Direct Mail

What Happens if Certified Mail is Not Signed For

By 24 May 2023No Comments
no sign of certified mail

What Happens When No One Signs for A Certified Mail?

We know that confidential mail is one of the most reliable ways to communicate with someone via direct mail. It has a much higher chance of getting delivered to the addressee and even lets you specify the mailer’s recipient.

However, it is still possible that the recipient may choose not to sign for the certified mail. Or perhaps there was no one home when USPS made a delivery attempt. In such cases, the USPS is unable to complete the postal delivery.

Read More: What is Certified Mail

no sign of certified mail

Suppose you are a company that regularly sends out direct mail and uses certified mail service. In that case, this should be a matter of concern. It is only natural for companies to know what happens if no one signs for certified mail.

Here, we are going to help you understand what happens if certified mail is not signed for by anyone. We will even clarify some myths surrounding certified mail and explain everything you need to know about unsigned certified mail.

Read More: How to Send Certified Mail 

What Is Certified Mail?

Certified mail is an advanced postal service offered by postal service providers like the USPS. It enables the mail sender to receive a receipt that notifies them when the mailer gets delivered. Even if the USPS fails to deliver a certified mail, they will let the recipient know that a delivery attempt was made.

However, for certified mail to work the way it is supposed to, the recipient must sign the paperwork provided by the delivery person. Without the sign, the whole purpose of the certified mail gets defeated.

What Happens If No One Signs For Certified Mail?

As long as there is someone home or at the office to receive the certified mail, you should face no problem sending your certified mail. However, if there is no one at the home or office of the addressee to receive the certified mail, things start to get a little messy.

For now, let’s assume that you want to send certified mail to a residential address. Let’s also think that there is no one home when the USPS tries to deliver for the first time. In this case, there is no one to sign for the certified mail. So, what happens if no one signs for certified mail?

First Delivery Notice

When the USPS finds no one is home or at the office to receive the certified mail, they leave a delivery reminder slip. It is the first delivery reminder slip. The delivery person will usually leave this in your mailbox or slide it under your door.

USPS’s reminder notice informs the addressee that they tried to make a certified mail delivery at their address. It also lets the addressee know that the USPS is holding onto the post office’s certified mail. The recipient may go to the post office and collect the certified mail from there.

Pick-Up Certified Mail From The Post Office

The addressee has 5 to 7 days to go to the post office and pick up their certified mail. Although it may sound like the USPS is giving you an ultimatum, that is not the case here. If the certified mail is not collected within the specified time, the USPS will leave a second delivery notice.

Second/Final Delivery Notice

Suppose the addressee fails to pick up the certified mail five days after receiving the first delivery notice. In that case, the USPS leaves a second delivery notice. Once the addressee receives the second delivery notice from the USPS, they have another 5 to 7 days to pick up the mail.

As you can guess, this is the last chance for the addressee to go and collect their certified mail from the post office. After leaving the final delivery notice, the USPS takes the certified mail back to the Post Office.

The final delivery notice will indicate the return date of the mailer. It is up to the recipient to arrange a redelivery or pick-up of the mail before the return date.

Final Delivery Attempt

After leaving the second delivery notice to the addressee, the USPS waits for another 5 to 7 days before making a final delivery attempt. It is the last chance for the addressee to receive the mail delivered to their address by the USPS.

Return Certified Mail To The Sender

Suppose the addressee fails to go to the post office and collect their certified mail even after receiving three delivery notices. In this case, the USPS will return the mail to the sender.

However, it’s worth noting that the addressee still has 5 to 7 days after receiving the final delivery notice and before USPS returns the mail.

The return mail from the USPS to the sender will additionally include USPS proof of the several delivery attempts and notifications made by them.

Read More: Certifed Mail Cost

How To Figure Out What Went Wrong With Your Certified Mail Delivery

There are several reasons why USPS may be unable to deliver your certified mail. However, it is not always the fault of USPS for not being able to deliver the certified mail. Sometimes, undelivered certified mail is caused by a mistake on the sender’s side.

For instance, let’s say you accidentally got the ZIP code of an address wrong for a certified mail you want to send. In this case, there is a probability that the mailer becomes a lost letter. Another reason why the certified mail may not get delivered is weather conditions that damage the address on the mailer.

