable for daily use that still blend in with your design.. 

Four technologies for streamlining mail delivery

If you’re unsure where you stand with your current apartment mailbox system or if it’s due for an upgrade, tap into available data. See if you can get an idea of how many packages are delivered to your residences throughout the year. 

Also, get feedback from building staff on how often their day is interrupted to deal with package issues — these interruptions could be putting a dent in your operations. Don’t forget to ask them about resident feedback and problems as well. For example, has there been an uptick in missing packages or complaints? Have tenants asked for a better mail delivery system? Is it possible the lack of better apartment mailbox management could be holding renters back from renewing? 

Here are a few options to explore:

Parcel lockers

Parcel lockers are gaining popularity as secondary tools to cluster mailboxes. While CBUs are great for the USPS, the built-in package lockersn aren’t accessible to other delivery services such as FedEx, UPS, and Amazon. 

Luxer One provides high-tech multi-family lockers with touch-screens, 100% package acceptance, regardless of the size, and text alerts for residents. Package lockers can also accommodate any delivery service approved by you or your property management company. 

Package rooms

If you have a package storage room, technology can and should play a role here too. You may want to consider a package management system. Many integrate into your current property management software

If you’re worried you have no one to attend to your package room 24/7, there are tools for that. ButterflyMX offers a package room product that works similar to parcel lockers, featuring text alerts and touch screen access. It also captures a time-stamped photo at drop off and pick up to ensure package safety.

Remote doormen

If you manage smaller or older buildings, that doesn’t mean technology can’t play a role in helping streamline the delivery experience — especially if you lack space. Remote doormen and video intercom systems can help provide extra package security for your residents. 

One way to keep high-levels of security but simplify delivery management is through video intercoms. Swiftlane allows for remote door lock and temporary delivery access through installed video systems or remotely as controlled via an app.

Food storage

Grocery and food delivery has been another booming segment of the pandemic, and is increasingly here to stay. However, that brings another set of challenges, how to keep food cold. Sometimes, it may be a few hours before residents can grab their groceries, and no one wants their ice cream melted.

That’s why food storage lockers and rooms are another growing trend in apartment buildings. Parcel Pending is rolling out food storage units that are contact-free and secure, while also being refrigerated and energy-efficient. Just as with other types of parcel lockers, residents get notified via app when their delivery arrives. 

Managing package delivery for apartment buildings is an increasingly important factor for property managers and building owners. Residents aren’t going to stop ordering packages, so you want to have a system that helps keep the delivery process secure and efficient for everyone involved. 

As renters come to expect more tech-enabled features, they’ll want every part of the leasing process to be as easy as picking up a package. Rhino is a fully automated security deposit process that will save the modern renter cash and replace the outdated cash deposit. To learn more, get in touch with Rhino.

Headshot of Conor Baker, copywriter at Rhino.
Conor Baker

Conor Baker is a copywriter at Rhino who is passionate about progress. His hobbies include dismantling security deposits, blindfolded.