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Standard mailboxes: the new rules: implementing USPS-STD-4C encourages a heightened level of security for apartment mailboxes while providing more efficient mail delivery.

Placing more concern with the attempt to control identity theft and vandalism and to accommodate larger parcels delivered to residents, the United States Postal Service (USPS) initiated a new standard for wall-mounted centralized mail receptacles. Fully effective since Oct. 5, 2006, the new Standard, USPS-STD-4C, is an update from the 1975 standard known as "USPS-STD-4B, Receptacles, Apartment House, Mail."


Some communities currently face serious dilemmas with mailbox vandalism and mail theft and therefore require heightened mailbox security. In fact, a great deal of recent media coverage of identity theft focuses on exotic new ways that people can steal personal information by using computers, cell phones or other wireless devices.


However, "garden variety" identity, theft doesn't involve cyberspace. Identity. thieves still rely on tried-and-true methods to get their hands on real documents that can serve as the basis for their dirty" work. In fact, identity theft may happen within just a few feet from home--at the mailbox. STD-4C requires a receptacle design that is intended to reduce the threat of stolen mail by incorporating tougher security measures into mailbox designs.

In addition to increasing mail security, the new STD-4C benefits mail condition and mail efficiency. The old-style vertical mailboxes, for example, can be too narrow for today's larger envelopes and sometimes cannot handle the volume of mail many people currently receive.

The constraints of the old mailboxes can increase the likelihood that incoming mail will be bent, folded, rolled or even returned to the post office. Parcels present another challenge. If there is not enough storage space, packages can remain behind front desks and in lobbies, or be returned to the post office. All these issues can present inconveniences and security risks to residents and property managers, as well as to the postal service. This is where STD-4C can help.

The new standard requires that individual mail compartments will be larger and uniform in size. Depending on the number of units at a particular apartment community,, the mailbox area can include parcel lockers to house items too large to fit in personal mailboxes.

STD-4C also requires an outgoing mail compartment to allow easy mail drop-off close to home. If the building offers concierge service, then large envelopes and packages can be left with the concierge and parcel lockers will not be required.

All mail receptacles must pass a battery of stringent security tests conducted by the postal service to protect against popular methods of mailbox forced-entry attacks. Implementing STD-4C encourages a heightened level of security for apartment mailboxes while providing more efficient mail delivery.

The new STD-4C requires a bigger footprint for wall-mounted mailboxes because of the larger size of resident compartments and parcel locker requirements.


The previous postal service standard, USPS-STD-4B, was set more than 30 years ago and had successfully guided and protected mail delivery through significant growth in mail volume.

To protect and manage today's mail trends, the new USPS-STD-4C receptacles reflect a shifting of customer mailing habits, larger mail and package trends such as online shipping, which has increased the demand for secure parcel delivery, and a request for increased protection for mail. It includes the following physical and structural changes for centralized wall-mounted mailboxes:

* Requires larger compartment form factor (12"w x 15"d x 3"h), from the former range of 5" x 6"=30 square inches to 3" x 12"= 36 square inches;

* Introduces a parcel locker requirement of 1:10 parcel locker to customer compartment ratio;

* In buildings that require parcel locker installation, residents no longer must go to the post office to retrieve parcels;

* Strengthens security for entire receptacle, including customer compartment doors and locks;

* Units are designed for indoor or outdoor use.


The provisions of Standard 4C apply to structures for residential and/or commercial use containing four or more units, including structures in which residents reach their units through a common entrance from the street. Structures in which residents access their homes from individual entrances, such as townhouses, are not subject to STD-4C.

Only new structures and existing structures undergoing substantial renovation are required to install receptacles meeting the requirements of Standard 4C. Additionally, any owners seeking new service or the resumption of mail service are required to install receptacles meeting Standard 4C.

For example, a warehouse that converts to residential or multi-unit use that qualifies for centralized delivery will be required to meet Standard 4C. Owners of existing buildings that are not undergoing a substantial renovation who want to install replacement mailboxes can use the boxes with the former dimensions with enhanced security features.

RELATED ARTICLE: Mailbox ruling a major victory.



In 2004, following more than a year of negotiations with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), mailbox industry representatives, other stakeholders and the National Apartment Association/National Multi Housing Council, won a huge victory for the apartment industry by convincing USPS not to require apartment owners to retrofit their existing mailboxes to comply with new USPS mailbox design standards.

In February 2003, the USPS convened a stakeholder Consensus Committee to revise the apartment mailbox regulations, saying it needed larger, more secure mailboxes to improve mail safety and security and to keep up with growing mail volume.

The USPS proposal originally called for mandatory mailbox retrofitting, but USPS abandoned that plan in the face of intense opposition led by NAA/NMHC. Retrofitting could have cost the apartment industry over $2 billion. USPS also agreed to NAA/NMHC's proposals to exempt buildings with fewer than four units and to allow for a two-year phase-in period.

The new standard, USPS STD-4C, applies only to newly constructed buildings and to existing buildings that undergo a "substantial renovation" that involves structural alterations to the mailbox area. Under the new standard, certain apartment buildings must also provide shared "parcel lockers" to receive packages and oversize mail The larger mailboxes and the new parcel lockers may enhance USPS' ability to build market share in the competitive mailing and shipping industries.

It is important that apartment managers and other property management representatives know that buildings that undergo only minor renovations may still install replacement mailboxes that conform to the old dimensional requirements as long as they have upgraded security features contained in a design referred to as USPS STD-4B+.

NMHC/NAA are aware that some USPS employees have ordered apartment owners and managers to replace existing mailboxes with STD-4C boxes when they were not required to do so. *

Betsy Feigin Befus is Vice President of Employment Policy and Special Counsel for the National Apartment Association/National Multi Housing Council Joint Legislative Program in Washington, D.C.


Denny A. Lawson, CSI, CDT, is Vice President Sales & Marketing, Architectural Building Products Division of Steel Craft Corporation. He can be reached at 630/653-5388.
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Author:Lawson, Denny
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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