It is also possible that the certified mailer did not get delivered because of an error made by the USPS staff. For example, errors during sorting that send a mailer to the wrong post office. In such cases, you will not receive a delivery receipt for your certified mail.

However, there are a few steps that you can take that can help you figure out what went wrong with your certified mail and where. Some of these steps are discussed below.

Track Your Mailer Through USPS Website

The first thing you can do to see what happened to your certified mail is to track it. Although you can’t get detailed tracking insights like in the registered mail, you can still follow the deliverability of certified mail.

To track your mail online, go to the USPS website, where you can find a “Track and Confirm” section. Once you navigate to the page, you will need to provide the certified mail label’s ID number. After submitting the label ID number, the system will provide you with the latest tracking data of the mailer.

Call The USPS Customer Care Number

The USPS website may not provide you with the information you are looking for, and you may need some extra help. Thankfully, USPS does allow you to call the United States Postal Service on their customer care number.

You can easily find the number on the USPS website and contact them directly. However, make sure that you have the ID number ready in your hands before you call USPS. The USPS customer care will likely ask for the ID number first.

Then the USPS staff will then relay the information to the relevant post office. You can expect the USPS Post Office to contact you within 24 hours of making the call.

Mail Search Request At The Post Office

Suppose you prefer to conduct your business inquiries in person. In that case, you have the option to go directly to the Post Office and submit a request. However, it is not the most convenient option. A better way to do it is to go to the “Missing Mail Search” page on the USPS website.

After you make the request, you will receive a notification when the USPS starts searching for the mailer. One thing worth noting about this process is that the USPS begins their search with Atlanta regardless of the sender’s or recipient’s current location.

The reason for starting with Atlanta is because that’s where the USPS Mail Recovery Center is located. Another thing worth noting about this type of mail tracking is that the mail you are searching for should be missing for at least seven working days.

Ask Your Neighbors

This step is only applicable if the USPS gives a delivery receipt, but you can’t find it. There is a possibility that the USPS delivery person left the delivery receipt with your neighbor because you were not available at the time of delivery. The only way you can know for sure is to ask your neighbor yourself.

Talk To The Police

Porch pirates are not unheard of, and although they are relatively rare, it does tend to happen occasionally. We are not saying that you should start locking up all your direct mail, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be a little more cautious.

However, this is something that the recipient of the certified mail should be worried about. There is a higher chance of someone stealing your package, parcel, or letter during the Christmas season. So if USPS has confirmed delivery of your mail and the neighbors don’t have it, there is a high chance someone stole from you.

Read More: How to Send Bulk Certified Mail

Who Can Pick-Up Certified Mail From The Post Office?

There shouldn’t be any problem for the recipient to pick up the certified mail from their local Post Office. A considerable section of people prefers getting their important mail directly from the Post Office. One significant reason for this is that the recipients are usually at work during the USPS delivery.

Have Someone Else Pick-Up Your Certified Mail

Perhaps, one of the best things about certified mail is that it does allow the recipient to have someone else pick up their mailer. However, this flexibility does not apply if the certified mail is marked for local delivery.

If you haven’t opted for restricted delivery, the recipient can have someone pick up their mail as long as they have the slip. However, the person picking up the mail for the recipient, whether a family member, a friend or a colleague, must sign for the mailer.

Hence, if you have ever wondered, “do I have to sign for certified mail” the answer is no unless it is restricted mail.

No Need to Use The Addressee’s Name 

A popular myth about having someone else other than the addressee pick up a certified mail is that the recipient must write the addressee’s name. 

However, that is not true, and anyone with the slip can go and collect the certified mail from the Post Office.

Furthermore, the USPS staff will ask for ID proof to keep track of the identity of the person who collects the certified mail.   

How Long Will The USPS Hold Onto Your Certified Mail?

As discussed above, the USPS holds onto your certified mail even after giving the addressee two delivery notices. It means that the Post Office will safely keep your certified mail for at least 15 days before returning it to you.

Usually, the second delivery notice is the final delivery notice. It is sent five calendar days after the first delivery notice. However, it is always advisable for the recipient not to delay the pick-up of your certified mail.

The recipient should collect their certified mail from the Post Office as soon as you can. Certified mail often contains essential documents. It would be a mistake to return them to the sender unless it is intentional.

Can The Recipient Pick-Up Certified Mail Without a Slip?

The short answer to this question is NO. The recipient can not pick up the certified mail without a slip. USPS does not care if you lost the slip or forgot it at home, and they will not hand over the mailer without the slip.

Hence, the recipients must always keep their delivery slip safely with them even if they didn’t initially plan to accept the mailer. USPS has no way of confirming that they are handing over the mailer to the right person unless they have the slip.

However, if the recipient loses their slip, they can try and arrange a redelivery online. Your recipient will, however, need to enter specific details about the mailer. The details include the item’s name, address on the envelope/box’s certified mail label, date of receiving the slip, item number, etc.

What Happens To The Certified Mail If You Don't Pick It Up?

It is perfectly okay for the addressee not to pick up the certified mail even after getting the two notices. No law says you can’t refuse certified mail. But, not picking up the mail even after receiving the delivery notices might lead the USPS to send the mailer back to the sender.

Hence, if the certified mail is urgent and you don’t pick it up, the sender will have to wait until it is returned to them. And then redeliver it. Furthermore, the sender will again have to pay the price for sending the certified mail.

Similarly, the recipient can also suffer losses from not picking up the certified mail in time. For example, let’s say the certified mail contains an invoice that needs urgent payment. Let us also assume that there is a hefty late payment fee.

In this case, the recipient ultimately ends up paying a hefty fine for ignoring their certified mail. Similarly, the recipient could miss important dates or deadlines by not picking up the certified mail on time. Therefore, you must collect the certified mail as soon as you can.

Can You Refuse To Sign For A Certified Letter?

If the recipient wants, they can choose to refuse to sign for their certified letter. You can refuse the certified mail when the USPS delivery person attempts to make a delivery. Or, in case the recipient was not home or at the office when the USPS tried to attempt the delivery, they can go to the Post Office and refuse it.

The recipient has all the right to refuse to accept or sign for a certified mail delivery service. It usually happens when the recipient does not want to take legal documents such as summons, eviction notices, etc.

Although it’s not illegal to refuse certified mail, there can be consequences to doing so if they contain critical legal documents. Some of the most common documents that can get the recipient into trouble if they refuse to sign for the mailer include:

  • Tax notices
  • Summons
  • Eviction notice

How Can You Avoid Your Certified Letter From Getting Refused?

You can’t do much m if the recipient refuses to sign for your certified mail. However, you could try out an alternative strategy to deliver the message to the target audience. The solution is pretty simple, and you get rid of the certified mail altogether.

Now, we wouldn’t advise using non-certified mail for sending essential or legal documents on your first try. However, you could try sending documents like eviction notices and summonses to people who have previously refused to sign for certified mail.

A non-certified mail does not require a signature from the recipient, and the delivery person can leave it in the mailbox. However, you may not get proof of delivery if you decide to use non-certified mail.

Certified Mail vs. Registered Mail

Many people also tend to confuse certified mail with registered mail, but that’s not true. If you have made a similar mistake in the past, don’t worry because we can assure you that you are not the only one to have thought that.

The main difference between certified mail and registered mail is that the latter has in-depth tracking features. Those using a registered mail service can track the entire journey of the letter, package, or parcel they sent.

In other words, registered mail is better than certified mail in many aspects. However, the bottom line is that registered mail is more secure than certified mail and offers better tracking. As you can imagine, the advanced features and capabilities of registered mail come with a hefty price.

In comparison, certified mail offers you a more affordable way to reach out to your customers without compromising too much on security.


Certified mail is definitely an essential tool required for effective direct mail communication of businesses. It lets your business send vital or legal documents to your customers and get proof of delivery when the package is handed over.

However, when it comes to certified mail, the addressee also has the option to not sign for the mailer. Additionally, there is also a chance that there is no one home or at the office when the USPS attempts to deliver. Businesses constantly worry about what happens if certified mail is not signed for.

Both the sender and the recipient face the consequences when no one signs for certified mail. The best you can do is use an automated direct mail system like PostGrid to streamline your postal direct mail process. PostGrid optimizes your postal mail process to ensure timely and accurate delivery of certified mail.

Additionally, PostGrid also allows you to automate and schedule your direct mail. It enables businesses such as banks and credit providers to send certified mail ahead of time. You can even send regular reminder mails using PostGrid and ensure that your customers receive your certified letter.

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